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AFSPC commander addresses maturing cyberspace domain

by Capt. Tamara Fischer-Carter
Air Force Space Command Public Affairs

2/15/2012 - PETERSON AIR FORCE BASE, Colo. (AFNS) -- The Air Force Space Command commander highlighted space and cyberspace superiority, acquisition strategies and industry partnerships, and the need for science, technology, engineering, and mathematics education during a speech Feb. 7 in Colorado Springs, Colo.

Gen. William Shelton kicked off the Armed Forces Communications and Electronics Association Cyberspace 2012 Symposium, addressing government and industry professionals in the cyber domain.

Shelton spoke to updates on AFSPC's cyber mission and shared some of the challenges associated with a growing cyberspace domain.

"Some of these challenges include establishing some much needed lanes in the road, adjusting the acquisitions process to reflect the nature of cyber products, and expediting a fundamental culture shift across the Air Force from a cyberspace support mindset to one of cyberspace operations," the AFSPC commander said.

"Our military's reliance on cyberspace is hard to fully comprehend because our reliance on networked capabilities is so ubiquitous it's taken for granted," the general said, comparing the ease of networked capabilities to plugging in a utility. "It shouldn't be hard, and in this age of information-enabled warfare, that utility mindset is the way it should be for our warfighters."

Still, he acknowledged with the significant revision to the Air Force's basic cyber doctrine, the cyber business is in its formative stages with rules still being written and skill sets yet defined.

"We've moved on from the term computer network operations to a much more active description of what our service is tasked to provide: cyberspace superiority," Shelton said. "Cyberspace superiority describes our mission to gain advantage in, from and through cyberspace at the times and places of our choosing, even when faced with opposition. We have defined three sub-disciplines of cyberspace superiority: cyberspace force application, cyberspace defense and cyberspace support."

Operating within the cyber domain calls for a unique type of thinking with regard to definitions of offensive and defensive cyberspace capabilities, the general said.

"Our new Air Force doctrine document thoroughly discusses cyberspace operations, and it goes into great detail on how the basic principles of war such as mass, maneuver, surprise and others apply in cyberspace," he said. "But the document does not fully define exactly what is offense, what is defense, or things like 'show of force' and 'effects-based operations.'"

Shelton discussed his goal of seamless integration from terrestrial networks to airborne networks to space-based networks.

"If we're going to be successful with cross-domain solutions, it's clear to me our networks must move data without regard to which physical layer is being used," he said.

The general also acknowledged budgetary constraints and highlighted cyberspace priorities in light of fiscal responsibilities.

"We'll focus first on passive defense, then defensive counter cyberspace; cyberspace ISR and situational awareness; persistent network operations; data confidentiality and integrity systems; and the cyberspace air and space operations center," Shelton said. "We round out our priorities with offensive counter cyberspace, contingency extension and influence operations."

Shelton also emphasized cyberspace acquisition and sustainment should produce agile programs of record while addressing the challenges associated with keeping pace with a domain that changes rapidly.

"The Joint Space Operations Center Mission System, or JMS, program will have a huge impact on just about everything we do in space," the general said.

Acting as the hub, JMS will revolutionize space situational awareness capabilities, taking inputs from a huge variety of radar and optical, ground- and space-based, space weather, and many other types of sensors, Shelton said.

"JMS is a great example of how an industrial-age acquisition system just isn't agile enough for an information age program," the general said. "The system is too slow, too stodgy, and the requirements it places on program developers are too cumbersome."

Streamlined acquisition requires everyone to streamline their expectations and process, he said, and is especially important to cyber acquisition process.

"In cyber, state of the art hardware can become antiquated before the ink is dry on the check that paid for it -- and software is even worse," the general said.

Cyber systems change on a timescale of days or months versus the timescales of an aircraft that change over years, Shelton said.

"Success will require agreement and commitment by all organizations up front to make streamlined acquisition a priority," the general said.

"History has shown that industry advances in information technology develop much more quickly than (the Department of Defense) can purchase and apply them," he said, emphasizing the need for industry's ideas to move forward since they are not bound by the government acquisition process.

The general recognized the underlying support for industrial advances is through education. Technical education includes science, technology, engineering and mathematics and is often referred to as STEM. Shelton said the lack of graduates in America within these skill sets could constitute a national security issue in the broadest sense. He emphasized the need for an exciting STEM curriculum and financial incentives to keep students interested in STEM-based subjects throughout high school and college.

Shelton also called for partnership between industry, non-profit educational institutions, and educators in school districts, colleges and universities to encourage STEM education and careers.

"Hands-on participation in real science and engineering projects would go a long way toward exciting these students enough to pursue STEM education and a career in a STEM-related field," the general said.

"We'll lean heavily on our partners in the cyber industry to continue to push the envelope in cyberspace innovation and help us overcome the challenges ahead as we work toward our goal of resilient, assured cyberspace operations," Shelton said.

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