Information dominators in the Navy Reserve are in high demand to augment skills as the Navy builds its cyber force and to fulfill individual augmentee missions around the world.

The 7,400 reservists in the Information Dominance Corps are only one-fifth of the size of their active-duty force but deploy on 71 percent of the mobilizations. The head of the Information Dominance Corps Reserve Command says all hands are in great demand for cutting-edge missions and that everyone, especially junior officers, must be ready to deploy.

Rear Adm. Daniel MacDonnell took command of the Information Dominance Corps Reserve Command (IDCRC) in November 2014.

A medium sized component the IDCRC with only 7,400 Navy it makes up only 20% of the Navy's Information Dominance Corps. In spite of small force footprint, the IDCRC fills 71% of all mobilization requirements for the Information Dominance Corps – making its personnel in high demand.

Almost a year into his command, I interviewed Rear Adm. Daniel MacDonnell to discuss commanding this small and versatile and highly mobilized force. His answers have been edited for brevity.

Q. What is the first thing you want your reserve sailors to know about you?

A. I am a quintessential reservist. I spent a short time on active-duty as an ensign, and then transitioned over to the reserves. [I] have been part of this organization for 28 years. It’s an honor to be one of its flag officers and leading one of its few flag commands in the Reserves. I spent a lot of the time on the operational side of the house especially and 10th Fleet. I was there when they stood it up [in 2010] and in it was in fact my first flag assignment command was its deputy commander, and I think it says a lot for the Navy to take some of its folks who have operational experience, such as myself, and then put them in charge of manpower and equip organizations.  

Q. As a civilian you are the chief information security officer for the medical device manufacturer Boston Scientific. What do you want civilian employers to know about the reserve community? What’s was the message you’d like to pass onto them?

A. Two key points. The first one would be is that [reservists] are volunteers. They are extremely dedicated individuals who are giving a significant amount of their time , which would equate to their personal time, in the service of our nation and serving the navy. And so instead of going to the football game gaming or doing X, Y and Z, we head off to the drill weekend. So they just truly are dedicated individuals.

The other point I stress is the fact the relationship really does work both ways, not only do we in the military try to leverage the skill set that we all bring to the table, but conversely I see companies leverage the military leadership capability that immediately comes with military service. And I believe that really resonates with the companies. I know a lot of companies value veterans, they really value the military experience and especially the leadership that this comes out of being reserve community.

Q. What does the active-duty side think of the Reserve and the IDCRC?

A. I think it’s nothing but positive feedback, no matter who I’m talking to — from three stars admirals, either at the Pentagon or in the fleet to department heads at all levels — people absolutely get the reserves and what they bring and what they’re doing for them

Quite frankly, they all admit that they probably couldn’t do the mission without the reserves. So I think the relationship is really at an all-time high. It wasn’t always that way, a little bit of a story there. There was time back in the 1990s where reservists would sit in Reserve centers and quite frankly watch "Victory at Sea" movies or do some kind of training, and that would be it. 

Nowadays, we do everything in our part, and the active component says "we need you on the ground in our watch centers and actually doing real no kidding operational stuff." I mean The days of doing one weekend a month, two weeks a year hasve really gone out the window. Because of the operational tempo and the dependencey on Reserve capability, I would bet a wager that a large percentage of reservists put in way more time, whether it’s on the enlisted or officer side, then one weekend a month. There is this huge amount [of] more time that is dedicated to the reserves, that really, in a lot of ways, isn't remains transparent to commands.

Q. What is the priority of IDCRC — staffing, manpower or operational support?  is it staffing, is it manpower or is it actually to support the active duty on the operational side?

A. [The IDCRC] was formed about the three years ago, and it was to align Reserve assets andto put them under the same umbrella as the active IDC. So we had several different commands, there was an Intel command, there was an [Information Warfare] crypie command, there was the space programcommand. And what we did several years ago is bring them on all under one command and named it IDCRC. If you look at the other war fighting areas, whether it’s surface, subservice, air, they have an operational component and they have a TYCOM or a man train equip component.  In conjunction with that, the Reserve realigned the IDCRC so that it kind of fits hands-in-and glove with the active component. So my mission as the reserve TYCOM, if you will, is to make sure all 7,000 IDCRC sailors are trained full up around and ready to execute operational missions when they report to active-duty commands.

