Friday, May 29, 2015

An open letter to the IW Community

A few years ago the Cryptologic community made a significant transition as we sought to identify ourselves with the emerging mission area of Information Warfare (IW).  As a part of that transition, which ended quietly a few years later, we shifted the title of our officer corps from “Cryptologic Officer” to “Information Warfare Officer,” or IWO.  At the same time, the title of our enlisted cadre remained Cryptologic Technicians (CT).  Almost all that remains of that transition today is the title IWO.  Meanwhile, the term IW now officially refers to “Irregular Warfare.”

Today, our community is on a clear and steady course.  The Cryptologic Community Foundational Principles was issued with the intent to, “unify the efforts of the Information Warfare (IW) and Cryptologic (CT) Community, as we continue to create value through deliberate development of specialized expertise across our core skills...”  A particularly germane sentence from that document includes direction that we will, “go forward to our roots” and “focus on professionalization within SIGINT, CNO, and EW skill sets.”  The idea that we will “go forward” to our roots, as well as the focus on those three core skills, is especially pertinent to this discussion.  While communications technology has evolved, the very core of our competence remains grounded in the roots established by the likes of Captain Joseph J. Rochefort, Station HYPO, OP-20-G, and the “On the Roof Gang.”  Though the specific means by which we do so continues to evolve, our mandate remains “to create time and effects” for, and as, operational commanders.  As we do just that, it is clear that no single term in the U.S. Military lexicon, to include IW, encapsulates the core skills to which we are clearly committed and have been since that document was signed by each of our community’s Flag Officers and Senior Civilians serving at the time.

The final step of our transition should be to reestablish “Cryptologic Officer” as the official title for our officer cadre.  Information Warfare is no longer valid and the term IWO serves as a distraction from the clear course you continue to set. More importantly, as we “go forward to our roots” this change will make clear that we are a singular Cryptologic Community with both officer and enlisted warfighters who are aligned in name, competence, and vision.  A return to the title Cryptologist is far more than symbolic.  It is a name that represents our rich history, communicates who we are, and will serve to help focus our future.  As with any public change, this one will take time and the messaging is critical.  Should this change occur, it will be our collective responsibility as a community to amplify the message, and help all to understand the intent behind this change.

Sincerely,
C. H. Hall
LCDR, U.S. Navy

20 comments:

Gary O said...

Couldn't agree more. Believe there are multiple benefits to going back to the title of Cryptologic Officer. Since our title has changed to IWO there seems to have also been a mental shift within our community that is distracting us from our core skill sets of SIGINT, CNO, and EW and pushing us into trying to be more in line with 1100 and 1300 designators. This in turn has a large group of IWOs, in my opinion, not trying to professionalize or specialize in our craft, but to try to assimilate into the 11/1300 communities instead.

Doug Underhill said...

Here Here! Our near-rabid infatuation with new technology has blinded a generation of cryppies to the beauty of our tradecraft. In doing so, we have robbed that generation of the part of the job that creates the fire in the belly. The buttonologists will try to convince you their tool will do it all for you. Still haven't found a tool to replace a passionate, diligent, well-trained ANALYST.

Anonymous said...

Gentlemen,

They have burned the boats on the title Cryptologic Officer. There is no going back. You should take pride in leading Cryptologic Technicians. They are the real cryptologists, anyway.

Dave McDonald said...

Agree. I'm a 33-year career Cryptologist, and have been honored, humbled and fortunate to be able to refer to myself this way in professional discussions. I've found even in recent years, as well-meaning but less-than-qualified outside-the-community leaders have meddled with tradition, that scores of professionals I interact with continue to immediately recognize and respect the title, "Cryptologist." So you may believe the boats are burned, but such a return to the historic roots of the profession would be immediately welcomed, and broadly understood. Not just that, but it would reset the critical culture within a highly valued community that creates mission-essential differentiation in technical skills. While I understand the quaint sentiment of the last commenter, that our esteemed enlisted CT colleagues are the "real" cryptologists, I would assert that fully trained and professionalized Cryptologic Officers are no less cryptologists than the enlisted professionals we lead, and one of the most important traditions of the community that must be preserved is that Cryptologic Officers are deeply technical, fully schooled and situationally aware of current technologies that shape our craft, and that they can, through their skills and experience, garner credibility with the CTs they lead. This merger and reshaping/redefining of a more hybrid "Information Dominance" officer cadre, brings real risk in terms of growing deeply technically qualified senior leaders in the Cryptologic disciplines. Some will find this a heretical perspective, but what matters here is real capability in warfighting, not the tender sensibilities of those married to an ill-considered strategy forged in the crucible of political "necessity." Flag officers more interested in putting their personal stamp on things in recent years, rather than taking the time to fully understand the long and unique traditions and continuing, compelling needs of Navy Cryptology, have set a path that will inevitably water down the force. In the fullness of time, a next generation of senior leaders will have to put the pieces back together, and I will predict that Navy Cryptology has a long future ahead, notwithstanding current meddling.

