Defense Jobs for Mad Scientists

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When we talk about laser cannons and satellite warfare, it seems so distant—part of war as waged by our grandchildren. But that’s only because we haven’t been paying attention. There is no longer a defense industry of the future; it’s here right now. What are the “tomorrow technologies” of today, and what sort of job can the modern mad scientist expect to find? Here are a few fields of the future that are hiring right now.

ARTIFICIAL INTELLIGENCE / SUPERCOMPUTER SCIENCE

Rule of thumb for science fiction: If the movie, novel, or video game has a supercomputer or entity with artificial intelligence, it’s going to go rogue. There’s HAL from 2001: A Space Odyssey. WOPR from WarGames. John Henry Eden from Fallout 3. Skynet from Terminator. The Matrix from The Matrix. So maybe there is something to it when Elon Musk warns that artificial intelligence will eventually kill us all.

With that in mind, if you, too, want to be part of the annihilation of humankind (or hopefully the prevention thereof), ClearanceJobs can help. Careers involving supercomputers and artificial intelligence are plentiful in the defense industry, in areas related to everything from theory and development to maintenance. These jobs invariably call for TS/SCI, which is good news for you: when the Terminators rise, you’ll be the first to know.

LASER WARFARE

There’s a reason Han Solo doesn’t carry around a six-shooter, and it’s the same as why he doesn’t carry a lightsaber: “ancient weapons are no match for a blaster at your side.” Along those lines, it’s no coincidence that Dr. Evil didn’t want sharks with pistols attached to their heads. If you want to do real damage, you need lasers.

Today, lasers have leapt from the silver screen to the active military. The Navy has a laser cannon that destroys incoming drones. The Missile Defense Agency is fielding laser weapons capable of shooting down enemy intercontinental ballistic missiles. (Don’t expect to see laser rifles in the hands of infantrymen anytime soon, though: use against personnel is banned by international agreement.) Here is a listing of laser careers and companies hiring on ClearanceJobs.

SATELLITE WARFARE

States hostile to the U.S. are ever on the move probing our infrastructural weaknesses, and satellites are no exception. The whole of modern society is sustained in orbit around the Earth. GPS. Telecommunications. Weather forecasting and measurement. Take away our satellites and you take away not only our lifestyles, but in many cases, our lives, which is what makes satellite warfare so terrifying. In practice, this doesn’t mean X-wings and TIE fighters blowing up orbital sensors. (Yet.) The big threat seems to be in the cyber domain: a hostile actor penetrates our GPS satellites, for example, and shuts them down before mounting kinetic operations. (Missiles capable of shooting down satellites are out there, however. The Chinese have had them since at least 2007; the United States since 1985.) Satellite security careers on ClearanceJobs are frequently listed with cyber postings. The intelligence community is ever in need of a few good men and women.

MICROBIOLOGY

Microbiology is simply the study of microscopic organisms, and yet a few moment’s thought can evoke mild feelings of dread among the laity. Things like germ warfare come to mind, the consequences of which seem torn straight from the Book of Revelation. Microbiologists have important roles in pretty much every area of national defense and security. They work for the FBI on crime scenes and counter terrorism. They work for the defense department and homeland security developing and stockpiling vaccines and treatments. They work for defense contracting doing environmental impact assessments for construction projects. Some companies are even hiring genetic engineers for “synthetic biology” projects, which, if they don’t involve cloning dinosaurs, would be a real missed opportunity.

NUCLEAR WAR

Maybe it’s because we narrowly avoided it during the Cold War, but nuclear conflict—the most devastating and futuristic of all warfare—seems somehow like a threat of the past. The threat of atomic destruction, however, is alive today and on the rise. Powers hostile to the United States are developing nuclear programs and delivery systems, and the U.S. is matching their saber rattling with some frightening rattling of own own.

When World War III arrives, the nuclear aspect will be as futuristic as any other weapon or science, as it fits into so many categories of science and engineering. There are the aerospace and maritime components: The U.S. nuclear arsenal is currently being modernized with new bombers, ICBMs, and submarines. There’s cyber: Though our nuclear missile systems are air gapped (that is: not plugged into the Internet), all it takes is one mistaken connection (or an intentional one by foreign agents) and you have the most powerful weapon in the world controlled remotely by supercomputers. There is space, in which satellite targeting capabilities are attacked. On defense, you might use laser cannons to stop them from reaching their targets. Because of this, nuclear scientists work at the intersection of all areas of defense industry. Here’s hoping the best and brightest apply for positions.

By filling today these jobs of the future, they give us a future further yet ahead.

David Brown is a regular contributor to ClearanceJobs. He is currently at work on his next book, One Inch From Earth, which tells the story of scientists who study the outer planets of the solar system. He can be found online at http://dwb.io.

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