Cyber era produces seismic shift in Air Force planning

Cyber operations are causing a shift in Air Force priorities, driving the service to reconsider the established ways airmen and personnel are trained and money is spent, according to the Air Force CIO.

“With the evolution of the airplane in World War II…rapid changes in aircraft technology meant rapid obsolescence. Sound familiar?” Lt. Gen. William Lord, chief of warfighting integration and CIO at the Office of the Secretary of the Air Force, said Feb. 23 at the AFCEA Air Force IT Day in Vienna, Va. “The world is changing and the cyber piece will be at the center of that.”

To deal with the changes the Air Force has to adjust the way it trains airmen, civilian employees and even industry partners, Lord said.

“We require a differently trained force than we have today,” Lord said. “Operators in cyberspace no longer just support the mission.”

While support functions are still part of that job description, these airmen and employees are being pulled into new areas, including creating combat effects in the cyber arena. That change means these people are developing a new area of expertise that requires a broader perspective operational picture, rather than the separate specialties that have long been the norm.

A new approach to training will be wide reaching, from the lowest-level airmen brand new to the force to highly developed military occupational specialties. The Air Force will also look to incorporate the skills of combat veterans re-entering the workforce, Lord said.

The Air Force also is developing a new core function master plan aimed at cyber workforce, investments and spending, and also tactics, techniques and procedures, Lord said.

The Air Force Space Command is developing the plan, which will include directives focused on the next five to 10 years, he said. The plan will be shaped by the mission needs relayed from combatant commanders, he said.

The goal is to drive progress in a world where cyber advancement is “akin to the World War I-World War II era of air power,” Lord said, adding, “You could argue the 20th century was the century of air and space power. Will the 21st century be the century of cyberspace?”

About the Author

Amber Corrin is a staff writer covering military networks for Defense Systems.

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