Why the Defence Force must rethink cyber training

by Brett Henebery05 Jul 2017
A growing demand for better cyber skills in the Australian Defence Force (ADF) has led to calls for a rethink of how personnel are trained.
Last week, the Federal Government announced the creation of a new Information Warfare Division, which aims to make Australia a world power in cyber warfare – an increasingly complex challenge in today’s digital world.
Greg Austin, professor at the Australian Centre for Cyber Security, UNSW, said that while Australia already has a potential capability for cyber strike against enemy forces on the other side of the planet, big challenges lay ahead.
“In 2030, when Australia launches what Prime Minister, Malcolm Turnbull, refers to as our “regionally superior submarines”, China may well have perfected a military version of its undersea robot that would be able to attach itself to the hull of the submarines and walk along the outside of the vessel,” he wrote in the Conversation.
“This futuristic perspective helps to explain why the new Australian Information Warfare Division is needed.”
To populate this brave new world of the ADF in 2030, Austin says the new Information Warfare Division is starting with modest personnel goals.
According to the ABC, it will start initially with 100 posts, with plans to grow to 900 by the end of the decade.
However, Austin pointed out that the personnel pool needed to sustain these 900 posts in ten years’ time does not yet exist.
“The ADF is pushing forward while devising a sustainable staffing strategy, determining the skill sets needed and even creating new types of “billets” [job specs],” he said.
“Over the coming decade we will see growth in formal education and training for information warfare (including cyber operations), which is a very different mission set from classic cyber security.”
Based on his experience, Austin says Australia can estimate that to achieve the 900 target by 2027, the ADF will need to set up new training and education programs no later than 2020.
“A workforce of 900 posts probably needs a supply pool of at least 3,000 trained in the same roles to service leave, reassignment to other military posts outside the Division, and other sources of turnover, not to mention possible mobilisation for war,” he said.
“We will see interesting novel mixes of military and civilian posts, including defence contractors in the new cyber division, some of whom will be foreign nationals.”

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