US Marine Corps Commandant General Robert Neller told a security forum back in April that the Marines would soon launch a volunteer cybersecurity auxiliary unit. Earlier this week, the Marines announced the establishment of that unit, called the Marine Corps Cyber Auxiliary (Cyber Aux), which it says will help increase “Marine Corps cyberspace readiness.”
In April’s Future Security Forum 2019, Neller noted that members of the auxiliary wouldn’t be permitted to wear the coveted Eagle, Globe, and Anchor emblem of the Corps, which is something a Marine earns by going through basic training or officer candidate school. He noted that they wouldn’t have to adhere to the Marine Corps’ strict standards, joking that the auxiliary would take anyone — even professionals with purple hair. Volunteers won’t have to wear a uniform or adhere to the Corps’ grooming or physical standards.
The announcement says that members of the Cyber Aux will assist “in simulated environments and during periods of instruction, but are not authorized to execute hands-on cyber activities.” In other words, they’re not going to take part in any real-world incidents that the Marines might end up facing in the digital world.
Neller tells Military.com that members of this new force will “come in and offer their assistance, expertise and knowledge to the uniform side.” He says that the Corps hasn’t figured out how big the force will be just yet, but he explained that US citizens who can get a security clearance would be a good fit for it.
In recent years, the US military has found it difficult to retain skilled cybersecurity professionals because many can often find better opportunities in the private sector. The purpose of the auxiliary is to supplement the Corps’ cybersecurity expertise with civilians and veterans at a time when digital threats from foreign adversaries are on the rise.
Last year, New America Foundation fellows Natasha Cohen and Peter W. Singer wrote an op-ed in Defense One and a white paper arguing for the creation of such an organization, noting that the military currently doesn’t have sufficient personnel to meet the demand for the challenges they face. The duo suggested that such a need could be met with a unit like the Civil Air Patrol and Coast Guard Auxiliary, which operate in a supporting role for their respective parent military branches.