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How Do Militaries Treat Their Nerds?

kdawson posted more than 5 years ago | from the permission-to-sudo-sir dept.

The Military 426

An anonymous reader writes "Cyber Warfare is a hot topic these days. A major reorganization may be looming, but a critical component is a culture where technologists can thrive. Two recent articles address this subject. Lieutenant Colonel Greg Conti and Colonel Buck Surdu recently published an article in the latest DoD IA Newsletter stating that 'The Army, Navy, and Air Force all maintain cyberwarfare components, but these organizations exist as ill-fitting appendages (PDF, pg. 14) that attempt to operate in inhospitable cultures where technical expertise is not recognized, cultivated, or completely understood.' In his TaoSecurity Blog Richard Bejtlich added 'When I left the Air Force in early 2001, I was the 31st of the last 32 eligible company grade officers in the Air Force Information Warfare Center to separate from the Air Force rather than take a new nontechnical assignment.' So, Slashdot, how has the military treated you and your technical friends? What changes are needed?"

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How Do Militaries Treat Their Nerds? (5, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27181653)

Like cannon fodder.

Re:How Do Militaries Treat Their Nerds? (5, Interesting)

qoncept (599709) | more than 5 years ago | (#27182021)

Initially I was going to just dismiss this, but then it struck me: yeah, they do. The latest Secretary of the Air Force had this dumbass idea that he would try to make the Air Force tougher. It basically consisted of sending horribly, horribly undertrained airmen out with Marines and Army to do things they weren't good at. A good friend of mine took a 2 week crash course before being sent to Afghanistan where he had to beg Marines to show him how to do things like install the IED countermeasures on the Hummer he was issued. Another friend was sent to Camp Victory in Baghdad without a weapon, and when he finally got one, no ammo.

Re:How Do Militaries Treat Their Nerds? (5, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27182325)

Well duh he was supposed to take the ammo from people he had killed, haven't you ever played an FPS?

Re:How Do Militaries Treat Their Nerds? (1)

theeddie55 (982783) | more than 5 years ago | (#27182553)

if that were true his first issued gun would have 8 rounds. Or in hard mode he'd just start with a knife.

Re:How Do Militaries Treat Their Nerds? (1)

Forge (2456) | more than 5 years ago | (#27182669)

The Military needs to decide weather Cyberspace is a potential Battleground or Computer and communications technology is a tool of more conventional military, Like explosives and vehicle technology.

If the Former then the bulk of these Ciber Warriors should be made part of a single Military unit under a Ciber-warfare General (Alan Cox doesn't qualify because of nationality concerns).

If it's the latter then the specialists should learn the basics of hand to hand combat and carry sidearms and/or small sub machine guns in hostile territory and most of the grunt level tech work should be done by guys who primarily just kill people.

Right, right (5, Funny)

elrous0 (869638) | more than 5 years ago | (#27181657)

Somebody said "DNS," Vasquez thought they said "INS" and ran away.

Re:Right, right (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27182313)

To mod: Whoosh.

Re:Right, right (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27182589)

no kidding. that's funny.

Re:Right, right (2, Funny)

WilyCoder (736280) | more than 5 years ago | (#27182771)

Crap, now I have to watch that movie this weekend. Oh wait, that's a great movie! Thanks ^_^

(aware)

If the military sucks, don't joint 'em. (5, Insightful)

Kartoffel (30238) | more than 5 years ago | (#27181781)

If the military needs nerds, they can always hire civilian contractors.

Alternatively, there are certain nerds who enjoy military culture and do fine there.

Re:If the military sucks, don't joint 'em. (2, Interesting)

DustyShadow (691635) | more than 5 years ago | (#27181891)

I used to work for a defense contractor and I can say that a lot of nerds work at Air Force Research Labs. Among them though were many contractors. It seemed like a fun place to work because most of the projects were prototypish and had small teams so you could make a lot of important decisions without having to get 15 signatures. I found that a huge problem with working for a defense contractor (and probably even in the military) is that most people end up getting stuck on a large and well funded project that is micro-managed beyond belief and has a terrible bureaucratic problem.

Re:If the military sucks, don't joint 'em. (1)

Theoboley (1226542) | more than 5 years ago | (#27182261)

I've got a friend working at FT. McCoy in Wisconsin, and he tells me that his superior plays PC Games all day... Sounds like a job I'd be great at...

Re:If the military sucks, don't joint 'em. (4, Informative)

DerekLyons (302214) | more than 5 years ago | (#27182121)

Alternatively, there are certain nerds who enjoy military culture and do fine there.

I was about to say much the same thing - most of of the highly technical jobs in the [US] Submarine Service were filled by nerds and geeks of various stripes when I was in (1981-1991) and we did just fine. The currently serving ones I've seem to be doing fine as well.
 
Slashdot needs to keep in mind that their stereotype of the nerd/geek as a highly strung prima donna is just that, a stereotype. They seem to be prevalent in the Hivemind because most Slashdotters 'came of age' during the unusual conditions of the Dot Com/Bomb era when briefly they (nerds/geeks) were treated as such because of the high and competitive demand, as well as because the Hivemind seems to self select for that kind of personality.

Re:If the military sucks, don't joint 'em. (5, Interesting)

fuzzywig (208937) | more than 5 years ago | (#27182361)

Not to mention, a lot of nerds (like me) cope better in a highly hierarchical structure like the military. You can look at someone and know how to treat them at a glance (by looking at their rank) and most of your interaction with other people is almost as highly codified as a programming language. Personally, as a cadet, I found military life comfortable, certainly less stressful than school.

Re:If the military sucks, don't joint 'em. (5, Informative)

Perl-Pusher (555592) | more than 5 years ago | (#27182715)

Good post! I spent 20 years in the AF as an electronic warfare technician. I retired in 1999 but I got out exactly what I put into it. I came in a high school graduate. I came out with 3 college degrees, paid for by the Air force. I have lived in or visited about 15 different countries, married and raised 2 kids. I walked directly into a job working as a software engineer for nasa as a contractor making twice the pay even with benefits. Not to mention an additional retirement check every month. If I were still in Michigan I would probably be working for the auto companies or some factory as my father, two uncles and grandfather did. All in all, the Air Force did right by me. This doesn't mean I didn't have to deal with some real a-holes along the way. But really, aren't everywhere?

Re:If the military sucks, don't joint 'em. (1)

Nursie (632944) | more than 5 years ago | (#27182757)

There's still high demand for good ones.

True, "I can shove a web-page together" is no longer qualification, but good skills (as in any technical profession) are hard to find and valuable.

Re:If the military sucks, don't joint 'em. (2, Interesting)

Lurching (1242238) | more than 5 years ago | (#27182409)

They also do it to their civilian employees. When I was assigned to the AF Geophysics Lab in the 1980 time frame, one of our civilians got an award as the top scientist in the USAF. But . . . he couldn't get promoted because he wasn't in a politically popular development program. He left and went to JPL where he helped harden the Voyager probes with what he had been working on for the USAF.

Re:If the military sucks, don't joint 'em. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27182583)

Yeah, that'd be fine, except for the fact that we are talking about handing the keys to America's entire computer security infrastructure over to military intelligence agencies like the NSA, so the classic "take it or leave it" bullshit doesn't fly.

