Final approval of officer and enlisted warfare programs for Information Dominance personnel was great news. A rigorous qualification program has the potential to further professionalize the field, but to do so, the program must be respected.

The good news of program approval was bolstered by a recent Navy Times article, available here, cut and paste from the 29Sep10 CHINFO Clips: Info Warrios, Get Your Pins – by Mark Faram, Navy Times 04Oct10.

In the article, Fleet Master Chief Jay Powers, the senior enlisted Sailor in Fleet Cyber Command and 10th Fleet, committed to a qualification program without grandfathering, the practice of accepting experience in lieu Personal Qualification Standard (PQS) completion. Master Chief Powers’ intent was quite clear; “There will be no fast-tracking or grandfathering of qualifications,” an idea he said was discussed and “hotly contested.”

Disallowing grandfathering is exactly how warfare qualifications should be; however, Master Chief Power’s comments only apply to the Enlisted Information Dominance Warfare Specialist (EIDWS) program; they do not apply to Information Dominance Officer (IDO) qualifications. In fact, the IDO program has an established Accelerated Qualification Process. Behold the double standard.

Sadly, Cyber Command/10th Fleet leaders decided to set different standards for their officers and their enlisted Sailors. Certain officers, many in fact, need only minimal experience and some other qualifications (many experience-based themselves) to qualify for an accelerated qualification process approved by Vice Admiral Dorsett . Officers eligible for fast-tracking need only complete an e-learning tutorial and a 30-question exam for final IWO completion. Although for many it will introduce new information, it’s far from challenging. At least one officer with average experience completed the review and the test (successfully) in just a few hours.

A two-hour review and a 30-question test do anything but maintain the integrity of the program, an imperative according to FLTCM Powers’ interview with Navy Times.

Fleet Cyber Command and 10th Fleet leaders need to quickly reconsider their approach to qualifying a number of officers with a fast-track program, even one which is only available for a short time. As Fleet Master Chief Powers told Navy Times, “anything seen as making it easier for a select few would ‘erode the credibility of EIDWS.’”

And so it would for any warfare qualification, officer or enlisted. In this case, fast-tracking IWO qualifications will not only erode the credibility of a brand new warfare program, it risks eroding the credibility of the nascent IDC community as a whole.

Obviously some number of officers and enlisted members of the IDC need to be designated as qualified in Information Dominance based on experience and a RIGOROUS delta training and examination; otherwise there will be nobody to qualify the less experienced members of the community. But any group so qualified should be strictly limited to the most experienced officers (perhaps CWO4s and 5s, LDO LCDRs and all CDRs and CAPTs) and senior enlisted professionals (perhaps SCPOs and MCPOs).

The Information Dominance Corps needs to treat its officer and enlisted leaders equally, and get rid of the double standard. Doing otherwise could do significant damage to the reputation of IDC officers and the community itself.

And respect as warfighters might already be something the IDC needs to work on.

Posted by Fouled Anchor in Homeland Security, Maritime Security, Navy

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  • YN2(SW) H. Lucien Gauthier III

    I watched every DIVO I’ve had spend more time working on their SWO pin than it took me to get my ESWS. I’ve always been impressed with everything SWOs have to do to get qualified.

    I only know what little has been in the news about this new warfare program. But, outside of the program itself, I am fairly knowledgeable regarding the serious threat that Information/Cyber Warfare pose to the Navy and to the Nation. I will give the benefit of the doubt to the officers eligible for this magic wand qualification, undoubtedly some of them are the same officers who were given a direct commissioning a few months back into the Information Warfare Officer designator.

    However, look at Stuxnet…. The margin of error for our Information Dominance professionals is on par with what it is for Nukes. There is none. Seeing them start off their program in a manner 180 degrees out of phase with how the Nuke program started does not give me a sense of hope for our ability to defend our networks which are under threat at all times.

  • Andy (JADAA)

    How do the VQ-1/2 back-end bubbas and their cohorts from the Group Formerly Known As Security fir into all this or is this strictly the IT/IW folks, not EW?

  • SCPO USN (Ret)

    I’m sure there are folks in both communities who are ready to put this pin on now. Fouled Anchor is right; the “great warfare pin giveaway” in the officer corps is not going to help anyone’s credibility. It’s just like those 100% advancement cycles where you see less than stellar performers get promoted for just being there. FLTCYBERCOM really seems to be missing the point behind having warfare qualifications.

