Air Force expects to hire cyber pros

Despite the government's budget austerity expectations, the Air Force anticipates hiring hundreds of cyber specialists in the near future.

AF Gen. William Shelton

Gen. William Shelton expects orders to hire 1,000 cyber specialists in 2014.

The Air Force plans to increase its cyber workforce by 15 percent in 2014, according to the Defense Department.

Gen. William Shelton, commander of Air Force Space Command, said he expects to receive orders next year from U.S. Cyber Command’s leadership to hire roughly 1,000 cyber specialists, mostly civilians. They would be added to the current 6,000-strong cyber workforce at the 24th Air Force, which is the service’s subordinate component to Cyber Command.

"Cyber Command is in the midst of determining how they are going to operate across all the geographic combatant commands as well as internal to the United States," Shelton said in a DOD release. "It looks like we will be tapped for well over 1,000 additional people into the cyber business, so you can see [cyber] is starting to take root."

The hiring will be contingent on the availability of funds in the budget and is expected to happen over a two-year period. Shelton said he will lobby DOD leaders to prioritize cyber capabilities as they determine how to cut budgets, but he acknowledged that the ongoing fiscal uncertainty presents a variety of challenges.

"There will be strong advocates coming from other functional areas within the United States military as well," he said. "So it’s going to be literally the strategy that we adopt based on the budget authority that will be available, and then you let the chips fall from there."

However, because there is no current appropriations bill for fiscal 2013, the uncertain fiscal situation affects planning for future budgets, he said.

The Air Force’s focus on cyber is in keeping with an ongoing evolution of capabilities and new realities in national defense. In November 2012, Air Force CIO Lt. Gen. Michael Basla noted the growing emphasis on cyber training and the cyber workforce as the military determines how best to operate in an increasingly complex domain.

"We see an increase in the demand signal, and we have to address how to respond to that demand signal," Basla said. "There’s a daisy chain to that: It’s recruiting the right folks, training the right folks; it is positioning those folks in the right positions to accomplish the tasks handed to us. And it is properly equipping those folks with the capabilities they need. What I see is ... this is one of those areas we said we cannot afford to take reductions and may in fact be one of the growth areas in a very tight budget environment."

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