This is my country too, and I want it protected adequately, by the BEST people, not just the best yes men.

A huge chunk of the world's smartest people come from cyberpunk (or some variant therein) roots. These cultures are really individualistic.

Any president or government which knowingly gives the future security of my country over to intelligence agencies which innately repel top iconoclastic talents is guilty of negligence.

Regimentation is good for regimented goals, but what is regimented about a random site being attacked by a random Chinese adolescent in the middle of the night? And how does that skillset benefit from regimentation?

Contract. (5, Interesting)

qoncept (599709) | more than 5 years ago | (#27181787)

I spent 6 years in the Air Force as a programmer. The only way they can fix that horrible mess is to stop trying and contract out everything they need. It's basically what they are doing now. Of maybe 400 enlisted programmers at my base, I'd guess 10% of them actually had work on a regular basis, and 50% do absolutely nothing their entire time there. And people seem to have trouble grasping it, but when I say nothing, I mean NOTHING. Contractors did all the real work.

Re:Contract. (3, Informative)

Frosty Piss (770223) | more than 5 years ago | (#27181905)

Of maybe 400 enlisted programmers at my base...

STOP... Bullshit alert.

If there were 400 enlisted people the CS squadronyour base, that would be more realistic. Of those 400, only a handful might have jobs relating to programming, but most might be things like LAN support or phone guys or misc. admin wonks. But 400 programmers? What 'ch been smoking, dude?

- Friendly Computer Nerd from McChord AFB

Re:Contract. (1)

codepunk (167897) | more than 5 years ago | (#27181963)

No shit, I don't remember meeting anyone in the military besides myself that even knew what a compiler was. That even goes
for data systems guys not a single programmer anywhere to be had.

Re:Contract. (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27182073)

You don't sound very friendly to me. But then again, you did join the military.

Re:Contract. (3, Informative)

qoncept (599709) | more than 5 years ago | (#27182107)

Sorry, there were probably 400 enlisted on my base (ok, annex, Gunter). And software was practically all it's there for. So practically everyone there is a programmer or there to support programmers. Regardless, I bet at least 2 dozen of them will read this because they don't have a single god damn piece of work to do.

Re:Contract. (1)

angrytuna (599871) | more than 5 years ago | (#27182237)

What was your AFSC, just out of curiosity? I searched quite a bit for programming positions while I was in as targets for cross training. It sounds like it's best that I wasn't successful, from how you're describing it.

Re:Contract. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27182435)

If it was the same as mine (also a USAF Computer Programmer) - 3COX2.

Re:Contract. (2, Informative)

Harry Coin (691835) | more than 5 years ago | (#27182615)

He's absolutely right. I was a 3C032 at Gunter Annex for four years, now I'm contractor scum. I've been in and around there for the past ten years. The four years I spent as an enlisted programmer were practically wasted. I did maintenance on an old COBOL program, and it took up about .0001% of my time.

It was still a good experience. I got training in C, C++, x86 assembly, Ada, COBOL, SQL, Oracle Forms. Once I put civvies on I got Java and J2EE training from my employer.

Now that I'm a contractor I'm actually busy, but not so busy that I can't read /.

Re:Contract. (3, Funny)

Biff Stu (654099) | more than 5 years ago | (#27181929)

You fail to realize that if the government were to do the work of the military, that would be communism.

Re:Contract. (2, Funny)

Redrover5545 (795810) | more than 5 years ago | (#27181951)

Hey, don't knock contractors. They helped build the Deathstar, you know.

Re:Contract. (1)

nametaken (610866) | more than 5 years ago | (#27182345)

They were just trying to feed their kids. Victims of a war they had nothing to do with.

Re:Contract. (1)

blagger99 (473150) | more than 5 years ago | (#27182805)

They were just trying to feed their kids. Victims of a war they had nothing to do with.

It's ok, according to George Lucas they were just termites. And, let's face it, he should know.

Re:Contract. (1)

Shakrai (717556) | more than 5 years ago | (#27182559)

Hey, don't knock contractors. They helped build the Deathstar, you know.

I wonder if the Empire's military contractors work the same way that ours do? One can only imagine how many toilets you'd need on a battle station the size of the Deathstar and how much that would cost at $50,000/ea ;)

Re:Contract. (3, Interesting)

Ethanol-fueled (1125189) | more than 5 years ago | (#27182095)

That sounds like a problem caused by bureaucracy and inefficiency. More efficient allocation of manpower would solve a problem better than throwing overpriced civillian contractors at it.

Remember your briefings as a recruit at Lackland? Those guys are being paid 30-40 bucks an hour to do a SrA or SSgt's job. And what's up with PMEL becoming civillian-only? It was a great job and enlisted guys never had a problem with it.

p.s. fuck the OSI.

Re:Contract. (5, Insightful)

elrous0 (869638) | more than 5 years ago | (#27182127)

The military these days contracts out EVERYTHING, not just IT stuff. I remember going back to one of my old bases a few years ago and realizing that they didn't even have real MP's at the gates anymore. All the gate security was being contracted out to a private firm. How sad is it when the Army is contracting out one of its most essential functions? We're not talking food services or vending services here, we're talking BASIC PERIMETER SECURITY.

Re:Contract. (4, Informative)

Erwos (553607) | more than 5 years ago | (#27182407)

Go there after dark. At the base I visit frequently, they've got rent-a-cops doing gate guard duty during the day (presumably backed by some sort of military rapid-reaction force), but they've got full-out military handling the duties at night.

Re:Contract. (1)

Shakrai (717556) | more than 5 years ago | (#27182653)

The military these days contracts out EVERYTHING, not just IT stuff. I remember going back to one of my old bases a few years ago and realizing that they didn't even have real MP's at the gates anymore. All the gate security was being contracted out to a private firm. How sad is it when the Army is contracting out one of its most essential functions?

Is that because the Army wants to outsource those functions or because they have to outsource those functions? It occurs to me that Congress rarely wants to provide the military with enough of anything (save expensive weapons systems built in the districts of well connected members), particularly "boots on the ground".

We're not talking food services or vending services here, we're talking BASIC PERIMETER SECURITY.

A buddy of mine who was in the Navy told me once that for all the talk of "I will neither confirm nor deny the existence of nuclear weapons" the easiest way to figure out which bases have nukes is to see if the gate is manned by rent-a-cops or Marines. Mind you, I'm guessing that not every post with real security has nukes, but I pray to god that the ones guarded by rent-a-cops don't......

Re:Contract. (2, Insightful)

Mr. Slippery (47854) | more than 5 years ago | (#27182701)

How sad is it when the Army is contracting out one of its most essential functions?

Sad? It's great! It means the Army is doing a fine job of fulfilling its most essential function -- enriching the stockholder class.

Oh, come on, surely you don't believe that old-fashioned sentimental nonsense about the armed forces existing to protect the nation and its people? The U.S. military has been protecting commercial interests since the late 1800s. The military-industrial complex that grew up in the early 20th century just made war more of a racket [ratical.org] . Turning military functions directly over to the industrial side of the complex merely improves the process of removing money from working citizens and putting it in the pockets of the owning classes. It's a great business model!

