The starting salary for a low level commissioned officer is between $2,850 and $3,550 a month, or roughly $36,000 before taxes.[i] Meanwhile in the civilian world, individuals with a B.A. in Computer Science can expect to take home almost $60,000 a year with little to no experience. Over time that figure balloons to $115,000 dollars a year. Even if you account for bonuses and hazard pay, there is little chance that a career in the military service will ever be as lucrative than one in the private sector. It should come as no surprise then that the Department of Defense is on the brink of a staffing crisis when it comes to cyber operations. Very few young people are motivated enough by patriotism to turn down thousands of dollars and a favorable job market just to serve this country. This leaves policy makers in a very awkward position. How do they meet IT requirements while adhering to the government pay schedule? The answer is they don’t, or at least they don’t anytime soon. That is where private contracting just might save the day.
As this aptly titled article from Mother Jones points out, The All-Time 10 Worst Military Contracting Boondoggles, contracting has gotten a bad rap over the last couple of decades, and for good reason too. $600 toilet seats and deadly shower stalls are the least offensive sins committed by these giants of the military industrial complex. The situation does not have to be all bad though. If we can spend $176 Million to pave 69 miles of Afghani road, or $119 million per year to lease 3,000 cars, then surely there is a way to direct that money towards a more useful cause.
An independent work force of 5,000 IT professionals, starting at a base salary of $60,000, a year would cost the government a pretty penny (30 billion pretty pennies to be exact, or $300 million), but that is chump change compared to the $30-$60 Billion dollars of fraudulent and wasteful spending in Iraq and Afghanistan just since 2003.[ii] Now paying contractors to handle America’s cyber defenses is not a reasonable plan in the long tern, but investing in IT contractors to help build the DOD’s in-house Cyber Training program is a much better use of those funds than another hundred million or spent so on rental cars.