  • In the summer of 1975, I did 1/C cruise on USS ANCHORAGE (LSD-36). All the officers, who had had their OOD(F) (Fleet steaming) letter, got a shiny new SWO pin. By the time I got my butter bar a year later, I had to go to 4 months of SWO Basic. Over the years, I looked back at those notes and saw what a great job had been done, yet it was the drinking from the fire hose gig.

    As a fleet JG, when ESWS came out in ’79, the tasking from CNO was to have each unit develop what they wanted their sailors to know, to go with a few top level guide lines. When Bos’n Watson told the XO he wasn’t really interested, I got it. We laid out a plan for Engineers to stand bridge and CIC watches and for upper deck types to stand engineering watches, and all to stand QD watches (usually three in all cases), so they’d see how the rest of the ship functioned. We also detailed, by rate and paygrade, the acceptable professional achievements (EOOW, CICWS, QMOW, etc) to be allowed to receive the qualification. After those days, the PQS kicked in and standardized the system. ESWS started with all being equal, but any one ship’s CO could have made a very short list of local requirements and been handing them out, and some did.

    After the IOWA accident, the requirements to requal on each unit became a mandatory thing. I liked that, as each team of the organization, had differing dynamics from ship to ship. Why not “breif in” the new shipmate, just to make sure they hadn’t been short changed in their qual elsewhere….you know, it’s not like a PQS book, or two, hasn’t been pencil whipped the night before an inspection, and the possibly unknowing recipient of same is then given the keys to the system, without the requisite knowledge.

    If I had a say: Everyone do it all. If they already know it, this proves it. If they have missing experience, or systems and theory knowledge….good to catch it now… YN1 says…significant consequences.

    These men and women are the functional equivalent of the TAOs coming of age in the ASCM proliferation era. They need to be sharp and engaged, as this will maybe be millisecond time lines they have to work within…not 30 sec ones.

  • FLTCM Powers is not at Fleet Cyber Command / US TENTH Fleet. The Article states that he is at Navy Cyber Forces, which is a wholly different entity commanded by RADM Meek in Little Creek, VA.

  • IDWO

    I do not think that the fast-tracking of O’s will erode the credibility of the program. I think it is already eroded. The IDWO pin came from a group of Senior Officers with “pin envy”. I have been in the field for 14 years and I do not need a pin to tell me what my job is, which is really all the IDWO does.
    At the same time there had to be some sort of accelerated program for people or there would be no one to qualify others. This article makes it seem like any O can get it accelerated, but that is not the case. There is a strict set of quals you must have first. For example, for an Intel O to get the accelerate program they must have already completed a rigorous 18month qual program for their sepcific field. I think that should be enough!


    That is correct, Navy Cyber Forces, LC-VA. Also, he is a FORCM not a FLTCM. Big difference. Can be a bit confusing too, as the #’ed Fleet CMC’s are not FLTCM’s either. They are CMDCM’s, lower in the force structure than FORCM or FLTCM’s. Did I confuse anyone yet? Cheers!

  • RobbyS13

    My understanding is that there was a more rigorous test developed but it was rejected by the IDC leadership as being “too technical” and too hard. Let’s hope the IDC never comes up against something as technical as the Stuxnet…

  • RobbyS13

    To answer Andy’s question, the IDC consists of ITs, CTs, IS’s, and AG’s (yes, AGs!). On the Officer side it is IPs, IWs, Intel Officers, and Metoc Officers.

  • I earned my pin on NKO

    Piggybacking on Robby13’s comments…The test doesn’t need to be all that technical but it still needs to be hard. I thought the CISSP was hard and I studied like mad to pass it…Since it has come out that O’s are encouraged to get CISSPs which is a significant undertaking, the IDWO exam should be a more serious undertaking.

    IMHO, there should be at least 200 questions covering the scope of what an IDC Officer should be. Among these questions should be scenario-based questions requiring some in-depth thought vice simple memorization of less-than-significant data points. Questions should also be scored on a weighted basis (again like the CISSP) to give more credit on more relevant or difficult questions.

    I’d happily retake a new exam that actually validates my knowledge and abilities as part of the IDC. Since I’m not an otherwise warfare qualified officer I’d at least like the one pin I get hold some respectable value.

  • Fouled Anchor

    @Fast Nav – It appears you are correct. It is a bit confusing between Navy Cyber Forces and Fleet Cyber Command. Regardless, FORCM Powers is still one of the influential voices who can correct this unnecessary and inappopriate double-standard.

    @RobbyS13 – It would be very interesting to see something concrete on IDC leadership rejecting a more rigorous test. At one point during the development of the PQS, I heard some IDC officers say it would take about three years to complete. My feelings was they were a little frustrated that some proposals at the time included too much information. I do not know how the apporved PQS differs from the one they were commenting on.