(Sure, soldiers get electrocuted by shoddy KBR workmanship [go.com] , but c'mon, we can't be worried about the lives of grunts like that any more than we worry about Iraqis or Afghanis who get blown up [antiwar.com] . Profits before people, after all, so long as they're not our people.)

Re:Contract. (1)

Doctor Faustus (127273) | more than 5 years ago | (#27182691)

Of maybe 400 enlisted programmers at my base
Why do they have actual members of the military doing office work? It's not like the military has a problem with just hiring people; my dad has been an employee of the U.S. army since 1981.

Not THAT bad. (5, Interesting)

TheDarAve (513675) | more than 5 years ago | (#27181871)

I've had no problems in the Navy and been put on some really choice assignments because of my technical expertise. However, I've also seen some technical experts that got nothing from it and driven out of the service. If you flaunt it like sliced bread has nothing on you, yea, you're going to get treated like a prick. If you just do your thing and not care about the rest, you can do pretty darn good. Unfortunately, at some point you get forced to put down the wrench and pick up the pen, and then its just not fun anymore. Its great if you're just in for the college money, sucks later on if you decide to make a career out of it.

Re:Not THAT bad. (1)

Frosty Piss (770223) | more than 5 years ago | (#27182011)

This guy knows what he's talking about, and everything that the Air Force dude (above) missed.

Army, Air Force, Navy, and "Cyber-Force" (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27181875)

I think it would be cool to have another branch of the armed services called the "Cyber-Force" and give individual units the military alphabet designation.
I could be part of Cyber-Force Delta, or Cyber-Force Echo, but the guys in Cyber-Force Foxtrot and Cyber-Force Tango would get a bit of light-hearted ribbing.

If the military wants to keep its nerds, they only have to supply Jolt Cola, Pizza, and cool squad names. Give us guns too... they don't have to be loaded... it'll just be cool to have sidearms...we can do the hardware mods with some souped-up laser pointers to make 'em deadly.

Re:Army, Air Force, Navy, and "Cyber-Force" (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27182509)

cool squad names

This is the military, everything is number sequentially. The best they would ever come up with is squad 001, 010, 011, 100, 101...

Actually, not bad. (2, Interesting)

thewiz (24994) | more than 5 years ago | (#27181953)

I did work as a contractor for the Defense Support Program and was impressed by the way the Air Force ran the program. The IT group I was with was treated with respect by the AF personnel. Unfortunately, it was the contracting company I worked for that insisted on playing politics rather than getting the job done. If only someone could find a way to remove office politics from the workplace (and, yes, I realize that there is irony in asking that office politics be removed from a government-run program).

Re:Actually, not bad. (1, Insightful)

DrLang21 (900992) | more than 5 years ago | (#27182271)

Unfortunately, it was the contracting company I worked for that insisted on playing politics rather than getting the job done.

How do you think that company got the contract to begin with? Military contracts can be very lucrative, and I think some companies would screw their mother with a diseased horse to get one.

Re:Actually, not bad. (1)

xaxa (988988) | more than 5 years ago | (#27182541)

some companies would screw their mother with a diseased horse

Thanks. That's exactly the mental image I wanted on a Friday evening.

Other industries (1)

U8MyData (1281010) | more than 5 years ago | (#27181975)

In my experience, I can imagine it like other industries. They know they need services, but don't appreciate them nor do they care to acknowledge what it takes. I told one of my managers in the past regarding training and resources, "It's like asking a beat cop to patrol with out a side arm." It is tiring...

Military treat you fine. Civilian DOD less so (5, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27181979)

The Military (USAF) always treated me
with great respect. It was the other civilians that would give you a hard time. The military members were all very hard-working and saw that I am too. They repected my expertise and knew about how to be tolerant of my lifestyle even better than civilians (who hated my lifestyle).

And military weren't trying to funnel contracts to their friends. And they didn't seek to ruin my career when I wouldn't go along with boondoggles. It was the Civilians that did this (some of them).

And worse, the ones who treated us the worst, were the people who didn't fund us, politicians who were on vendettas to move our offices (these were out of state politicians).

These were people with no concern other than empire building in their own back yards.

The Military members were always the best to work with, the hardest working, the most diverse, and the ones who understood and appreciated excellence.

Re:Military treat you fine. Civilian DOD less so (1)

girlintraining (1395911) | more than 5 years ago | (#27182499)

It was the other civilians that would give you a hard time. The military members were all very hard-working and saw that I am too. They repected my expertise and knew about how to be tolerant of my lifestyle even better than civilians (who hated my lifestyle).

For what it's worth, you have my support at least. My brother just got back from Iraq after serving in the Air Force. I don't agree with his choice of profession, but then I don't agree with a lot of people's. Don't mistake disagreement for a lack of support -- he's my brother and I'm the only one allowed to give him any crap for it. ;) I also respect his expertise in his areas of study and experience. As to lifestyle, at least I have never had a problem with a soldier's lifestyle or how they lead their lives after coming home. Most are good for the community, and the ones that are bad -- well, there's always a few, it shouldn't detract from the whole. But if I might add one small point? Attitude. A lot of soldiers are very driven to succeed, and driven by financial interest or family-building, or a hobby, whatever -- they are very driven. And they make people who haven't been given that training feel inadequate. If there's any one source of friction between civilian and military life, this would be the stress-point. People in the military need to relax a little and let civilians find their own way (however stupid their life goals and methods seem) and in the same vein, civilians need to be less judgmental about the men and women who come back with a fire under their asses to be more.

Stop with the religious aspects? (1, Interesting)

Sybert42 (1309493) | more than 5 years ago | (#27181985)

Technical people tend to be atheist. Isn't the air force full of Evangelicals? What about all the chaplains?

Re:Stop with the religious aspects? (3, Informative)

PhxBlue (562201) | more than 5 years ago | (#27182283)

Speaking as someone who is (a) a technical person, (b) a noncommissioned officer in the Air Force, and (c) a Pagan, I must say that your statement couldn't be more wrong.

Are evangelicals making a mess of things? Well, they certainly try, but the problem is nowhere near as bad in the Air Force as it is in the Army and Navy, at least from what I've gathered during my tenure. And people both inside and outside the military -- from NCOs to MEO officers to agencies like Mikey Weinstein's Military Religiouis Freedom Foundation -- do everything they can to make sure evangelicals inside the military don't violate servicemembers' First Amendment rights.

Re:Stop with the religious aspects? (2, Insightful)

MikeRT (947531) | more than 5 years ago | (#27182323)

Technical people tend to be atheist. Isn't the air force full of Evangelicals? What about all the chaplains?

Why is this shit modded up as interesting? I can understand atheists being upset over having religion forced on them as a condition (subtle or not so subtle) of moving up the ranks, getting contracts, etc., but you seem to be like most atheists where the mere presence of a religious atmosphere drives you apoplectic.

You could also say that most technical people tend to not be macho and all of that which would make the Army and the Marine Corps far more hostile.

Re:Stop with the religious aspects? (1, Interesting)

Ethanol-fueled (1125189) | more than 5 years ago | (#27182635)

Because, when I was in basic training (Air Force) we were told that we would have to do details(a.k.a. cleaning bitch duties)if we didn't go to church. As a result of this, you see the noobs who attend Catholic church putting their rosaries around their necks like necklaces :) note: that's not what you're supposed to do with them.