Mike Lambert said...

Great comment Dave.

privatejoker015 said...

So as "deeply technical" and "professionalized" cryptologists, can someone explain to me what exactly these "cryptologists" should be doing to bring warfighting effects not being done by our techs. SWOs sit the pos as TAO and fight the ship, aviators fly the platform and employ weapons systems, etc, so what do we do with these technical skills besides lead, plan, and administer? I've heard for thirteen years now how we value STEM and other technical things, but as a liberal arts guy I can't for the life of me figure out what I'm missing or how being of a technical mind would make me more effective. Maybe I'm just that stupid, which is a distinct possibility. Or maybe we are kidding ourselves into thinking we are valuable beyond general leadership and management (not a bad thing). Any thoughts?

privatejoker015 said...

So as "deeply technical" and "professionalized" cryptologists, can someone explain to me what exactly these "cryptologists" should be doing to bring warfighting effects not being done by our techs. SWOs sit the pos as TAO and fight the ship, aviators fly the platform and employ weapons systems, etc, so what do we do with these technical skills besides lead, plan, and administer? I've heard for thirteen years now how we value STEM and other technical things, but as a liberal arts guy I can't for the life of me figure out what I'm missing or how being of a technical mind would make me more effective. Maybe I'm just that stupid, which is a distinct possibility. Or maybe we are kidding ourselves into thinking we are valuable beyond general leadership and management (not a bad thing). Any thoughts?

Dave McDonald said...

PJ15,

I respect your question, and will try to be gracious in answering. But I'll start by saying I hardly know where to begin. Your sense of the role of Cryptologic Officers (or lack of a role, as you seem to imply), is simply THAT off target. I know nothing of your technical capacity, so won't go down a rabbit hole here. But I'll say that for many decades (going back to the days of CDR Joseph Rochefort), "deeply technical" Cryptologic Officers have distinguished themselves by their ability to roll up their sleeves, do real work, "sit the pos," when needed (which honestly is not often - since our CT colleagues are so good at it, and are chartered to do it), and lean-in to fully understand the applied technologies, techniques, tools and trade-craft involved in the range of mission disciplines carried out by this essential cadre, officer and enlisted. Cryptologic Officers also grow in engineering and systems acquisition disciplines, and play central roles in aligning next-generation capabilities against next-generation adversary technologies, tactics and doctrine. Cryptologic Officers often must "speak the language" - a language that is absolutely technical - and be not simply credible, but authoritative. Cryptologic Officers often serve to "fuse" and integrate, and even to plan and create capacity for, the right mix of technical disciplines (think "man, train, equip" - so that the warfighter has cryptologic force capacity at the ready. Cryptologic Officers quite often serve a critical "go-between" function- ensuring "straight-stick" warfighters know how to best employ esoteric skills and equipment to optimize end-to-end campaign effects. And, to be even more specific, Cryptologic Officers do indeed "sit the pos" - it's simply a different kind of "pos" than what most CTs would be familiar with. And none of this takes away in the least from the value of CTs. They are indispensable and the best of them are nothing short of amazing. Twenty-six years ago, as a new Ensign, I "sat the pos" as a submarine DIRSUP officer, and was blessed to have a stunningly talented group of CTs making up the team, including a few Chiefs I rode with who wire-brushed me endlessly to help ensure I was not just "talking the walk," but "walking the walk." But when things got "hot," I was every bit as "on the pos" as any of them. And I would venture there is no small number of Cryptologic Officers who read this blog, either anonymously or openly, who would share a similar perspective. When you're standing on the Con of a nuclear attack submarine, within a few inches of the Skipper's ear (as he's bent over in the dark, hugging the Type-18, and you're whispering a steady stream of updated sweet tactical somethings, as the proverbial $#!T is getting ready to hit the fan, you can bet your bottom dollar you are "on pos" - every bit as much as your guys back in Radio. And you had better know what you're talking about, and have a solid head for the tactical picture, the technical picture, the threat picture, the adversary's operating model and doctrine, and potential intent, the nature of the gear you are operating, and the technologies that are all simultaneously playing out in a complex, often unpredictable, and potentially quite dangerous scenario. If all you are doing at that moment is "leading, planning and administrating," you're fired! Or worse - you could be hazarding the boat! Cryptologic Officers lose this culture, and these hard-won, and, yes, deeply technical, sensibilities at great risk to themselves, and to the Navy they serve. Other vignettes and scenarios abound. Get to know some old-dog Cryppies, and enjoy the stories, but keep it clean!

