Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Information Professionalism

Everyone likes to speak to buzzwords. Right now, it's cyber. Too many people have visions that they are somehow a cyber expert, despite the fact that most of them don't actually know anything about cyber. This quote from an older article is telling:

An Air Force officer, who asked not to be named, said as he walked out of the speech that he was surprised to hear the Air Force chief of staff plead ignorance.

“Can you imagine if he said something like that about aircraft or weapons or nuclear weapons?” the Air Force major said. “It would never happen. They’d run him out of the Pentagon.”

For Information Dominance in general, the DoD is apparently OK with non-experts, laden with buzzwords, to run the place. It's like letting your uncle that works at the grocery store take over your job in engineering at Ford. He may be a nice guy...but do you really want to drive the car that he worked on?

Being a professional in your community is important. There is an ongoing debate on how hard the Information Dominance Warfare Officer qualification should be to earn. IDC leaders debate how long it should take to qualify (I've heard 3 months to 36 months), how hard the test should be, and what format the board should be. But if we only focus on the individual pieces, we've lost the bigger vision, which is that the IDWO pin isn't just a PQS, it's a symbol of professionalism.

Professionalism has two pieces: knowledge and operations.

Knowledge is needed to give you the baseline to make sound decisions. In other professions, knowledge is gained by many hours of study and attending classes. It's not a one-shot deal either. Even Speech Language Pathologists (those folks that helped you pronounce your 'R's and 'S's in grade school) have to recertify every three years, taking online classes, attending seminars, and passing exams to do so (to the tune of a few hundred dollars).

Operations is actually going out and practicing your art. We don't pay doctors to simply be smart; we pay doctors to treat sick people and heal them. In the same sense, we don't pay Naval Officers to file paperwork; we pay them to conduct Naval Operations, whether that is on land, sea, air, or in cyberspace.

When we start arguing about how many months it should take to qualify, or how hard one NIOCs program is verses another, we've missed the point. The whole purpose of an IDWO pin is that it represents an Information Dominance professional, someone that is capable to applying IO effects in the battlespace. And it's more than just buzzwords. Submarine officers don't just drive the boat: they conduct mission planning, combat casualties, rig the ship for dive, approve maintenance, write awards, and have a whole host of other skills. Submariners don't just drive submarines, they FIGHT submarines, and are professionals that do it better than anyone else.

IDWO qualified officers can't be professionals if they view their pin as only a PQS. They can't be professionals if the pin is a joke that takes three months to complete, and is so easy that anyone can complete it without studying. They can't be professionals if they don't commit to lifelong learning. They can't be professionals if they don't treat their skillsets as ones that must be mastered, not simply attained as a LTJG and then discarded to focus on the "real work" of routing FITREPs and end of tour awards.

Until we insist on BEING professionals, we won't be TREATED like professionals. And until that happens, we'll have a DoD that permits ignorance in our leaders. We're making massive headways with the founding of Tenth Fleet and the establishment of the IDWO pin. But if we throw it all away, whether in the name of expediency or sloth, all our gains will be for nothing.