So I went to church and became deathly ill from other basic-training sicklings coughing and sneezing, and then insisting on holding hands with me as part of the sing-a-long. Eventually I stopped going to church and discovered that we weren't actually made to do details. Just got to sit quietly in the bay writing letters and relaxing. One of the best-kept secrets in basic training. Hell, if I knew that then I wouldn't have went to church even if I were religious!

Still, the AF is not all that bad when it comes to religion. The worst cases of Christian zealotry [blogspot.com] seem to occur [militaryre...reedom.org] in the Army [sayanythingblog.com] .

Re:Stop with the religious aspects? (0, Flamebait)

Heather D (1279828) | more than 5 years ago | (#27182791)

It's not so much that as the fact that the Air Force is still, to some extent, the force that uses an 'Ivory Tower' approach to things. That is they are somewhat distanced from reality relative to the other forces.

There's been a saying in the military for decades. "The Navy starts the war and the Marines finish it." It's the same thing with the Air Force and the Army.

That's probably why the Air Force attracts so many future politician/social hacker types like the Evangelicals.

From a medical perspective (5, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27181999)

I'm writing in from the medical side, so I hope that my comments can be useful, too. The military lures medical students and doctors with all sorts of promises such as "You'll be able to practice whatever specialty you want. You can practice medicine where you want. There are lots of research opportunities. You can't be sued for malpractice. You won't have to deal with insurance companies and other civilian paperwork nightmares..." And the list goes on.

In reality, only a few physicians get to practice the type of medicine they want. You want to be a radiologist? Too bad. Become a general practitioner instead. Docs have no say in where they practice. And the paperwork is worse in the military because (1) we do indeed have to fill out insurance forms and cover-your-ass medical notes, and (2) we have loads of performance evals and fits reps due to our status as officers. We can indeed be sued. The research is slim at major hospitals to non-existent at smaller ones. Thanks to the Base Closure and Realignment Commission (BRAC), Walter Reed and the Armed Forces Institute of Pathology are set for closure. And on top of all of that, the pay is much less than the civilian side. I once calculated my long-term difference in income by joining the military and saw that in just five years of active duty, I will rack up a net lifetime loss of over $700,000.

The end result is that the majority of military physicians leave the armed forces as soon as they are eligible to do so and we're left with a bunch of young docs who are certainly competent at their job, but are largely inexperienced.

If you want to spend an afternoon reading horror stories, see the Student Doctor Network [studentdoctor.net] .

Unrappreciated (2, Funny)

DoofusOfDeath (636671) | more than 5 years ago | (#27182043)

The geeks get hardly any tanks for their had work.

Re:Unrappreciated (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27182727)

and hardly any healers as well.
So it's DPS and occasionally a bit of CC?

Toposhaba (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27182047)

Well why do we have such redundancy. Cyber warefare is a new kind of warfare just like air was in WWI and need its own division (yes i know the air force at that time was part of the army but eventually was so critical that it became its own division).

Whats a compiler? (3, Insightful)

codepunk (167897) | more than 5 years ago | (#27182049)

In my ten years of military service I cannot recall a single person besides myself that
even knew what a compiler was. The data systems guys did know how to run some reports
and such but had zero knowledge of anything more difficult than that.

Anything requiring some sort of advanced knowledge was contracted out and for good reason, the
military structure is not designed to facilitate such personnel. Anyone with such advanced skills
cannot be retained in the military.

A question of disciplin? (2, Insightful)

jandersen (462034) | more than 5 years ago | (#27182051)

I can imagine that the "Sir, yes sir" variant of military discipline could clash somewhat with the geekish type with mountain boots, beach shorts and half the shirt hanging out :-)

The thing is, there are many kinds of discipline - just because you don't dress sharpish and are servile to officers doesn't mean that you are undisciplined. I would argue that it takes a hell of a lot of discipline to stick with a difficult piece of code all through the night and the next day too.

Obsession != Re:A question of discipline? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27182455)

For many programmers, sticking with a piece of code through the night isn't discipline, it's an obsession.

Knowing when and how to apply the obsession is discipline. When the programmer is needed the next day but they're completely hooped, that demonstrates a lack of discipline.

OTOH: It may be more effective to allow the undisciplined but obsessed programmer to do their thing, as you can get more out of them that way.
(There was a recent story about this, allowing people to intuitively work at their peak times, anyone got the link?)

Badly... (5, Informative)

f(x) is x (948082) | more than 5 years ago | (#27182057)

I was in the Army for about 7 years (including a stint in the Persian Gulf in late 2003). The Army has deep, fundamental problems with how they treat techs.

I could go on for pages, but I'll just give one quick example. Promotions in the Army are based mostly on the amount of time you've been in your job. There are also "schools" that are for the most part mandatory to be promoted to the ranks of Sergeant and above. Attending one of these military schools, requires that you leave your unit for about a month. So within my job (74B) it was typical that 75% or more of the soldiers knew absolutely nothing technical. The problem was that there might only be 1 or 2 really savvy people in a unit and they couldn't afford to lose them for any point of time. So a friend of mine who ran the mail server for a large base, wasn't able to go to a military school so he got promoted much later than his non-tech savvy counterparts despite the fact he was a really good soldier as well.

This is a very common practice for the Army. The good techies (like my friend) leave the military instead of reenlisting because they have make 10x as much. Almost all of the high ranking enlisted people used to be infantry or medics or other non-technical fields who switched because they would get promoted faster in this job classification. For the most part they don't know or care about tech.

Re:Badly... (2, Insightful)

DarkAce911 (245282) | more than 5 years ago | (#27182335)

The army just needs to expand the warrant office program more and problems like this will go away. Most of the time a warrant officer is the best type of person for these positions.

Re:Badly... (1)

Mistah Blue (519779) | more than 5 years ago | (#27182471)

Absolutely. Further, a lot of commissioned officers would be better off as warrant officers as they could concentrate on doing their job. Commissioned officers are generalists and tend to get promoted out of doing the technical stuff once they make Major.

Re:Badly... (3, Interesting)

drakaan (688386) | more than 5 years ago | (#27182743)

...Or a SPEC-5, SPEC-6, SPEC-7...

I think one of the things that the Army, specifically, did wrong was to completely eliminate that secondary path to advancement. If we're talking about highly technical specialties with little to no relationship to direct combat, then the idea to make everyone a capable sergeant doesn't fit so well.

Main reason I didn't stay in longer than I did was that I wouldn't have had the chance to do actual work in my MOS (33-T) above the rank of E-4.

Re:Badly... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27182399)

What you're talking about (except for the last paragraph, where the "10" figure is usually lower but does tend to be greater than 1) actually generalizes to just about everyone who works for government. Loaded with nontechs, so the techs are indespensable and held back.