    @IDWO – I disagree that the qualification isn’t needed, especially since the IDC brings together some vastly different skill sets. I’m sure you don’t need a pin to tell you what your job is, and that is probably true across warfare communities. The PQS (if completed properly) ensures IDC professionals share common core knowledge and a certain level of expertise in their primary discipline. The pin simply recognizes that level of expertise and provides a symbol of that expertise others can see.

  • Wolfpack

    Anytime a new warfare insignia comes out, there are those who cry foul at anyone who gets any type of accelerated qualification. It was the same for SWO, SeaBee, etc. The fact is that you cannot make everyone happy all the time. I would ask those who who decry the accelerate IDWO qual what they thought of the test. It is a good training program. After 19 years in the Navy, I still learned a great deal from other IDC communities. This is despite having worked closely with Intel, IW and IP, most recently on a CVN. Any you know what, folks are FAILING the test. There has to be a point of departure to start the process. The Senior IDC enlisted leadership decided (did you get that, the senior IDC enlisted) not to have an accelerated qual program. But yet, some where qualified to validate the PQS. The senior IDC officers decided that NOONE would get an automatic qual, but to take a training and test. Bay steps, give it some time.

  • Derrick

    Does cyber warfare involve traditional physical combat? I mean, will the people doing cyber warfare duties be required to load and fire guns or dodge enemy bullets? I thought cyber warfare meant dealing with hacks and Denial of Service attacks against computer systems; no physical fighting involved. If so, perhaps the military is not the right place to put these people. Perhaps cyber warfare staff should be civilians with the right technical experience, who report to the Secretary of Defense?

  • Bryce

    First, this post although pertinent has a couple of errors. It is the Information Dominance Warfare Officer (IDWO) qualification not IWO.

    As a leader in this emerging community I have struggled at both a shore command and now afloat with trying to help establish its credibility. Not capping the accelerated qualification at say the O-4/CWO-4 level is a mistake. I have LTJGs and Ensigns in other commands in close proximity doing everything in there power to make the 15 Nov 10 deadline so they can do the accelerated qualification. Never mind that section 2 of the OPNAVINST that states: “IDWO signifies that elegible Navy officers have acquired specific knowledge, skills and experience, and have demonstrated proficiency at the professional level of competence required for satisfactory performance of assigned duties.” A great scramble for chest candy is occuring by those who do not have the requisite experience. One example is an ensign with roughly three months of fleet experience.

    Second, the EIDWS may be being sold as a qualification with no grandfathering and hence greater rigor but I vehemently disagree with it not being available to sailors afloat. This is also a mistake whereby the senior enlisted in the IDC are failingin their sailors afloat. Also, do you really think that gun decking won’t occur?

    Having qualified as a SWO as an 1110 (not an IW) on a destroyer and PQP I do agree that the community has some ways to go to increase the rigor and therefore the credibility of the IDWO qualification. This must be reinforced to the highest levels.

    Folks are also forgetting that a piece of this qualification is the basic community qualification from the various officer designators. This isn’t just doing an online course and getting a pin. The basic qualification within a community is the linchpin here not unlike OOD as a SWO. If individual communities within the IDC do not enforce appropriate rigor there IDWO will not be respected. The regard for IDWO qualification will simply carry over.

  • Just Another IDWO

    As a former submarine officer, I am intimately familiar with rigorous qualification standards and zero-tolerance operating situations. As a IDC “warrior”, I met one the grandfathering clauses to earn my IDWO pin. Is this fair? Did those grandfathered really earn their pin? Well on both accounts, I’d have to give it a qualified maybe.

    Most of the grandfathering clauses were not arbitrary. They reflect a great deal of accumulated knowledge and/or experience in the respective officers’ IDC communities. In that sense, they are absolutely a baseline for individual community knowledge. Surely, the individuals at these levels have worked long and hard to reach meet the established grandfather criteria. However, I’m pretty sure that none of the grandfathering clauses reflect mastery of the entire spectrum of the IDC. The IDWO PQS is substantial and, if properly administered, is as challenging as many other PQSes out there. But I don’t believe that demonstrated ability in one specific IDC community coupled with answering 24 questions correctly on an NKO test is equivalent to completion of the rigorously-administered IDWO PQS.

    I’ll defer to an earlier poster (IDWO) on whether or not an IDC pin is even necessary. I’m just fine without it–I get enough respect from my non-IDC shipmates for my previous URL accomplishments and my current IDC performance.

