Air Force reconsiders cyber unit

Air Force officials are rethinking the decision to establish a cyberspace command that would consolidate all of the service’s efforts to protect and maintain its cyber capabilities.

An infusion of new leadership at the Air Force spurred the re-evaluation, said Mackenzie Eaglen, a senior policy analyst for national security at the Heritage Foundation.

“It’s understandable that newly confirmed leaders want to review the command’s way forward,” she said. “However, they should be clear that cyber capabilities remain a top priority for the military.”

For now, Eaglen added, the Defense Department’s efforts in cybersecurity are somewhat disjointed and need to be better coordinated. 

Air Force officials are interested in creating a Cyber Command because cyberspace and space-based capabilities allow the military to conduct global operations, often without leaving their permanent bases. 

“The new Cyber Command is important symbolically, as well, because creating a virtual command with offensive and defensive capabilities is essential to prevail in modern warfare,” Eaglen said.  “The command also codifies the beginning of a professional career path for airmen and women and the associated training and doctrine that must be established.”

The fate of the program has not been decided yet.

“We do understand that senior leadership is taking a look at this, but we have not been told to halt just yet,” said Tech. Sgt. Christopher DeWitt, of the 8th Air Force’s Public Affairs Office at Barksdale Air Force Base, La.

“We’ve got new leaders — in the chief of staff and the secretary of the Air Force — and they’re looking at all the issues of the Air Force,” DeWitt said. “They will be looking at cyberspace and the Cyber Command capabilities and try to determine the best way forward with that. As of this point in time today, we have not officially been told to put anything on hold.”

Regardless of what decision the Air Force comes to, the U.S. military needs to keep cyberspace efforts high on the priority list, Eaglen said. “The U.S. military remains extremely vulnerable in cyberspace,” she said.  “The recent Russia/Georgia war proves…that policy-makers need to systematically
[develop] cyber strategic leaders.”

About the Author

Doug Beizer is a staff writer for Federal Computer Week.

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