Re:Badly... (1)

Shakrai (717556) | more than 5 years ago | (#27182751)

I could go on for pages, but I'll just give one quick example. Promotions in the Army are based mostly on the amount of time you've been in your job. There are also "schools" that are for the most part mandatory to be promoted to the ranks of Sergeant and above. Attending one of these military schools, requires that you leave your unit for about a month. So within my job (74B) it was typical that 75% or more of the soldiers knew absolutely nothing technical. The problem was that there might only be 1 or 2 really savvy people in a unit and they couldn't afford to lose them for any point of time. So a friend of mine who ran the mail server for a large base, wasn't able to go to a military school so he got promoted much later than his non-tech savvy counterparts despite the fact he was a really good soldier as well.

That isn't that uncommon and isn't unique to techs. A family member of ours used to fly F-14s before they retired them. The Navy has (or had) some sort of policy that he needed to leave flight duty and command a different unit before he could advance any further in the ranks. Every time he would try to do this he got recalled to flight duty because of his expertise and a shortage of aviators who were qualified to fly the F-14. Consequently he eventually wound up retiring at a lower rank/paygrade than he should have been able to attain.

Bottom line: If your unit needs your skills for whatever then the military typically regards that as more important than your own career goals. Sucks, but if you were only interested in your own career then I doubt you would have joined the military.

They.... (1)

Theoboley (1226542) | more than 5 years ago | (#27182067)

put them on the front lines with their toughbooks for testing with Panasonic.

Closet Nerds (3, Interesting)

SirLurksAlot (1169039) | more than 5 years ago | (#27182075)

A couple of weeks ago we were having some inane conversation and the topic of our respective work places came up. I work in an IS shop with a relatively young crew of developers (I'm 29, I still consider myself young) and most of us show off our inner nerd on a daily basis. You know the stuff; ringtones from old school games, anime, Star Wars, oddball wallpapers, conversations about stuff that leaves non-nerds scratching their heads. A while back I even heard someone playing StarFox a couple cubicles over on a Friday afternoon. All in all it is a pretty great environment :-D My friend's response was "You're so lucky, you work with nerds out in the open. All I have around here are a bunch of closet ninja nerds!" He went on to say that if you're a nerd in the army it's generally better not to show it. Apparently he catches more crap about his nerdy past-times than he does about anything else. Nothing serious really, just the general razzing you might expect. He re-upped a couple of years ago though, so it can't be all bad.

Re:Closet Nerds (1)

SirLurksAlot (1169039) | more than 5 years ago | (#27182123)

My apologies for replying to my own post. I forgot mention that this conversation was with a friend in the army. Gotta love jumping the submit gun.

How Do Militaries Treat Their Nerds? (1)

musikit (716987) | more than 5 years ago | (#27182111)

as enemies

There is already something like this in effect... (1)

Phizzle (1109923) | more than 5 years ago | (#27182183)

The more intellectually advanced are already employed by the NSA.

No excuse not give respect (3, Insightful)

Shivetya (243324) | more than 5 years ago | (#27182195)

Perhaps the submitter or nerds in general need to realize one thing. Your technical experience is recognized, that does not mean you get a pass on showing recognition to those who hold a higher rank. Too many times its a "us versus "the man" attitude that causes the grief. It is a wonderfully working system with little need to change, the real change is required of those entering it and realizing that their technical knowledge does not impart superiority over those who out rank them.

Yeah you will run into arseholes who will dismiss your opinion even if your right but that happens in the real world as well. I think Hollywood has really given geeks a bad idea of what to expect in both extremes.

Re:No excuse not give respect (1)

girlintraining (1395911) | more than 5 years ago | (#27182673)

It is a wonderfully working system with little need to change, the real change is required of those entering it and realizing that their technical knowledge does not impart superiority over those who out rank them.

No, it doesn't. But their technical knowledge won't be communicated to a person of higher rank who doesn't keep the door open to constructive criticism and ideas. The same problems that plague corporate america and any large bureauacracy plague the military: And that is that the people who are on the front-lines, working the problem, don't have an open line of communication along the chain of command. Decisions flow from top to bottom, but information flows from bottom to top -- and that flow of information is easily and readily obstructed simply because it's human nature to not reveal when things are going badly, or that the plan that came down isn't workable, etc. It's like the telephone game, only instead of passing the message once, it has to be passed on twice -- once up, once down. Is it any surprise that there are major faults?

True tech talent is shunned (4, Insightful)

kaaona (252061) | more than 5 years ago | (#27182207)

As a degreed electrical engineer and Air Force communications *engineering* officer I was expressly confined to assignments within that narrow career field. In a service dominated by flying ("rated") officers that was the kiss of death, career-wise. I was passed over for promotion again and again because I "lacked the breadth of assignments and experience required for advancement". My classmates with history and general studies degrees got the maintenance, operations, and command assignments and promotions I could not.

Now retired from the Air Force and working as an IT contractor, my skills are very much in demand. My salary is probably double that of my peers that got "definitely promote" ratings in uniform.

In my estimation there is absolutely no possibility that the military will ever adopt -- let alone embrace -- the computer nerd culture needed to develop any serious IT capability of its own. Its leadership is too narcissistic and firmly rooted in the past to allow it.

Re:True tech talent is shunned (1)

astarf (1292110) | more than 5 years ago | (#27182349)

Perhaps, but they do have a cargo pilot at the top -- which is a refreshing break from the fighter jock monopoly.

NSA is a better choice (4, Interesting)

bbasgen (165297) | more than 5 years ago | (#27182215)

This raises some interesting points. I've been an advocate of a separate branch for cyber war, but ironically this article has me thinking in a new direction. A former IT boss of mine used to say that in the military they take pride in the notion that if it is round you carry it, and if it is square you roll it. The article indicates this cultural problem, but isn't this a cultural pervasive in the very institution of the military? While different branches have different cultures, surely a non-kinetic warfare branch would truly be the odd one out. The military is capable of scientific rigor, certainly -- the US Army Corps of Engineers is a good example. Yet, we have all kinds of intelligence agencies under the department of defense umbrella where science is the modus operandi -- so why would cyber security go under the military, as opposed to the NSA, for example?

The military requires some degree of cyber warfare capability in the field, but I'm not sure it makes sense as the nexus of national defense efforts in the field. It further seems axiomatic that cyber security can't be reasonably split into our existing branches. This seems to be the crux of the issue: the military may not be sufficiently distinguishing operational needs from strategic needs. While each branch requires operational components, strategically the military cannot effectively pursue this goal.

I'm not convinced by the point in the article regarding the NSA. On the contrary, it almost seems like the NSA model is ideal: the military requires operational folks who rotate through the doors of the NSA to get schooled and then go out into the field. Meanwhile, I would think, the NSA is staffed by career civilian professionals who can not only devote the necessary strategic attention to cyber warfare, but can also train the military as necessary. The article seems to address an issue where military staff is used to augment an understaffed NSA. Since apparently military staff is rotated out too frequently, it is not an effective use of resources. From this description, at least, this problem seems minor in comparison to the issues of shoe horning geeks into the military.

Most heartening, however, is that these folks seem to really get it, at long last:

Recruiting ethical, trustworthy people is, of course, of paramount importance. In their formative years, many technically talented individuals make critical decisions that influence the direction of their life. In the hacking community, perhaps the most important decision is whether or not to engage in illegal activity. By creating a cyber organization that is elite, complete with role models that junior members would want to emulate, we can recruit individuals before they make irreversible decisions that would eliminate their ability to serve their country.