  • Derrick

    I assume gun decking means physical altercation…don’t understand a lot of the anacronyms and slang as I’m a civilian…

    I must ask a stupid question though: are the people most qualified for cyber warfare the same type that would excel at “gun decking”?

  • Byron

    Gun-decking: falsfifying a report; Mark down in an engineering log that certain maintainence was performed and it wasn’t. More or less, lying.

  • Byron

    Oh…and I’m a career civilian.

  • Derrick

    Thanks for helping me understand. Hmmm…seems like the military experiences the same problems as any civilian corporation… 🙁

    But I’m curious if the US navy would consider “outsourcing” cyber warfare and information warfare work to civilians in the NSA or even civilians in the DoD…may be easier to get qualified people from the computer industry that way.

  • LDO Communicator

    I am an LDO who has obtained SWO and TAO as well as my sister communities’ IP Basic and IP Intermediate. How can you start a community without qualifiers? In any communitiy there will be those with the knowlege and those without….even if they are wearing a warfare pin. You have to start with a baseline.

    For those trying to obtain a warfare pin…I guarantee that the SWO pin will still be a discriminator. Your qualifications and learning will not end with and IDWO pin. Those who have passed the accelerated qualification will be charged with ensuring that those going through the traditional PQS process do it correctly through boards, PQS, and OJT.

    If you truly think this program is watered down then change it by obtaining the qualification then asserting your authority as an involved leader in the community throughout the qualification process.

  • Flashman

    On a practical level, the IDWO warfare qualification process constitutes a starting point. As an officer who falls within the IDC’s management, I’ll admit that I’m not thrilled with the pin or the qualification process, but it’s a starting point — that’s it.

    It is also a double standard. I don’t think the E-8’s and E-9’s in the community should fall under a different qualification standard than the IDWO officers.

    But, on the broader issue, the discussion reflects the issue of identity that is inherent in the ‘information dominance corps’. What is it? A significant part of the reason the PQS took a relatively long time to develop and the original PQS was deemed unattainable was that the identity of the IDC was not — and cannot — be particularly well-defined. The community itself is an artifice that allows for the management of career fields that currently range broadly in their interrelatedness. The qualification process that’s been built on this construct reflects the broad disparities among the communities that comprise the IDC. It is very difficult to identify the core skills required of an ‘IDC Officer’.

    That said, the core assumption and likely trend going forward is towards a greater role for the largest muscle group within the IDC (IP/IW/Cyber). While leadership from the top is important, the future fusion of the communities skill sets will be defined by how well the Navy is able to create a new social construct that brings together the various disciplines within the IDC. Frankly, that’s not going to be done by the gals/guys at the top — the guys like me with a grandfather clause who will exit the Navy in the next 5-10 years — but rather the gals/guys who will qualify this year, next year, and the succeeding years going forward as the IDC grows and matures as a capability. I don’t fret too much about the old gals/guys…most of development of the IDC truly is in the future.

  • Richard Baker

    Officer and Enlisted should meet the same standards without exception. I’m ex-Army and this reminds me of the inequity that once existed when Officers received $110 for Jump Pay and the Enlisted received $55. If the Information Dominance field wants respect and a new pin/badge, then all should pack the same gear.

  • Flashman

    Congratulations, U.S. Navy – you’ve done it! You effectively created a warfare pin for the completion of an exam based on a PowerPoint brief. I know, I know….the exam was solely for “grandfathered” personnel, but given that some of these folks could very well be very junior O-3’s (maybe even O-2’s), it’s hard to account for “experience” as being a prerequisite for a “grandfather” clause. Credibility? This is a joke.

    This is not meant to be criticism of intelligence officers, METOC officers, IP officers, cryppies and the newer cyber warriors and space heroes — it is criticism and feedback “up the chain” who blessed off on this means of qualification.

  • Legacy 6420

    I just ran across this page looking for another piece of information. This article is not complete and naturally had the effect of irritating those who may not have all of the facts. Aside from the other requirements mentioned, eligibility for the qualification included a 65 page PQS/JQR. Motivation for generating this qualification aside, the author had the responsibility to paint a complete picture. This article belongs in the comical Navy Times and not on the USNI web site.

  • Navy Sailor

    I’m an enlisted IT on shore duty for my first command and I am required to obtain this qualification and I will let anyone know as a sailor going through it right now if you think this is an easy pin to aquire you are sadly mistaken. It is a very difficult pin to get with extremely detailed and technical elements. I work very hard everyday and it sometimes feel like my head is going to explode from all the information and this is what I am enlisted to do!