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Air Force Cyber Command AFCYBER (P)

In 2003, the White House published "The National Strategy to Secure Cyberspace," a document that presents cyberspace security as a subset of Homeland Security and outlines a wide range of initiatives to "protect against the debilitating disruption of the operation of information systems for critical infrastructures and, thereby, help to protect the people, economy, and national security of the United States." One of those initiatives calls for the government to "improve coordination for responding to cyber attacks within the U.S. national security community."

The Air Force answered that call in December 2005 when it announced its new mission statement: To deliver sovereign options for the defense of the United States of America and its global interests -- to fly and fight in air, space and cyberspace.

During a media conference 02 November 2006, Secretary of the Air Force Michael W. Wynne said the 8th Air Force would become the new Air Force Cyberspace Command. "I am announcing the steps the Air Force is taking towards establishing an Air Force Cyberspace Command," the secretary said. "The new Cyberspace Command is designated as the 8th Air Force... under the leadership of (Lt. Gen. Robert J. "Bob" Elder Jr.) He will develop the force by reaching across all Air Force commands to draw appropriate leaders and appropriate personnel." Secretary Wynne said the 67th Network Warfare Wing, now under 8th Air Force, and other elements already within the 8th, would provide "the center of mass" for the nascent Cyberspace Command.

The Air Force iniated a process of building a new major command responsible for cyberspace operations. Scheduled for initial operations capabilities by 01 October 2008, the Air Force Cyber Command was to organize, train, and equip forces to preserve freedom of access to cyberspace, much as Air Combat Command and Air Force Space Command preserve free access to air and space, respectively. A provisional unit is a temporary unit organized to perform a specific task. It's considered temporary because it does not have personnel assigned, rather personnel are attached to the unit from their home stations.

Air Force Cyber Command specific responsibilities will depend in part on exactly how one defines its operating environment. In contrast to the land and sea environments, cyberspace is difficult to define precisely, but leaders around the world realize that success in any type of warfare depends on protecting one's own data while preventing adversaries from using theirs. Such broad definitions cover many activities, including defending or attacking computer networks, using communication and global positioning system satellites, and conducting Internet financial transactions. Air Force Cyber Command may find itself involved in many of these activities.

According to former Secretary of the Air Force Michael W. Wynne, "Cyberspace is a domain for projecting and protecting national power, for both strategic and tactical operations." Furthermore, "the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff defined cyberspace as characterized by the use of electronics and the electromagnetic spectrum to store, modify and exchange data via networked systems and associated physical infrastructures."

The Air Force had planned to stand up a new cyberspace command by 01 October 2008 in an effort to integrate systems and capabilities, and establish a command and control structure for its cyber warfighting forces. However, those plans were put on hold in mid-August 2008 as a new Air Force Chief of Staff was appointed and instructed to solve other pressing issues before deciding if making a new cyberspace command was the most effecient way to proceed.

General Lord and his team led the effort to help shape an industrial base that thinks about bringing and inventing new capabilities into the cyber arena that have military and commercial applications. They've worked to expand opportunities with small businesses offering cyber capabilities thanks to faster processes for acquiring technology needed in this domain. Also, national laboratories are working on solutions to Air Force (and sister service) concerns in this domain.

Air Force officials involved the governors and communities of 18 states interested in hosting the new Air Force Cyber Command in the basing process. In March 2008 Bill Anderson, the assistant secretary of the Air Force for installations, environment and logistics, sent a letter to the governors outlining the basing process and notifying them of an upcoming data call that will allow each community to highlight attributes they feel will be good for the command.

In June 2008 Air Force Cyber Command officials announced their intent to spread out headquarters staffing among nine locations so it can meet the 45 percent manning requirements needed for initial operations. "Normally, a major command headquarters will house all its staff functions at one place, but because the final basing decision for AFCYBER has not been determined, the command will operate in a virtual environment," said Maj. Gen. William T. Lord, the commande of the AFCYBER (Provisional). He said this action will allow some personnel to be assigned to Barksdale Air Force Base, La. -- the interim headquarters location for the command -- and minimize relocation actions at the other places for the rest of the proposed 450-person HQ staff. Of the original 540 positions allocated for AFCYBER HQ staffing, about 90 of those positions were moved to man positions in the 24th Air Force and subordinate wings.

The Air Force Chief of Staff, Gen. Norton Schwartz, announced 08 Oct. 2008 that there would no longer be a new major command developed for cyberspace operations. The former secretary of the Air Force, who was fired earlier this year, had been the chief patron of creating a cyber command. Instead the Air Force would continue with standing up a component-Numbered Air Force, which will focus on cyberspace warfighting operations. All other administrative, policy and organize-train-equip oversight now falls under Air Force Space Command. Leaders from both the Air Force Cyber Command (Provisional) team and Air Force Space Command moved forward with the task of creating a roadmap for how the two organizations will continue the path toward a robust cyberspace mission while adjusting to a new organizational construct outlined by the Air Force.

The AFCYBER (P) team, led by Maj. Gen. William T. Lord, would stay formed so they can assist in developing this roadmap, which will outline the actions needed to transition the work done this past year over to the space command. The provisional team will also assist with other tasks as needed until the new organizational construct is formalized.

Along with developing the roadmap, the provisional team will be working with their space counterparts to update the Program Action Directive, which formally establishes and identifies the units that will be associated with the cyberspace missions, along with other key timeframes and decisional matters. The teams will also be looking at the manpower numbers since the creation of a nuclear major command may affect the numbers the cyber organizations can draw upon. They will also assist in the environmental process required to determine the location of the NAF and any subordinate wings or units as needed.

24th Air Force

The Air Force initially decided on a Major Command for cyberspace and now it's a Numbered Air Force [NAF]. As of late 2008 the Air Force was working to determine the requirements for this NAF. Once the requirements have been determined the Air Force will proceed with the basing analysis and decision process. The reduced scope of the requirement may impact the basing timeline. The exact size of the Cyber NAF is unknown at this time. In general, a NAF is smaller than a MAJCOM. The AFCYBER MAJCOM headquarters, not including the NAF and subordinate units, was expected to employ about 500 personnel. The final numbers for a Cyber NAF headquarters are yet to be determined.

The CSAF emphasized -- "The mission of the United States Air Force is to fly, fight and win...in air, space and cyberspace." We can't do our jobs without control of cyberspace. Warfighters operating in any domain rely on cyberspace to command and control forces in the 21st century. It's also essential to Joint operations and our national security. We must still integrate capabilities, systems, and warriors to establish cross-domain dominance--securing freedom from attack and freedom to attack. All Combatant Commands, Military Departments, and other Defense Components need the ability to operate unhindered in the cyberspace domain; therefore, Air Force needs to continue pressing forward with cyber as a domain with equal importance to Air and Space.

The development of new career paths will continue, along with developing more educational and training opportunities such as a Master's Degree in cyber operations program that is now offered for Air Force members. As a result, other U.S. academic institutions at the collegiate level are beginning to incorporate cyber activities, both exercises and curriculum changes, to produce undergraduate-graduate students who have cyber expertise.

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Page last modified: 05-07-2011 02:16:28 ZULU