The US Marine Corps (USMC) may consider cutting its 182,000 strong force to make way for an increase in its cyberwarfare community.
Speaking at an Atlantic Council event in Washington DC, Marine Commandant General Robert Neller said he was looking hard at tradeoffs as the USMC sought to develop well-trained, mature cyber warriors.
"I'm willing to take risk in the units we have now," he said. According to the Commandant, the Corps had two options: to ask for an end strength increase after several years of drawing down, or restructure existing forces for a new mission. Neller said he would probably know how many cyber Marines the Corps needed by this summer, and then it would take an unspecified period of time to realise that growth.
"To grow a cyber Marine is a two-year pipeline, and we're in the process of growing our cyber capability. And the course that they have to go through has got a high attrition rate, so we've got to remission those people. So that's part of this talent management."
Neller said he was also looking to take advantage of existing cyber talent in the Marine Corps Reserve community as a way to stretch resources and training dollars even further.
"The advantage in the Reserves is they have a civilian life and they do this for real," he said. "So now we're going out, trying to find out who they are, how to get them involved in this stuff, because now we've skipped 5,10,15 years of development because somebody owns a cyber protection company and we put them right in there."
Recent studies conducted by the Australian Cyber Security Centre (ACSS) at ADFA showed that Australia was ill prepared for cyber-enabled warfare.
In “Australia Rearmed: Future Capabilities for Cyber-enabled Warfare”, Professor Greg Austin, Professorial Fellow with the EastWest Institute in New York and visiting professor at the ACCS describes Australia’s response to the “emerging centrality of cyber space” in the conduct of future war as “slow and fragmented”.
In an interview with ABC’s Lateline program in November last year, Prof Austin said it was all very well to rely upon the US to help with technology and the collection of intelligence that underpins cyber war but “that's a very different story from relying on [them] to teach all of the people in the Australian armed forces what cyber weapons are, how to use them, how to string them together, what are the consequences of using them and how to actually achieve strategic effects with cyber weapons”.