Navy to create new cyber-specific occupational specialty, lawmaker says

Rep. Jim Langevin, D.-R.I., speaks during a fireside chat at DefenseTalks. (DefenseScoop)

Editor’s note: This story has been updated with a comment from the Navy provided to DefenseScoop on Sept. 20.

The Navy will create a cyber-specific designation for cyber operators in response to congressional concerns, a key lawmaker told DefenseScoop.

To date, the Navy is the only service that does not have such an occupational specialty, or in Navy parlance, a “designator.” Its cyber operators are primarily resourced from its cryptologic warfare community — which is also responsible for signals intelligence, electronic warfare and information operations, among several mission sets — with additional roles resourced from information specialists and cyber warfare engineers. Cyber warfare engineers are not operators, but instead specialize in highly technical skills and development of tools.

Critics have said this risks neglecting cyber and having a lack of institutional expertise both in the operations community and at top echelons of leadership, sources have indicated.

In response to a provision in the House Armed Services Committee’s version of the fiscal 2023 National Defense Authorization Act, the Navy will now develop a cyber designator for its personnel, according to Rep. Jim Langevin, D.-R.I., who chairs the HASC’s cyber subcommittee.

“I’ve raised this directly with the secretary of Navy and the [chief of naval operations]. I wasn’t happy with the way [the] Navy had been treating the cyber role. [It’s] the only one of the services that don’t have a specific cyber designator. That’s changing,” Langevin told DefenseScoop on the sidelines of the Defense Talks conference on Thursday, which was hosted by DefenseScoop. “As soon as I raised it with Secretary [of the Navy Carlos] Del Toro and Adm. [Michael] Gilday, the CNO, they were very responsive. They made this a priority item. They are on that on their side in support of the NDAA language and the cyber designator is going to” happen.

Langevin added that the Navy is making the change now and the NDAA will further codify this effort.

The Navy did not immediately respond to a query from DefenseScoop to confirm that the new designator will be created, or provided details on timing and resourcing for this new designator. However, it later provided the following statement: “Navy officials are aware of the draft NDAA language and are discussing the way ahead. The Navy remains committed to delivering exceptional and qualified cyber teams trained, ready, and certified to support the Navy and the Nation. We have nothing further at this time.”

Langevin previously said he and others were concerned about the state of readiness of the Navy’s contribution to the joint cyber mission force — the teams each service is responsible for providing to U.S. Cyber Command to conduct offensive and defensive cyber operations — which led to the directive language in the NDAA.

The concern is bipartisan, and the Senate’s version of the NDAA raised the prospect of the Navy completely getting out of cyber operations for Cybercom all together.

Congress has yet to pass a final version of the fiscal 2023 NDAA.