Air Force’s program to pick new cyber officers is highly competitive; only few are selected

The Air Force’s direct commissioning program to bring in cyber professionals from both enlisted ranks and outside the military has turned out to be highly competitive.

Senior leaders have just wrapped up their third cyber direct commissioning board, selecting applicants who will go through the program this next cycle. The board received over 100 applicants for 10 available spots.

“We’re somewhat limited in the number of spots we were actually allocated to fill. So, it’s not an open-ended, ‘if you build it, they will come.’ Well, they are coming,” Maj. Gen. David Snoddy, the Air Force’s assistant deputy chief for cyber effects, said at the AFCEA Air Force IT day last week. “The demand is there, the desire to pursue that is there.”

The program is intended to tap highly qualified enlisted members and civilians and let them commission as officers up to the rank of colonel utilizing constructive service credit.

“It’s not exclusively folks coming in from the outside. It may be enlisted members who were pursuing this as a path to commission. But it can also be people coming off the street, whether that be out of college, or from industry, who are applying into this process,” Snoddy said.

The service reviews candidates’ experience before offering them constructive service credit, allowing senior leaders to commission them at a higher rank. An authority given by Congress, constructive service credit is also used to bring lawyers and medical personnel into the military, and the military services have just recently started using this authority to bring in cyber professionals.

“Especially for our enlisted members, we’ve been able to bring some of them in through the commissioning program as captains, where they’re not starting sort of their career over again, as a second lieutenant and then having to progress the ranks based on their experiences as an enlisted member,” Snoddy said.

The process can take anywhere from 12 to 24 months from the time of application submission to getting accepted and receiving the commissioned officer oath. Once accepted, participants are required to complete the Air Force’s Officer Training School.

Last month, the Air Force announced a rollout of the cyber direct commission program to its reservists.

The Air Force Reserve is taking a slightly different approach with this new effort. The idea is to bring in industry experts with a lot of experience who also want to serve the country. The program will allow participants to wear the uniform while also maintaining their employment.

“This program will allow the service to access cutting-edge talent and leverage private sector skills to make us more competitive in the changing world environment,” said Alex Wagner, the assistant secretary of the Air Force for manpower and reserve affairs.

 

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