As a former Marine Nerd (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27182217)

Ill tell you a few things, first the military HATES when you come up with a better solution then the one there using already. Even if the cost is actully lower then normal. On top of this the culture enforces the idea that no matter how good you are at your job, if your not a 300 PFT (top score) then your not valuable to the service.

My advice is to change how rank is given.

Right now rank is given based on the following items

PFT score (physical fitness)
Time in Service
Time in Grade
How good your superiors think you are
How good your superiors think you are over the last several years
Doing military education (programing and other things like this dont count)
(a few others I forgot)

Overall someone who spends his time at the gym is a good marine and will get promoted over a nerd. On top of this a person with a high PFT score will get ranked better by his supervisors then a nerd will. To change this you have to tell the Marines to fight smarter not harder, however this will fall on deaf ears most of the time.

A backdoor to fix this would be to add new jobs to the marines, Military programers etc who would be ranked aginst each other. However... people who hate the job will take it because there already a high PFT military member thus ensuring new blood has no idea what the heck its doing.

Given the curent culture as well as the grab to get rank no matter what, your asking a vary hard question. Truly the best solution is some 3rd outside the service contracter way so you dont have to rank things that dont really matter.

Paul
paul . brinker (at) gmail . com

USMC 93-98 (1)

Em Emalb (452530) | more than 5 years ago | (#27182219)

When I went in, I worked primarily on Banyan Vines servers and Windows 3.1 (then Windows for Work Groups, then Win 95 and migrated from Banyan (what a said day that was) to Windows 3.5.1 servers) as well as routers, hubs/switches in addition to secured communications (sat shots, encrypted comms, etc).

That was from 93 to IIRC, 96, and from 96 onward I did all manner of comms, radios, KGs, etc, etc.

By the time I got out, I was lagging behind a good bit in server/desktop technology, but communications-wise I was doing ok.

The point to all this is that the Marine Corps is treated like the red-headed stepson of the Navy, and tech changes in the military are slow, but moreso in the Marine Corps.

Cue some swabbie saying the Marine Corps is a department of the Navy, blah blah blah. I know. We all know. Now go take your dishbowl and your bellbottoms and leave me alone. ;-P

Re:USMC 93-98 (1)

Em Emalb (452530) | more than 5 years ago | (#27182365)

Oh, and as far as how I was treated goes...I was treated like a Marine. Lower than snake shit by my superiors, like a mini-deity by my underlings. :-D

Re:USMC 93-98 (1)

likuidkewl (634006) | more than 5 years ago | (#27182611)

Since the Marine Corps falls under the DoN... j/k Jar-head.

It all depends on what your job actually _is_. I was an electronics tech and most of us in my shop knew more about network/pc side of it than the IT guys did, it was scary. Not to mention the spooks who had no idea that it wasn't good to hang your jackets on a fiber line...

But I was treated fine promoted etc. no biggies. There was one guy who was a complete social outcast and didn't catch break very often, we("geeks") always tried to stay off his 'retribution' list.

Re:USMC 93-98 (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27182627)

There is a reason for this, the marine corps asvab minimum score is lower for the marines than it is the navy. Let
the smart boys handle the work that requires thinking.

The navy's job is to deliver you to shore so you can be shot at and save your skin with naval gun fire support when
you get in trouble.

Re:USMC 93-98 (1)

Em Emalb (452530) | more than 5 years ago | (#27182685)

And yet, the ARMY is the only branch (from what I understand) that will give you an ASVAB waiver, if you rock out on it.

Also, I love the Navy, those guys took me wherever I needed to go. :-)

Since it appears I'm talking with a Navy guy, I actually got along pretty well with the Navy folks onboard the USS Ogden. We worked pretty closely together (the comm units did anyway) and the majority of them were pretty cool guys.

It pays to be nice to the folks you're working with, no matter what branch they're in. (The Seals onboard loved us, as we allowed them to us our comms, as they were getting a lot of run-around from the Navy Comm officers. Those guys are flat-out NUTS.

A smack of personal experience (3, Interesting)

girlintraining (1395911) | more than 5 years ago | (#27182231)

Let me start with a personal disclosure: This past summer slashdot ran an article about interviewing the Air Force's cyber defense team. We submitted the answers, they submitted the replies, and most people were frustrated at the lack of transparency. But one thing they did say is that they were actively recruiting (one of the big reasons they accepted the interview request). Well, I decided to try and contact them using their website. I e-mailed them and said I was game and got bounced to a government jobs website which happened to be broken and also had none of the jobs for the program listed. After a few more hours of fruitless searching, I gave up. What does it matter how they treat their nerds if the interested ones can't even land face time with someone who knows how to screen them?

Second, our culture is radically opposed to the military culture. And I'm not talking about dropping bombs and warfare stuff that so-called "liberals" go crazy over. We play violent video games to relax. And there's more people in our community that advocate gun ownership and self-defense than in the general population. In short, while it might not be popular geek culture to be pro-military, it's not a single-digit percentage of us by any means. The flip of this though is that many of us live alternative lifestyles and conventional military thinking is that we're a security risk. If it's not our sexuality, it's our hobbies (LARPing comes to mind as one example), and if not our hobbies, than our eccentric worldviews, morality, religious preferences, etc. The very things that make us valuable -- the ability to think critically, take the initiative, and not be weighed down by conventional thinking is exactly the thing the military (like so many bureauacracies, large corporations, and organizations around the world) seems to weed out.

Really, by the time anyone makes it through all those hoops -- are they really going to be a significant asset? Can the military honestly say it's retaining enough labor assets to combat what less-restrictive organizations (including criminal and terrorist organizations) will accept, and also what they're willing to pay? Seriously. They're organizing out there -- they are seriously organizing how they aquire networking and system resources, they're doing it in bulk, and those resources can be easily militarized. They're being traded amongst themselves already and while right now the targets have been primarily financial, it's only going to take a few geniuses out there to sit down at a table and put their combined skillset together and start attacking real infrastructure targets.

"Cyber defense" as it sits today is a total and complete joke. Even with chain of command decisions under five minutes from aquisition to execution, you people are still orders of magnitude too slow. And your entire strategy has been reactive in nature, because you lack the intelligence assets necessary to get on the other side of the curve and begin anticipating and analyzing potential threats before they materialize. Not only that, but the military has long been associated with the protection of physical assets and real people -- they are woefully inequipped to deal with intangible assets and virtual people. This is the new blitzkrieg and attacks can start and end faster than a single person's physical reaction times (on the order of a half second).

They not only aren't fighting the right war, they don't even have the basic sense to know how to adapt to it, or hire the people and trust them to take them in the direction they need to go. It doesn't matter how they treat their "nerds" -- they've already been hired away by private companies, organized criminals, terrorists, or simply left the field due to lack of legitimate employment. And all the while hundreds of billions in assets sit largely undefended, or defended only as well as a bunch of civilians with a hobby interest in security can do.

Re:A smack of personal experience (1)

Em Emalb (452530) | more than 5 years ago | (#27182617)

The very things that make us valuable -- the ability to think critically, take the initiative, and not be weighed down by conventional thinking is exactly the thing the military (like so many bureauacracies, large corporations, and organizations around the world) seems to weed out.

