An ongoing debate within the Army cyber branch is whether officers should focus on being technical experts or being the operational leaders who manage them. Those who advocate the latter believe the primary role of cyber officers is “to lead operations … and to manage resources in support of those efforts,” as argued by Lt. Col. Justin Considine and Capt. Blake Rhoades in the January 2017 issue of ARMY (“How to Grow a Capable Cyber Officer”). They criticize branch training for focusing too much on “technical adeptness for officers” and “individual skill training” at the expense of preparation as “supported commanders or operational leaders.”
This thinking is flawed because it presupposes technical expertise and operational leadership to be competing interests.
To the contrary, effective leadership in the cyber domain is built on technical expertise, not at its expense. Requiring cyber officers to be technical experts is no different from what is expected of other maneuver officers. Army doctrine makes clear that all cyber officers, regardless of rank, must have a high level of technical expertise to achieve mission success.