Al Kinney said...

@PrivateJoker015....

If being a Naval Cryptologist was only about leadership & management, we could just make it "cool additional duty for line officers". Having a technical proficiency also enables one to *solve*, *advise*, and *imagine* in the context of our discipline. Every SWO/Aviator/Submariner/SEAL actually expects the Cryptologist to be as technically proficient as they are - perhaps even more so. They don't really want us earning their warfare insignia but, if we show no other value, we may as well be on the watch bill.

Other fleet warriors actually don't believe "leave it to the chief" is a 100% solution. They join with their Sailors to employ their systems to the edge of the envelope (at least through the O-6 level). For a cryptologist, that means using that STEM degree to ask pointed questions to our technicians which may lead them to solutions and tactics that neither had yet imagined. But, we have to have some technical depth & perspective from which to engage this conversation.

Finally, a quick shout out to the cryptologic linguists within our officer corps. There is certainly room here to recognize the unique technical expertise required to become proficient in languages. So, we don't only need engineers and scientists. The arts-trained professional who is dedicated to operating proficiently at the edge of the language envelope is equally valuable and fully esteemed as a technical expert.

And, yes, we have to do all of this plus lead & manage. Those two things are table stakes to being a Naval Officer. They are necessary, but not sufficient, qualifications to becoming a Naval Cryptologist.

Anonymous said...

Sorry IWOs. You have diluted yourselves so much you no longer qualify. However, as we figure out how to extend the CWEs beyond five years we have an ideal 'specialized' modern candidate for new age 'Cryptologists'.

Jim said...

In my years as a cryptologist - limited operationally as they were by my latter tours in manpower - I knew one cryptologic officer who actually did cryptology who wasn't a prior enlisted CT. And I saw only one prior enlisted who did any SIGINT, and that was a one-time event only to prove a point. There were other prior-enlisted who I knew could do the job quite well, but why would they? Us enlisted ops were there to do a job, to do THE job. We didn't need another operator, we needed top cover, leadership.

My experience on shore duty, very limited surface DIRSUP, and several subsurface DIRSUP trips was that cryptologic officers administered but did not perform operations and had limited knowledge of how/what operators actually performed. I can't comment on airborne ops.

Chad W said...

Great conversation. I also often wondered why emphasis was placed on hard sciences as well. I've learned this background is beneficial at the fusion stage. The "real cryptologists" are specialists in their field providing a very specific and valuable piece of the pie. For the IWO, a full comprehension of the three main skill sets mentioned in the Cryptologic Community Foundational Principles is required to make appropriate strategic recommendations and informed reactive decisions within time constraints. These decisions encompass much more than a single piece of the pie and often contradict each other. If IWOs are not cryptologists, than hopefully a renewed focus on our historical root competencies will lead to the title or at least quiet unfounded sentiment. It's a mindset more than a title. Challenge accepted. Thanks Chuck and anonymous!//

privatejoker015 said...

Dave: I appreciate your graciousness, but by citing the role of the IWO as interlocutor between the Captain (actually in command) and the CTs (actually doing the technical work), you may have made my point. Not trying to be obtuse, but aside from the dirsup example the rest of your response seems like buzzwords (fuse, lean-in, etc) and outliers (acquisition and R/E roles).

Jim: for airborne it's the same. Mission planning, reporting, some tactical picture formation, crew management, and some external comms are under the purview of the IWO but he/she isn't doing any cryptology.

Al: I like the Fleet warrior reference. To me the difference between us and other Fleet warriors is that at a certain level (e.g. The TAOs and aviators I mentioned above) the buck stops with an officer and their technical expertise is apparent well beyond doing things like asking pointed questions or relaying information.

Dave McDonald said...

