Information Warfare: April 30, 2004

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Much to everyone's surprise, military geeks (computer and software experts) are signing up for longer terms of service, and reenlisting at nearly the same rate as troops in other jobs. The American military is increasingly dependent on IT (information technology, computers and the Internet), and needs an increasing number of people in uniform who understand how to run and maintain the growing inventory of high tech gear. In the late 1990s, during the Internet boom, it was feared that military IT specialists would leave the service as soon as they could, turning the military into a training school for civilian companies able to pay IT specialists more money (and not require them to sometimes work in combat zones.) This seemed to be the case at the height of the boom, but then the Internet bubble burst in 2000, and IT employment opportunities shrank. After that the military found that they could still attract qualified recruits by offering IT training, and then get them to sign up for an extra year or two. When there were more qualified recruits wanting IT training, the recruiters simply demanded longer enlistments (supply and demand and all that). While the long term attraction was higher paying jobs after the enlistment was over, this did not mean most of the military IT personnel did not reenlist. While army and navy IT specialists re-enlisted at slightly lower rates than average, the air force rates were about average, and in the marines, above average. 

With junior IT people staying in (sometimes with the help of re-enlistment bonuses), the military has offered more education for its IT geeks. This provides the military with IT experts who understand the military better, and can better supervise the thousands of civilian IT experts who are still hired for special projects. The alternative was to hire even more civilians on a temporary basis. This still goes on, but not as much as in the past. Most importantly, military people have come to accept all the computer and network technology as an integral part of military operations. Over the past decade, an increasing amount of computer gear has been found in combat zones, and the IT specialists are there to keep it going. Most of the people entering the military in the last decade have grown up with computers, and accept them as an everyday item to deal with. 

 


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