We spent the majority of our Navy careers, up through the rank of captain, serving in separate communities—Intelligence and Information Warfare—that worked together, but operated under distinct roles and chains of command. We developed experience and expertise in two different parts of the Navy, the active-duty and Reserve components, without always understanding each other. Yet after decades operating on different tracks, today we proudly and effectively serve together within the combined Information Dominance Corps (IDC), collaboratively leading the Navy Information Dominance Forces (NAVIDFOR) and Information Dominance Corps Reserve Command (IDCRC) type commands that own the man, train and equip responsibilities for all Space, Information Warfare, Oceanography and Meteorology, Information Professionals and Intelligence professionals. Further underscoring the integration is the dual hatted relation of the IDCRC Commander as the Reserve Deputy Commanders for NAVIDFOR, ensuring all Information Dominance MT&E efforts include active reserve force solutions.
Today, active-reserve integration (ARI) is essential in our community so that we can prepare the right people to be ready to support critical daily and contingency IDC operations. Reservists play a critical role in complementing the abilities and availability of our active-duty IDC Sailors, which is captured by the Navy Reserve vision to promote the maintenance of a force “whose military and civilian skills are deliberately leveraged to support mission accomplishment.”
ARI is not a new priority, nor one unique to the IDC. It has been an evolving effort for decades within the Navy. As early as World War I, wartime necessities created dependence throughout the Fleet on hundreds of thousands of Reserve Sailors. But the integration we sustain today is far deeper and more consistent than that of preceding generations. As the Chief of Naval Operations, Adm. Jonathan Greenert, noted during the Navy Reserve Centennial Kickoff in March, “Serving through the Cold War, I’ve seen the Navy Reserve go from a group of ‘One day we may need them, let’s hold on to them. That’s our strategic reserve,’… to integration, to addiction in Desert Shield/Desert Storm, … to really, frankly, total integration today.”
From our personal perspectives, IDC communities have been at the forefront of ARI for years. So why does ARI matter so much to the IDC and our respective commands?
First, integration is critical to meeting to the current personnel needs of the IDC as we work to ensure that the Navy can access the needed skilled manpower and can maintain a ready force for tomorrow to support operational commanders. We are in a relatively unique position. At a time of DoD-wide budget and personnel reductions, the IDC is planning for significant billet and manpower growth, which will be highly dependent on our ability to increase the size of our reserve community while maintaining high standards for integration.
There is a true interdependence today between active-duty and Reserve Sailors. Reserve Sailors do not learn in a vacuum or train only within their community; their ability to work alongside active-duty Sailors makes them better at their jobs when they are called upon. And they will be called upon. Every war plan today depends on Reservists to execute, not just for their numbers, but for their knowledge. In the IDC, Reservists filled more than 77 percent of all Individual Augmentee assignments in FY14, providing nearly 400,000 man-days of operational support. Reservists today not only fill in for their active-duty counterparts, they are often called upon to complete activities and support missions that only they have the manpower, budget or resources to fully perform.
Second, effective integration allows us to benefit from the increasingly strong overlap between evolving, highly sought-after civilian skills and the technical and analytical skill sets that we prize in the IDC. It is impossible to overestimate the value to the IDC and the Navy of being able to integrate a vast array of civilian certifications, leadership skills, business practices and problem-solving methodologies through our Reserve Sailors. We benefit from Reservists with skill sets from private industry, ranging from computer programmers to federal law enforcement agents to college professors, to name just a few.
Finally, ARI is a primary way that we will maintain the necessary talent pool and overcome competition from the private sector. It is common today to read stories about the employment arms race to employ Americans with IDC-relevant skill sets. Make no mistake, throughout the IDC we are competing with the civilian workforce for talent, and having a strong Navy Reserve team helps us share some of these talented Americans with the private sector. Not only does it allow us to leverage talented civilians, but the ability to transition to the Reserves as part of the career continuum and know that you will continue to make a difference is a key element of our ability to retain Sailors after they complete their active duty commitment.
Secretary of Defense Ashton Carter recently called the Reserves a “huge treasure” in the Pentagon’s development of a cyber force. We agree. Yet while cyber may be the fastest area of growth, cyber skills are one of only many talents that the IDC looks for in its Reservists. Sailors and civilians alike may not appreciate the diverse range of skill sets that the IDC recruits and trains across the active-duty and Reserve components. We certainly did not fully appreciate this until our communities came together under the IDC umbrella.
