Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
Do you have a downloadable fact sheet?
Yes, please find it here.
What is a military cyber professional?
We have a very broad and purposely imprecise understanding of what a cyber professional is because the theories about cyberspace as a domain of activity (including warfare) are still evolving. As those theories evolve, we will see changes in the career specialty structure. That being said, some specialties are more clearly cyber-related than others. A few examples of cyber-heavy jobs include the Cyber Systems Operations Specialists (Air Force), the Cryptographic Network Warfare Specialists (Army), many Information Dominance Corps Officers (Navy), and even Marine Field Artillery Officers that are working targeting in cyber organizations. The US Army established a "Cyber Branch" alongside the Infantry, Military Police and other such fields. Our nascent professional community is Joint (Army, Navy, etc), interdisciplinary (SIGINTers, Warfighters, Cyber Tool Developers, etc.), across all ranks (Officer, Warrant, Enlisted), and from a diverse background (Active Duty service-members, Reserves, National Guard, DoD Civilians, Defense Contractors, Academics, and concerned citizens). Although the MCPA has a broader understanding of the current and future military cyber professional community than some other organizations, you can find a helpful general overview of the area here.
What's the value of being a member of the MCPA?
The value of MCPA membership increases with each new teammate. Some benefits are explicit, such as free attendance for our national convention (HammerCon), eligibility for our recognition program or training programs (like those offered by our partners at Cybrary). Some benefits, such as access to exclusive networking venues, may seem more intrinsic but are actually incredibly powerful. Online member-only resources include access to social networking venues (like our group on Facebook and LinkedIn), special interest groups, and an expanding list of collaborative/crowdsourced professional development resources on our intranet (legacy site). Off line, members connect at regular professional development, recognition, STEM outreach, and social events organized by local chapters (where chapter leadership exists). Leadership opportunities within the MCPA are plentiful, increase exposure, and open doors. Membership identifies you as a professional and contributor to this area, which remains a national security priority. Due to the evolving nature of this relatively new area and the presence of our members at ALL echelons of the government, membership in the MCPA gives you a real voice in the development of policies that directly affect you and your world. All this for the low price of free (if eligible). How much better does it get?
What's the value of being a sponsor or partner of the MCPA?
Sponsors rest assured that the dollars (and bitcoins) invested in the MCPA will bear healthy fruit. Such support directly enables us to accomplish our extremely relevant mission. For example, sponsor funding keeps membership free for those that serve (and have served) our nation in combat zones and enables us to recognize those that devote their time in K-12 STEM outreach activities in low-income communities. Business wise, sponsors are making a public statement about their commitment to a positive movement towards sustainable economic growth, innovation, education, and national security. Such a statement supports the values and branding goals of most American businesses, organizations, and individuals. In addition to gaining access to the same benefits and events that MCPA members enjoy, sponsors are also provided additional exposure and access to those that serve in tailored activities depending on availability and interest. Sponsors regularly make connections with MCPA members, some of whom become business partners, friends, and potential recruits/employees. For organizations seeking talent with recent government experience in the cyber arena, being involved with the MCPA offers access to many personnel that are / will be / have recently transitioned out of government service. Such relationships serve as feedback loops to ensure that private-sector solutions to public-sector challenges are grounded in the reality of today's operating environment, resulting in reduced risk to misison accomplishment.
What's different about your organization compared to others?
There are four main differences between the MCPA and many other organizations also interested in military cyber affairs.
First, the most distinguishing feature of our organization is our mission. An organization's mission drives its strategy and activities, as well as how it conducts them. Ours is a mission of education. We encourage you to investigate the mission statement, priorities, and structure of other organizations before you compare us to them.
Second, since we have such a powerful, proactive, and relevant mission, we have been able to produce a distinct business model that relies on the support and volunteerism of many patriotic Americans. While the traditional model employed by many other member-organizations relies on fees paid by masses of service-members, we do not ask our nation's heroes to sacrifice any more than they already have/are/will. We provide for (not take away from) our service-members. We also avoid taking on debts that would make us overly dependent on any particular source of revenue. This financial flexibility allows us to stay true to our mission and vision (such as a focus on the US), where many other organizations have decided to expand their scope and reap the financial benefits of such a wider pool of membership.
Third, we are the only military professional association with cyber at its core. Other associations have a different primary focus (like information operations, electronics, electronic warfare, communications, intelligence, etc.) and cyber as a secondary focus. There are also some cyber oriented associations that do not focus on the unique needs of the US military, but instead pursue a more general audience. In accordance with our vision, we believe cyber in the DoD is so important that it deserves its own association of professionals dedicated to its development and is such an urgent priority that it can no longer afford to be a secondary concern. We believe that if everything is a priority, then nothing is a priority, so we specifically prioritize cyber.
