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The Space Force Is Not There Yet on Offensive Cyber, But It Will Come

Senior cyber leader shares an update on the service’s cyber squadrons.

The U.S. Space Force is shoring up its space-based assets against cyber attacks. And although its cyber operations only include defensive cyber, the service will certainly add offensive capabilities in the future, said Col. Zachary Warakomski, senior cyber officer, U.S. Space Force, Pentagon.

“I will tell you today, DCO [defensive cyber operations] is the main effort, it is the focus,” he said. “We talk about cyber being the soft underbelly—and I hate using that because the reality is cyber is everybody's soft underbelly, whether it's industry or another nation. But today, DCO is our main effort; that is the focus we are getting after, with an eye toward the future for full-spectrum cyber operations.”

Col. Warakomski spoke during a fireside chat with Air Force Col. Joy Kaczor, the director of Cyberspace Operations and Warfighter Communications at the Pentagon, at the AFCEA Rocky Mountain Cyberspace Symposium February 22 in Colorado Springs, Colorado.

As an advisor to the Chief of Space Operators Gen. B. Chance Saltzman and the career field manager for the service’s cyber operations officers, Col. Warakomski sees the evolution clearly benefiting Guardians.





Col. Zachary Warakomski
Today, DCO is our main effort; that is the focus we are getting after, with an eye toward the future for full-spectrum cyber operations.
Col. Zachary Warakomski
Senior Cyber Officer, U.S. Space Force, Pentagon

Whenever the advent of offensive cyber operations happens, it will give Space Force Guardians similar opportunities that cyber operators in other services are offered—such as working with U.S. Cyber Command, the National Security Agency or other cyber-related organizations, Col. Warakomski said.

The service has a team preparing an initial mission analysis to examine the possibilities and considerations of adding full-spectrum cyber capabilities. “That contingent of folks is at Fort Meade, on the ground working through exactly what some of this should look like,” he shared. “These are some of the questions that they're beginning to address. And so, it is coming. It is coming.”

In the meantime, the Space Force is continuing on with its Integrated Mission Delta (IMD) concept, having stood up two such organizations last fall. Delta 6, which includes several Space Operations and Cyber Operations at Schriever Air Force Base, is preparing cyber operators to transition to the IMDs.

“Delta 6 is getting each of those units, our cyber squadrons, to a maturity level so that we can transition them to our Integrated Mission Deltas across the board,” explained Col. Warakomski. “And as we do that, we're looking at an eight-crew construct model, where you are going to have space operators side-by-side with an intelligence individual, side-by-side with cyber operator. What you're looking at is a cyber defense cell that makes up part of an integrated combat crew that will eventually be working 24/7, again, that persistent presence that we have with U.S. Space Command, and all the other combatant commands that we're supporting across the board.”

The senior cyber officer clarified that the Space Force was not using the model of Mission Defense Teams, or MDTs.

“I want to highlight that because I've heard discussions of MDTs and things of that nature,” he noted. “That isn't the construct that we're moving forward with. We are moving forward with cyber squadrons that provide cyber defense cells, in particular for this eight-crew construct model in support of Space Force Generation. And that's across the board.”

The service will have each of the cyber squadrons aligned to a mission set, such as space domain awareness, electronic warfare, missile warning, or command and control, orbital warfare, satellite communications or other functions.

“So we're we're aligning each of our cyber squadrons, in particular, with those mission sets,” the colonel said. “And by the way, our eastern and western launch ranges at Patrick and Vandenberg, respectively, as well. That's where we are focused.”

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