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June 2013

Air Force Comes to Grips With Cyber

June 1, 2013
By Robert K. Ackerman

Roles are changing as the service reshapes its digital future.

The U.S. Air Force is subjecting itself to a cyber reality check with an eye toward restructuring the discipline both operationally and organizationally. A working group is parsing the service’s activities in this domain, and this effort involves interaction with the other services as well as the commercial sector.

The restructuring drive is being conducted in concert with other Defense Department changes across the realm of cyber activities. For the Air Force, it includes a shift from communications specializations to a cyber emphasis. Disparate disciplines are overlapping and may be combined. Some traditional Air Force career tracks even may serve as a model for training and promoting new cyber experts.

“We are hard at work trying to define what the Air Force future is in cyber,” says Gen. William L. Shelton, USAF, commander of the U.S. Air Force Space Command. “We are pulling the experts together from government and industry, trying to understand what this future looks like—what we need to build to. Rather than being confined by the past, we instead look ahead and try to determine what our cyber future looks like and how we need to posture ourselves to be much better in the cyber domain than we are today.”

The Space Command has the major command responsibilities for both space and cyberspace in the Air Force. This includes serving as core function lead integrator for both domains, so it is taking the lead in setting the scene for the Air Force in cyber.

This scene envisions the operational community being in charge of cyber operations, with the information technology community working on communications issues. A more efficient architecture with greater commercial involvement will enable a more secure mission-assurance focus in how the Air Force carries out its missions, the general suggests.

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