All the things you mentioned won't stop you from being a valuable member of the military, unless you make a big deal out of it.

Everyone who is a civilian seems to have this idea that the military essentially crushes the individuality out of you, and that's simply not the case at all. Critical thinking and being yourself is one of the greatest attributes of our military personnel. At the lower levels, is it? Sure. But I'd say (in the Corps anyway) that once you achieve a modicum of rank (Corporal AKA E-4 or above) you're EXPECTED to use your noggin and expected to be capable of thinking for yourself.

It's not all mindless stuff, and I didn't see a single Marine the entire time I was in that was "stripped of their individuality". IMO, there's this huge disconnect between what the military is actually like and what civilians perceive it to be like.

Re:A smack of personal experience (1)

girlintraining (1395911) | more than 5 years ago | (#27182723)

Everyone who is a civilian seems to have this idea that the military essentially crushes the individuality out of you,

If they want to change that perception, they should change their enlistment and hiring criterions to be reflective on ability rather than things like gender or sexual orientation. It's hard to take any organization that kicks people out based solely on those attributes. Because that's exactly what "crushing the individuality out of [someone]" is. when people are afraid to be themselves they're spending energy hiding instead of putting it towards working, thus further reinforcing the attitude they are less valuable and thus justifying the attitude that the original assessment was valid.

Re:A smack of personal experience (1)

Shakrai (717556) | more than 5 years ago | (#27182763)

Well, I decided to try and contact them using their website. I e-mailed them and said I was game and got bounced to a government jobs website which happened to be broken and also had none of the jobs for the program listed. After a few more hours of fruitless searching, I gave up. What does it matter how they treat their nerds if the interested ones can't even land face time with someone who knows how to screen them?

That's why they need nerds, to fix their recruitment website ;) Too bad it's a chicken and egg problem....

Adapt and overcome (3, Insightful)

n3tcat (664243) | more than 5 years ago | (#27182247)

The military supports tech nerds as much as anyone else. You have to learn how to adapt yourself to what the military wants, rather than waiting for the military to adapt to you.

I've been actively practicing computer nerdity for a little over 15 years now, and what I've noticed in my last 7 years with the Army is that I can practice whatever I want during my free time, but applying my technical expertise during work hours was often ignored or even actively fought against until I started applying my skills directly to the job.

For example, I wanted to write code more, and maybe even design my own applications. I wanted to learn how to use microsoft tools with databases and whatnot. This never worked because it required too many changes to the system that was already in place, and it had a negligible gain to anyone besides myself. All I wanted was to learn. Eventually I ditched my idea and instead focused on learning VBA (visual basic for applications) to write macros that would drastically reduce redundancy in our office. For that I got some form of praise. Another example would be in Kuwait, where I used my photoshop skills to do graphics work for our unit. For this I got more recognition.

It's difficult to be selfish in the military. It's also difficult to work in a civilian job that has no overall purpose except to ship a couple more units of Product X.

Officers are Managerial Generalists (2, Insightful)

astarf (1292110) | more than 5 years ago | (#27182257)

What Mr. Bejtlich does seem to understand is that the officer corps in the military exists to provide a cadre of managerial generalists. That isn't to imply that managers don't need to learn and understand the work they supervise, but a good officer shouldn't be tied to a specific specialty. A good officer should become reasonably proficient in the skills required for his/her current assignment, while being open to learning an entirely new skill set as required by a subsequent assignment.

The military DOES absolutely need technical experts, but that's what the enlisted and civilian ranks are for. If every officer restricted themselves to learning about a specific specialty, you wouldn't have anyone competent to fills the ranks of generals and admirals.

Weekend Warriors (3, Interesting)

halfloaded (932071) | more than 5 years ago | (#27182373)

I am a reservist. My full time job is a sys admin for a fairly large engineering firm. When I deployed to Iraq last year, I spent my time providing security for a small FOB in Anbar. My job in the Marine Corps is Data. The government sent me to six months (of ultimately unnecessary) training in 29 palms. Yet, when I finally got the chance to deploy, I was a glorified MP. Instead, the Active Duty component and contractors supported the network infrastructure. Even when I pointed out areas they could improve the network, I was told to shut up and do the job I was deployed to do. Upon returning, I tried transferring to a reserve component where my skills as a sys admin could actually be used. I was told, "The training I had received and the investment the Corps made in me was too much to allow me to transfer." The Military could do a lot more at finding qualified reservists and leveraging their professional experience and expertise to help in areas where the military generally has problems finding qualified personnel. My $0.02... For what it's worth... I am proud to wear the uniform. I am proud to have served my country. Yet, I am constantly frustrated by the inefficiencies and lack of common sense. I guess they just needed a body with rifle.

Nerds end wars faster than soldiers (4, Interesting)

cryfreedomlove (929828) | more than 5 years ago | (#27182385)

Look at history. Alan Turing was an introverted nerd. He was gay in a society that persecuted gay people. Yet his ability to crack the Nazi enigma encryption system gave the allies huge advantages that saved countless lives on both sides and brought on the inevitable conclusion to that tragic war faster than would have been possible if he had been pushed away.

How do they treat their nerds? (1)

Rik Sweeney (471717) | more than 5 years ago | (#27182387)

Well for starters I'd really hope they don't call them that to their faces.

Not well (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27182477)

I attended West Point and was in the top 10% of my class. I did very well in academics and about average in physical fitness scores. One of my tactical officers (sort of like a faculty advisor for a dorm -- or a babysitter and disciplinarian) once told me that I needed to get my priorities straight. No one wanted someone who was too smart, he said. He'd rather have someone in his unit who could ace the physical fitness test than someone who studied. Not everyone in the Army felt that way, but too many of them did.

Where do we even begin? (3, Interesting)

PhxBlue (562201) | more than 5 years ago | (#27182495)

So, Slashdot, how has the military treated you and your technical friends? What changes are needed?

I'm not sure where to begin answering this. Let's look at the recent brouhaha about memory cards and DOD networks to understand why.

In November, the DOD instructed everyone to stop using devices like flash cards, memory sticks, etc. They didn't go into why until weeks later, and they didn't publicly release the "why" until last month, if I recall correctly. And the "why" turned out to be agent.btz, a virus released five months earlier that antivirus software should have stopped.

But beyond that, here are the problems the DOD had in allowing the agent.btz problem to get way out of proportion. First, they had people using memory sticks to transfer files from unclassified networks to classified networks, when the proper procedure is to burn a CD -- which is treated as classified the moment the door closes on the secure system's CD-ROM drive.

Second, they obviously had a massive failure to protect their classified systems against a virus that by that point should have been easily detected and removed ... which raises the question, what sort of antivirus software, if any, is installed on the DOD's secure networks?

Finally, let's look at the so-called "solution." Ban all USB storage devices from all government networks? Really? Isn't that a bit like hitting a fly with a sledgehammer? The existing procedures on transferring data to classified systems would have worked fine if it were followed and enforced, but if the DOD can't enforce those procedures, how does it expect to enforce even more draconian measures that seek to ban the use of USB storage devices altogether? No, the DOD's decision smacks of overreaction and panic.