Fourth, since this field lacks the maturity and long well-documented history that many others do, we are more forward-looking than many other organizations. We are here to shape the future, not to let it pass us by. While some organizations are content with the status quo, we believe much more innovation is required to get our nation where it needs to be regarding cyberspace and national security.
Why do you limit your focus to the development of American Military Cyber Professionals? Why leave out international partners?
We are scoped to the US for two main reasons. First, it is due to the high sensitivity associated with military cyber work today, much of which is classified and not for foreign audiences. Second, we believe that the US has lots of work ahead of it to develop the domain of cyberspace (and how we think about it) and we need to focus on our own situation first.
Generally speaking, the US does go to war as a member of an international coalition and there is great value in fostering such international professional networks, which is why we are happy to welcome members from amongst our foreign allies. Please note that free membership only applies to employees of the United States government and its state governments (for example, Connecticut National Guard, California State Trooper, etc.).
Why do you ask me for a Google account on the membership application form?
We are leveraging the security, cost, and usability of a "G Suite" infrastructure. Due to this infrastructure, in order to access the MCPA members-only intranet and other member-only features, you need to use a gmail or non-gmail Google-linked account (legacy site). You can forward your gmail to another account, if you wish. If we did not go with a Google secured credentialing system, each of our users would be burdened with yet another username and password to keep track of. You may enter a non-Google linked account in this field of the membership application form with the understanding that you will be missing out on many member-only benefits, like access to the MCPA Intranet. Regardless of the infrastructure, always apply good personal security practices to keep your credentials private (like avoiding unsecured wifi hot spots).
Why can't I access the Intranet, Connect, Teams, ProDev tabs, event calendars or other member-resources on the site? (legacy site)
If you know you're a verified MCPA member, just click the "sign in" button at the bottom of the page. If that doesn't work when you click on one of these member-only tabs and you encounter a log-in screen for those with @milcyber.org accounts, you will also see an option to log-in with a non-milcyber.org account (at the bottom left of the screen). Another method to ensure a smooth transition into these member-only areas is to log in to your account before accessing such areas. If these options still do not work, it is possible that your membership application has not yet been approved, or you do not have access to the specific resource. Please contact your local MCPA leadership or the support team to remedy this if it has been longer than 2 week since applying.
How do you secure my personal information?
The data collected as part of the application process is maintained behind the Google infrastructure that we leverage. The MCPA limits access to your information to those that have a need to know and appropriate background in managing sensitive information, with exceptions considered on a case by case basis in accordance with our policies. We maintain a general policy of least privilege and access.
I'm a coach for high school and college cyber defense teams. How can students participate in the MCPA?
If eligible for free membership (like those student that are also employees of the government, like cadets at the United States Military Academy), they are welcomed to join as full members. If eligible for membership, but do not have any status with the government, they are welcomed to apply for full membership as well, but their membership fee needs to be paid before their application is approved. Regardless, participation in MCPA supported activities (including receipt of MCPA recognition items) does NOT require membership (unless specifically stated).
I'm a parent of a high schooler that would like to participate in a STEM activity that MCPA supports. Are you going to recruit my child in to the military? What is your STEM outreach program?
No, we are not military recruiters and are not going to recruit your child into the military. Our intent is to support young Americans interested in STEM, no matter what sector or field they decide to pursue. Our STEM outreach program supports our members that focus their volunteering on K-12 STEM activities in their local communities. STEM activities might be teaching an age-appropriate class on cyber security to 5th graders, or coaching a local "hackathon" group of high schoolers. We ensure these volunteers are recognized for their part in investing in the future of our nation.
Why do you focus on STEM education? Why not include the Arts (STEAM)?
America's lack of home-grown STEM talent is a well-documented issue of grand-strategic consequence. No serious commentators disagree with the value of the Arts, but there are already plenty of other organizations that focus on supporting the Arts and the US has an abundance of talent in this field. As a way of correcting this imbalance before its effects result in continued degradation of American security and economic well-being, the MCPA is specifically focused on STEM education for younger students. Being that most of our members are patriots that want to ensure the well-being of the nation, this focused effort is a great fit.
Why is your medal called the Order of Thor and when can I wear it?
Military associations typically have medals that are symbolically named after some inspirational character from history, mythology, or sacred texts. Some examples include the Order of Mercury from the Signal Corps Regimental Association and the Order of the Archangel from the Army Strategist Association. We chose the mythological character Thor because he is a warrior that operates in and through the clouds (the cloud being a widely recognized symbol of cyberspace) as "the god of thunder". He also wields a hammer that has the power to build and the power to destroy, which are characteristics shared by cyberspace. We found the symbolism more appealing than other options.
Such awards are authorized for wear in appropriate uniform (or professional civilian attire for civilians) at association and other appropriate military related events. Some organizations have specific guidance for the wear of such medals (sometimes referred to as "badges") and that guidance should be respected. For example, uniformed members of the US Army will find guidance in AR 670-1 (Wear and Appearance of Army Uniforms and Insignia). The Order of Thor medal shall be worn around the neck. Modification of the ribbon length is authorized to allow for best and most professional appearance.
