Air Force Cyber leader takes office
Maj. Gen. Richard Webber takes commaned of new Air Force cyber organization
When Maj. Gen. Richard Webber takes command of the new organization in charge of the Air Force’s cyber mission, he will quickly face the challenge of making the mission relevant.
The new organization, called the 24th Air Force, will address more than cybersecurity. It must take a holistic approach to all Air Force computer network operations, said Gary McAlum, a consultant at Deloitte and Touche who formerly served as Air Force chief of staff and director of operations for the Joint Task Force for Global Network Operations at the U.S. Strategic Command.
The 24th Air Force will be in charge of three major areas of cyber operations: attack, exploitation and defense, McAlum said. Webber will need to draw on much of his experience to build up all three areas, McAlum added.
Because cyber threats already exist, Webber will need to quickly build a team that is ready to conduct operations, McAlum said. Part of the building process should include identifying useful capabilities the Air Force already has and ensuring they aren’t affected while the 24th Air Force is being developed.
“It is like building an airplane in the sky,” McAlum said. “He doesn’t have this luxury of taking an airplane into the depot and putting it together at his leisure. It is flying, and he’s got to add to it and keep it flying every day.”
Command and control will be an important aspect of the new organization, and Webber’s experience as assistant deputy chief for air, space and information operations, plans and requirements will fit well with his new position, McAlum said.
Webber also gained experience with interoperability issues when he served as chairman of the Allied Data Systems Interoperability Agency and chief of the Systems Interoperability Branch at NATO headquarters.
Webber’s operations experience will also be important, McAlum said. For example, Webber served as assistant director for space and information warfare at the Combined Air Operations Center at the Prince Sultan Air Base in Saudi Arabia.
He is scheduled to take command of the new organization, which will likely be based at Lackland Air Force Base, Texas — later this year.
The decision to create a new numbered Air Force rather than a major command should not be considered a downgrade of the service’s cyber mission, McAlum said. Cyberspace is now part of the Air Force’s mission statement as one of its operational domains, equal to land, sea and space.
Operating under the Air Force Space Command should help the 24th Air Force. “It is centered around warfighting,” McAlum said.
Doug Beizer is a staff writer for Federal Computer Week.