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Air Force Needs To Make Cyber Training a Priority

Former Joint Chiefs of Staff leader sees “fundamental flaws” in the current cyber and communications educational regime.

The U.S. Air Force is falling short in its cyber and communications training of airmen and U.S. Space Force guardians. The existing educational structures are “Band-Aid” fixes to a much larger problem, said Gen. John Hyten, USAF (Ret.), former vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, speaking today at the AFCEA Rocky Mountain Chapter’s Cyberspace Symposium, which is being held in Colorado Springs February 20-23, 2023.

“We don't train our cyber and communications force correctly," he said. "I just don’t understand it.”

One aspect of the problem is that the Air Force has not quite made cyberwarfare training a consistent priority at its university.

“A big part of the last decade, down at Maxwell [Air Force Base], at Air University, where we teach our airmen and guardians about the future of warfare,” Hyten said. “We formed the Cyber College, running [doctorates] in cyber, training forces in cyber. And in the middle of last year, we closed the Cyber College. Why did we close the Cyber College? Because we couldn’t find independent funding to support the Cyber College.”













The leader was stunned to know that kind of funding was needed at all, and that the service was not providing the appropriate level of investment for cyber training to continue at the college.

“When did independent funding be required at Air University in order for us to teach our airmen and our guardians what the heck they need to know about cyber? Because everybody needs to know about it,” Hyten stated.

The service also equated the communications, cyber and information technology career fields with another mistake, the former Joint Chief leader said.

“[The service] said, ‘IT guys, comm guys, cyber guys, they're actually all the same,’” he stated. “’And we'll put them all through Cyber 100, 200 and 300, and we’ll bounce them around the career field’…. It is fundamentally flawed from the beginning," he said.

"And what it really means is that we are not correctly focused on cyber,” Hyten stressed.

The former Joint Staff leader acknowledged that it was easy to put the blame on Air University, but at the same time, that is the organization responsible for training airmen and guardians. Leaders at the school or above need to call for restoration of cyber training.

“And it may be unfair to the folks at Air University because they have to run a university, and they have to pay bills and have to close their budget every month, so maybe it's unfair,” Hyten said. “But fundamentally, that's where we train our junior officers all the way up to our senior officers. And we need to train everyone in cyber so that they understand it. It's simply a priority. Right now, cyber is a lower priority, and that [takes away] from the strength of the U.S. Air Force in information dominance.”







Moreover, while it was a good step to create the 16th Air Force that united information warfare; intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance; cyber operations; and electronic warfare, the service neglected the step of evolving its personnel processes to match the new structure.

“So, we created 16th Air Force, which was awesome, pulling in the intel world and the cyber world. Great. Well, we never changed our personnel process to fill 16th Air Force. We brought a ‘Band-Aid’ fix.”

From the service’s top leadership and down, cyber must become more of a priority for the Air Force to succeed, the general continued.

“It is real simple,” Hyten noted. “You fund where your priorities are. The only reason we have a Space Force is because the Air Force, my service, never fully funded space. Now that we have a Space Force, the space budget has grown 20% to 30%. The Air Force is going to have to understand that everybody is a cyber warrior."


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