There are countless examples of Reservists who have helped the Navy through this integration. We highlight some examples here:
- Supporting the Needs of Active-Duty Counterparts: U.S. European Command (EUCOM) saw the benefits of full spectrum IDC reserve integration during the 2014 Sochi Olympics and the ensuing crisis in the Crimea and Ukraine. As terrorist threats related to the Olympics increased and additional Reserve support was needed, EUCOM received immediate assistance from Reservists who already had the existing computer accounts, tokens, SharePoint access, and familiarity with EUCOM’s processes and the area of operations. The demand for additional intelligence support was met by Reservists who were electronic intelligence (ELINT) analysts, linguists, and military force analysts. There were even Reservists with academic backgrounds who were called upon to provide insight on various regional threat groups and criminal syndicates.
- Being Extremely Well-Qualified: A real-world example is a junior Intelligence officer in the IDC who is also a senior civilian Intelligence Analyst having multiple advanced analytic certificates and significant experience in a Tier 1 threat country. Meanwhile, this officer is just completing his Personal Qualification Standards (PQS) and working on his Information Dominance Warfare Officer (IDWO) boards even though, in certain aspects, he is more qualified than the board members!
- Sharing Unique Civilian Skills with the Navy: The Lean Six Sigma qualification, built on a methodology that uses collaborative team effort to improve performance and remove waste, is not prevalent in the active-duty Navy but has been a top priority in the commercial sector for years. As a result, military commands usually have to contract for the service. One IDC commander discovered that one of her Reservists was Lean Six Sigma-qualified and funded ADT for the member to support organizational improvements through Lean Six Sigma best practices, helping save the Navy money.
- Enabling the Navy to Execute Against New Missions: With the growth of the Navy’s Cyber Mission Force (CMF), Reservists with cyber and IT skill sets are essential to the CMF’s ability to perform its primary missions of countering cyber threats, supporting combatant commanders and defending DoD networks. The IDCRC has a critical role in the manning, training and equipping of this force, and is in the process of adding and filling more than 300 new billets with Reservists.
Providing Dual-Hatted Expertise: Navy meteorology and oceanography (METOC) officers have a long history of enjoying distinguished civilian careers that inform and overlap with their Navy service. The oceanographer Robert Ballard, who led the team that discovered the Titanic, was a Reserve METOC officer. Currently, two of the Reserve METOC captains are senior civilian officials within the Naval Meteorology and Oceanography Command.
We also work to ensure that the NAVIDFOR and IDCRC headquarters staffs are tightly integrated and collaborating on a daily basis. That is why the IDCRC Commander concurrently serves as the NAVIDFOR Reserve Deputy Commander, ensuring all MT&E efforts are informed by ARI. This ensures that all IDC MT&E initiatives include highly-valued Reserve capabilities that are “baked-in” at the earliest stages of initial development, rather than as an add-on option. Below the flag level, we also have embedded a senior Reserve captain within the NAVIDFOR headquarters staff to maintain the constant two-way flow of information and requests between the headquarters staffs. Given how much we depend on ARI throughout the IDC to ensure that we have the right personnel, equipped and ready to do any job at any time, ARI must be integral to how we lead.
The IDC was created in response to the changing world we live in and the changing threats we face. To maintain the manpower and skills that our operational commanders depend upon, we must continue to prioritize ARI within the IDC, and seek to enlist and retain Reservists who help us tap into the civilian workforce. We are not unique. Throughout the Navy, this integration has and will continue to make us a stronger, more prepared force.
Effective ARI is an all-hands effort, but we are confident that the contributions of our Reserve Sailors—their readiness, innovation and agility—will ensure the IDC is able to provide the Navy with the Sailors it requires to complete any task or mission for years to come.
Editor’s note: Rear Adm. Matthew J. Kohler is the Commander, Navy Information Dominance Forces (NAVIDFOR). Rear Adm. Daniel J. MacDonnell is the Commander, Information Dominance Corps Reserve Command (IDCRC) and Deputy Reserve Commander, NAVIDFOR.