Here’s the U.S. military’s unusual strategy for recruiting ‘cyber warriors’

Get paid less; do more.

That’s the message the U.S. military is sending as it recruits “cyber warriors” to deal with the changing face of modern warfare. The Department of Defense faces a big challenge in this arena as it sets up new cyberwarfare centers: Money.

Private cybersecurity firms are quickly growing in size and wealth, and their employees are benefiting, with soaring salaries reaching well into the six figure range.  It’s no surprise that the Pentagon can’t compete with that kind of pay on a soldier-by-soldier basis. What makes the DOD’s latest video interesting is that the department tackles the issue head-on by directly addressing the financial sacrifice soldiers will have to make.

Despite the unavoidable pay cut, senior master sergeant Michelle Stavig urged hackers to work for the military. “You not only get world class training,” she said, “you’re placed in a position where you can actually make a difference.”

Instead of focusing on pay, Stavig emphasized a “love” for the “cool missions” that cyber warriors would undertake defending networks and supporting American fighters on the ground. She touted the exciting challenge of cyberwar, and she hinted at the broad legal authorities given to the U.S. military in cyberspace that do not exist for private-sector cybersecurity firms.

Cyber-warrior salaries range from about $40,000 to $132,000, a significantly lower basement than equivalent private-sector jobs.  That could change slightly as the military and Congress continue to increase the national emphasis on cyberwar, but it’s unlikely the military will match Silicon Valley’s paychecks anytime soon. 

Illustration by Max Fleishman

Patrick Howell O'Neill

Patrick Howell O'Neill

Patrick Howell O'Neill is a notable cybersecurity reporter whose work has focused on the dark net, national security, and law enforcement. A former senior writer at the Daily Dot, O'Neill joined CyberScoop in October 2016. I am a cybersecurity journalist at CyberScoop. I cover the security industry, national security and law enforcement.