Q. Cyber is a growth area. What are your goals in would you say are the sort of cultural and practical requirements in terms of building a cyber force?  What kind of requirements are you looking for?  What kind of person are you looking for?

A. I would preface the whole cyber discussions by saying that IDC is more than cyber, and still includes the traditional intel [Signals Intelligence] and [Meteorology and Oceanography] disciplines.  But I will say, you know, given that cyber is such a hot button both in industry and in the military, people have a natural tendency to gravitate to it. We are in the process of working and agreeing on adding over 300 additional Reserve billets to support an initiative called the Cyber Mission Force, that is comprised of is several cyber teams geographically dispersed across the U.S.

In some instances, we want to find sailors with skills that complement the active command, so there may be a certain capability because of a gapped billet or what-not and there is a missing capability at an active duty command and if a reservist can come in and fill it than that is great. So for example, when I was at 10th Fleet during the early days, they didn’t have any METOCs personnel. The IDCRC was able to find and parachute in a couple of reserve METOCs sailors from both the officer side and enlisted side when it’s off to the side and they filled in that gap as the organization was standing up. The other thing we do is we mirror capabilities. So there are certain times when the active component have a certain capability, they just don’t have enough of it. And in most instances, we would augment with reservists with that skill set or capability to come in and bolster the rank if you will to help out to make sure that they can accomplish all the missions.

Q. Historically, intelligence units have been commanded by intelligence officers and so on. With the creation of IDCRC and putting intelligence, information warfare, information professionals, and meteorology and space units under one roof, do you foresee commands being blended? That is to say, now an intelligence unit might be run by a meteorologist.

A. We’re doing that today. The long story short is three years ago, the reserves were actually aligning with the active component because they started cross-detailing their COs in a very limited fashion. So an intel captain went to an IW unit to be a CO and vice versa.  So they’ve done that a certain amount but I would say that in a way,The reserves are now actually ahead of the active component because that’s with this year, all our O-6 commands are what we called cross-slated or cross-detailed.  So they are open to all designators.

And the feedback was being fantastic from the officers that were selected to command in, in these positions but also more importantly or just as importantly is the active component.  They see it as these folks just bringing a different optic to the picture and we feel that’s very important. You have IDCRC leaders who folks that have come from different communities and grow up in slightly different cultures, and it’s always good to get multiple optics when you’re looking at issues or problems or mission sets.

[Additionally], we are working [on blended units] today in a very small way.  But, you know, I think there will always be units out there that are specific to a certain designators. For example, the ONI units, those will always be predominantly intelligence units because it's an intelligence organization.  But in talking to [RDML Train, Director, National Maritime Intelligence-Integration Office

Commander, Office of Naval Intelligence] and [Vice Admiral Jan Tighe Commander, U.S. Fleet Cyber Command Commander, U.S. 10th Fleet] for that matter, they all want a little bit of us cross detailing of our reservists.

Q. A major part of being a reservists, especially in the IDCRC, is deploying. What do does the demands for individual augmentees from the IDCRC look like going forward?

A. We have over 400 mobilized reservists supporting worldwide missions, and I don't see that changing in the foreseeable future. It's worth noting that many reservists have also done multiple deployments. I also want to take the time to thank and recognize the families who have the important and difficult mission of keeping things together. When I was mobilized my wife was left alone to handle the kids and bills. We truly are able to do what we do because of them.

My message to the IDCRC sailors is make the assumption you will be mobilized and be prepared to go — especially JOs. It is something they should discuss with their family and employers. Look, it's a great time to be in the IDCRC and we are taking on additional duties and roles. However, as we grow as a warfighting community, there will be more reliance on us.

Naveed Jamali, an intelligence officer in the Navy Reserve, is the author of the memoir, "How to Catch a Russian Spy." 

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