And it's telling that the ban is still in place four months after the fact. What that tells me is that the DOD is not prepared to properly and adequately protect its own networks, much less engage in some lofty concept of "cyber warfare." The DOD is still struggling to define what cyberspace is -- how can they fight in a domain when they don't even know its boundaries?

They just don't get it. (5, Interesting)

Sir.Cracked (140212) | more than 5 years ago | (#27182503)

First, a bit of background. I separated from the Air Force in 2006. When I left I had a CJR (waiting list number to keep my own job) in the 280s. That means just in the quarter I would have re-enlisted, 280 people would have to leave, choose other jobs, or fill spots before I got a spot to keep my own job. I left as a 3c051, Computer communications and operations, with the rank of SrA. I actually had a line number for Staff, which I got on my first try, mostly on the strength of my career knowledge. For those not in the know, advancement up to Senior Airman is automatic, and tied to time in grade, until the NCO (Sergeant) ranks. After that point, it's based on a point system comprised of time in grade, decorations, and your results in a test on general air force knowledge and career knowledge.

My assumption was, with as little relative time in grade as I had, that taking the tests was merely a day doing something different, and why not. But my scores, primarily on the career knowledge, was so high as to overcome my lack of points for time in rank and decorations.

So, ignoring any of my own opinions about how good or knowledgeable I am, by the measures that the Air Force has, I was the top of the class. I was also assigned to an Info Warfare Flight, exactly the unit that would be concerned with the things being discussed as priorities then, and today. None of it figured into Rank, or into my skill level, or if they tried to retain me.

The fact that I could run circles around the Staffs and Techs in my unit, and they knew it and deferred to me on technical matters, was irrelevant to what even my technical skill rating was, let alone pay or rank. By the standard of the air force, they had higher skill levels in technical proficiency than I did. Quite frankly, given that I had computer knowledge coming in, I'm certain I could have passed the 7 level class without any effort. However, it's not even offered till you've had Staff on for long enough to get scheduled for it, so, basically a year, mission requirements allowing. Further, as I was processing out, the unit First Shirt (kind of an HR Sergeant) gave a little speech to the airmen, saying those in overfilled career fields should stay in and retrain to something else, that we were young, therefore it was easy for us to do different things, therefore our experience at what we already were doing was irrelevant. I found it insulting to say the least.

The bottom line is this. The military is not setup to advance and reward those with technical ability. It is setup to have standard sized cogs. One airman's supposed to be exactly equivalent to another, One Staff equivalent to another staff. And if you're thinking from the mindset that one airman could be blown up, and his or her replacement must be ready to step in, it makes a kind of sense. It also doesn't make sense to promote up the ranks based on tech ability. NCO's are the equivalent of lower and middle management, Senior NCO's middle to upper, and officers filling out upper and executive levels. Just because you're an ace with networks certainly doesn't mean you are ready to lead people.

So, the system itself isn't designed to handle individuals that have technical ability, but who aren't ready/don't want to command lower level troops. None of this even TOUCHES on the way the military lifestyle itself clashes with the general hacker mentality. About the only draw the military has at all is that they will accept just about anyone, and if you can prove a certain aptitude, you will be allowed to do computer work, no previous provable experience or training required. For some of us who don't do well with traditional education, and don't want to work up through the hell desk ladder, it's got that as a draw. But that will only keep people in for 4 and out, and they then use that experience to go get a real job. And you can't run a realistic computer defense or offense program if your best people leave every 3 years (4 years minus the training), and all that's left and therefore those are promoted are the dregs, who are then put in charge of the next wave of possibly good people. Of course you end up with crap.

If you wanted to design a system that filtered and discarded all the good people, and perhaps some of the bad, but ensured you were left with primarily crap, this it what it would look like.

Damned from both sides: civilian and military (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27182527)

I am an Army National Guard officer currently deployed to Iraq, in my civilian career I am a software engineer. I have firsthand experience that neither tech civilian employers know what to do with former/current military or the military knows what to do with technology people.

Here in Iraq, my computer and technology experience is used for troubleshooting basic computer and networking problems, installing printers that the 25Bs (Army PC Techs) cannot and making general's PowerPoint presentations animated. They simply have no idea what to do with me.

I applied to join a cyber team, and they would not take me because I did not have enough completed OERs (Officer Evaluation Reports), never mind my fluency in 4 programming languages, 10 years experience and being able to speak and read Arabic.

Conversely, I have been fired by my civilian employer for being called to active duty (small semiconductor firm in Chandler, AZ). A battle through the Department of Labor eventually won my job back, but things got nasty, very nasty. Civilian tech firms do not know how to treat or what to do with military people. It is as if we suddenly develop leprosy when they learn that we serve.

IT Meritocracy, Military Senioritocracy (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27182533)

In the military, it's important to have a clear unbreakable chain of command, or people die. In IT endeavors, it's more important to have the best ideas float to the top.

Combine the military senioritocracy with IT people, and you get managers that aren't open to different ideas. Projects are run with a "take that hill" mentality.

It's amazing they get anything done.

It actually wasn't so bad. (1)

SkeezerDoodle (1178213) | more than 5 years ago | (#27182671)

I spent 10 years in the Air Force and just got out in December. I'm now a contractor and I love it. I don't have to worry about getting sent to Iraq to fight a battle for which I am unprepared. I deployed quite often and spent nearly 2 of my 10 years doing systems support in the mid east. I LOVED my job before they started send AF people to do convoy duty. Did I sign up for the military expecting my life to be in danger? Yes. Did I sign up for the military expecting to drive down roads and avoid IEDs? No. I didn't join the Air Force to get shot at.

Everyone in my unit knew how technical we all were, and the whole shop was a bunch of geeks. We were treated well and highly respected (though inadequately paid.) We would get together for LAN parties and talk about geeky things and it was fun. Then I went to be an instructor and it all went to hell. Now I'm doing systems again and it is a blast all over. I'm not sure how it is in the Army and Marines, but if you fall into the right job at the right base, it can be a blast.

Even when we were deployed, we were still able to have a lot of fun because most of the time we went as a group. This has become less the case which is why I'm glad I got out when I did. I miss the atmosphere, but the time came to either get out or get shot at. What would you do?

Boot Camp... (1)

PPH (736903) | more than 5 years ago | (#27182679)

....has a different meaning than most nerds expect.

DI: "Alright you nerds! Drop and give me half a pushup!"

Not surprising really... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27182681)

A military that's top-heavy and inefficient? Gee, how surprising.

Really though, the U.S. military seems to be known for "well if it was good enough in the past, why do something different now?" How many advances have had to be shoved down their collective throats over the decades?

Electronic = bad, triplicate paperwork = good
Computer = bad, gun = good
Efficiency = bad, go through 17 levels of a command structure to get light bulbs = good

I have high regard for the military and soldiers as a whole. Much more good stuff than bad. But if you ran a business the same way the military is run, you'd be shut down and broke!

The CIA is hiring geeks (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27182793)

If you're a competent geek and want to serve your country, the CIA is a good place to be.

It's a civilian environment, much different than the military. But the work is interesting and important.

https://www.cia.gov/careers/jobs/scientists-engineers-technology/view-jobs/index.html

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