Rep. Ruben Gallego proposed the idea of a cybersecurity reserve system, like a National Guard for the digital world, during a talk at the South by Southwest conference, according to CNN.
Gallego, a young Democrat from Arizona and Marine Corps veteran, spoke at the annual 10-day conference in Austin with Texas Republican Rep. Will Hurd on the topic of improving the technology shortfalls of government.
“We have to accept that, look, this person is not going to man a machine gun, why would we put them through bootcamp, we're never going to send them to the front line,” Gallego told CNN. “But we could definitely use their knowledge in service to our country,” he added.
While the military has modernized its occupation specialties to include cyber experts, such as
the Army’s Cyber Operations Specialist, Gallego argues that the cybersecurity experts are less likely to be drawn to the longer hours and lower salaries of government. Especially when compared to the flexible hours and high wages of the tech sector.
Additionally, the best minds in cybersecurity may not be interested in or physically fit for the seven to 13 weeks of boot camp that the armed forces require before entry into a military tech job.
While the military does have civilian jobs in cybersecurity and also contracts tech companies for digital needs, Gallego’s idea could allow for increased access to the best minds in tech. Cybersecurity warriors being on call in time of increased national security needs the same way the National Guard and Reserves operate.
“I believe that we need to find a way to bring in your cyber warrior to come in and work for the NSA, or Department of Defense for a couple weeks per year,” Gallego said. “We have this great private sector of tech innovators that I know would love to be able to say, 'I'll give up two weeks of my life to serve,’” he added.
In the Reserves and National Guard, soldiers live and work as civilians, but are on call for mandatory service for a set number of years. They train two days a month on a weekend and for two weeks a year for their annual training. Additionally, their civilian jobs are protected by federal law if they are called upon to serve.
Hurd stressed the need for better integration between the tech sector and the entire government.
“I think our government should look like our country,” said Hurd. “We need a diversity of thought, backgrounds and experiences. The issue of the most talented folks not going into government is true, it's not just in the legislative or executive branch,” he added.
Gallego’s idea is currently nothing more than that, with no legislation proposed to create such a program. That being said, Gallego believes there is an untapped portion of the population that the government’s national security apparatus needs to harness for its cybersecurity needs.