PJ15,

Not sure exactly what you're hoping people will believe here. If your point is Cryptologic Officers are kind of fundamentally expendable, or even not worthy of the title "Cryptologist," because they are not doing "real cryptologic work," you're just flat wrong, and that would either be because you've not lived it, and simply don't know what goes on "out there" in all kinds of operational, acquisition, staff, command and technical/engineering/R&D kinds of jobs that Cryptologic Officers get assigned to, or you've been told by someone else that it's a cool axe to grind that officers are just kind of hanging out watching all the enlisted technicians do amazing things, and hoping to garner some "credit" for mission success. I certainly hope it's the former, and not the latter. But if it's the former, then you simply do not know. I've already contributed a bit of a tome to this thread, but will that through history, one could literally write a book (and some have) about the hands-on contributions of Cryptologic Officers to the overall craft that the profession describes. You can go on diminishing the proper role of officers in this community if you like, but it's just an uninformed perspective. And, again, not a single bit of this discussion takes away from the incredible, mission-essential technical and operational talents of our CT brothers and sisters. I started my career as a CT, as did many Cryptologic Officers, and have a massive respect for these brilliant and committed folks. I will also say that better-led CTs contribute vastly more to the missions they are assigned. And Cryptologic Officer, as well as their Chiefs, have a lot to do with that. We've (I've) focused a lot of my discussion on technical depth, operational breadth, integrating, dot-connecting and aligning capacity, but never sell short the power of solid, technically-credible, hands-on leadership. The best CTs I've ever had the honor of leading, enjoyed being properly led, and fully understood why there was a Cryptologic Officer on the team. The best Chiefs that ever mentored me, understood what my proper role was supposed to be, and made sure I was prepared to execute it, and, yes, to represent and to apply the skills of the team well.

Chuck said...

Interesting discussion. I'm curious what both Senior Chief Murphy's and PJ15's experience say about our community. In my mind there is no doubt that we are technically focused as Cryptologic Officers and serve many more purposes than to simply manage a team of CT's. Trying to capture exactly what that is in words may be difficult, but if you have lived it like I have then you know exactly what Dave MacDonald is talking about.

There is no doubt value in having this discussion. We have been left with a title that ties us to a discontinued warfare area, fails to best describe what we truly do, and reminds us of what I consider a low point in our history. It is time to get back to our roots, which is the real point of the letter. A shift in our title would be a good start.

v/r

C. H. Hall

Bryan Lopez said...

Gents, great discussion. There are few officers I admire more than you, Chuck, for your chops, gusto and leadership. You impressed me when we're flying together back in the day and you've only improved as you took on greater leadership roles and embraced opportunities to serve, but I have to differ on your point. As a prior-enlisted Cryptologist, with a technical and linguist background, who has lived through both eras, I am of the belief that we can't keep looking back with nostalgia through wispy eyea wishing to bring back "how it used to be". This generation of Sailors, Chiefs and Officers are serving in an ever evolving and complex world of wicked problems. We can appreciate our roots and even tell sea stories about "the good ol' days", but we must keep moving forward. We can't get wrapped around the axle on what we're called and whether or not we warrant a warfare pin. Neither one of these things have the ability to detract from the contribution our community continues to make within the fleet. Let sleeping dogs lie and get back to the mission.

Chuck said...

Thanks for the kind words and feedback, sir. I don't necessarily disagree with you, and I'm honestly not trying to bring us back 50 years. But I do think there is value in getting back to our roots as we tackle modern technological challanges. I also think names and titles matter. Call us Cryptologists again so we can evoke that great history and better tie ourselves with our enlisted cadre. The term Information Warfare is meaningless and confusing.

v/r

C. H. Hall

Bryan Lopez said...

Thanks for the thoughtful reply, Chuck. Your heart is in the right place and I am in agreement that "Information Warfare" is confusing and not necessarily indicative of what we actually do. That being said, our community has been through so many iterations of mission and title that it has become a point of ridicule to our warfighter shipmates. The community worked hard to justify the name changes and "evolving" mission focus over the years, so much so that going back now would not only be ridiculous, but also a major point of distraction from "the mission". I can't imagine VADM Tighe approaching the CNO with the suggestion to revert after so much effort was put into justifying the change. Our mision, while still similar in many ways, has evolved. We do many of the same things we've always done, but we've added many new and very critical tasks to our plate. Take heart, though, our roots are still evident in our outstanding Sailors and officers who rose through the enlisted ranks like yourself and have not forgotten. The community needs leaders who can remember the past, but also lead it into the future. Don't forget the people, but always remember "The Mission" is our focus. Cheers, mate

Anonymous said...

CWEs are the 'modern' era 'cryptologists'. 1810s are almost 1860s.

Anonymous said...

@Anonymous @ 10:04,

Clearly you haven't worked with any real CWEs...the concept of the CWE is certainly worthy of considration as a candidate for the modern era cryptologists; however, in practice they are not...at least yet.

As the concept of the CWE becomes more mature and they start to take on more Cyber mission (even operations b/c of 1810 lack of willingness), there is a very real scenario where 1810s lean more toward fleet based RF trying desperately to look like URLs (but not actually be) while the CWEs become the Navy's Cyber Community. Which will be more relevant, only time will tell, though many have an opinion...uninformed inmost cases, but an opinion nonetheless.

Find it rather ironic that a cryptologic community that grew and thrived on constant evolution of mission is holding dearly to the past.