I see you are a 501(c)(3) educational non-profit charity. What's that mean and what's your business model?
The IRS has strict requirement for 501(c)(3) nonprofits charities, including having a clearly educational mission and activities that support that misison. We meet that requirment and then some. A big benefit of that status is that people/organizations can make donations to us that are tax deductive. In accordance with best practices of charities, we minimize overhead costs in pursuit of our mission and vision. We actually currently operate as a completely volunteer fueled charity. We have numerous sources of revenue. We do not take membership fees from service-members (and others that currently qualify for free membership). We do not conduct traditional fundraisers that put our service-members to work washing cars or picking up trash. Our service-members sacrifice enough already and are highly educated professionals that deserve to be taken care of (which helps military cyber recruiting and retention). Thankfully, there are enough patriotic Americans that realize the urgency and need to invest in the MCPA as part of the long term solution to our most pressing national challenge.
Does the binary in your logo mean something or is it just decoration?
We do not like to miss opportunities to encode messages. The binary in the logo (version2) and the binary in the Order of Thor medal do translate to something. However, the binary swirling around the blue of our background image is simply decoration. Can you figure out what these messages are?
Why is my local chapter of the MCPA associated with another organization?
As the MCPA approach has evolved, some chapters without IRS-approved non-profit status may have sought fiscal sponsorship by an existing 501(c)(3) non-profit entity, in which the chapter is considered a program of the fiscal sponsor. Such an arrangement is totally legal, however the trade-offs may not be in the best interest of the local chapter or the MCPA, so must be considered on a case by case basis and approved by MCPA national leadership. In any case, MCPA (national) membership is a prerequisite of membership to any chapter no matter what organization serves as fiscal sponsor. More so, no visiting/non-local MCPA members shall be turned away from attending local MCPA chapter events, provided there is sufficient room.
I'm a concerned citizen or business and want to support the MCPA. How can I help?
Thanks for your interest! At this point in our endeavor, we would most appreciate your monetary support because that gives us the most flexibility (for example, part may support publishing hard copies of our magazine while another part may support the transportation costs for a member volunteering to teach K-12 STEM). We have established a variety of options for you to provide this type of support. Please find a summary of costs and benefits of sponsorship here. Payment for MCPA national sponsors (bronze, silver, etc) can be made from that page. If you're sponsoring a project in addition to being a general sponsor, your benefits are cumulative. Contact us if interested in sponsoring a specific project. If you simply want to make a contribution for any amount without any sponsorship benefits, we accept credit card and bitcoin.
What's the difference between your magazine and journal?
CYBER (the Magazine of the MCPA) and Military Cyber Affairs or MCA (the Journal of the MCPA) are different in a number of ways. CYBER considers a much wider range of submissions for publication than MCA. The pieces featured in CYBER can be long commentaries or stories about events of interest to the military cyber community as short as a few paragraphs accompanied by attention-grabbing color photos. MCA, on the other hand, is a scholarly journal with strict standards of rigor outlined in their submission instructions. MCA does not include advertisements but CYBER does. Both, however, are programs designed to support the MCPA educational mission and are made free to the public. CYBER uses the same copyright policies as MCA.
What's the difference between your journal and other journals?
Our journal, Military Cyber Affairs (MCA), is distinct among other military cyber related scholarly journals as the only independent journal focused on military cyber affairs. This independence, following the fine tradition of institutions like the U.S. Naval Institute, means that we have more flexibility to publish content since we are bound to the mission and policies of our publisher (the non-profit Military Cyber Professionals Association) and not that of the U.S. government. For example, our partners at the Army Cyber Institute (ACI) of the U.S. Military Academy also publish a high quality journal focused on this field. We believe this flexibility allows for more honest insight and feedback, which will help to develop this community more quickly than if all works were in accordance with "the party line".
Are there any traditions associated with an Order of Thor medal presentation?
Yes! First, we prefer the most senior military officer available (active or retired) to be the one that actually bestows the medal upon the recipient. Ideally, this is a General Officer or Flag Officer (GOFO). Such a tradition reinforces that this is a high honor within our community. This tradition began in November 2013 with the first such ceremony, where the President of the Naval Postgraduate School, a retired Admiral, presented the medals. Second, after the ceremony we enjoy sips on a wine from Monterey, California. Of course, this is dependent upon individual's interest, age, and availability of the product. We remember Monterey in this way because our association was founded there. This tradition began in April 2017 during the first ever presentation of our silver medals.
Are all of your leaders unpaid volunteers?
Yes. The MCPA has relied on volunteers, motivated by the extremely relevant mission, to lead the organization from its inception. These leaders serve on the Board of Directors and Advisors. As needed, we provide compensation to contractor staff members to execute critical administrative functions and reimbursement to volunteers for operational expenses.