The right stuff for cyber warfare
In a press meeting at the LandWarNet 2008 conference in August, Gen. Kevin Chilton, Air Force commander of the Strategic Command, spoke with Defense Systems Editor-in-Chief Sean Gallagher and sister publication Government Computer News Editor-in-Chief Wyatt Kash about the structure of U.S. cyber operations and his priorities for the workforce and technology.
DS: With each of the services putting together cyber commands of their own, do you see a need to consolidate cyber operations?
CHILTON: There already is consolidation. [For cyber operations], the services report and take their orders on how to run and configure their networks from Joint Task Force-Global Network Operations. The organizational constructs we’re seeing within the services are very encouraging to me. What they are starting to think about is what they’re supposed to do; [that is], how to train and equip forces for the fight. The Army knows how to train and equip, for example, tank forces and infantry forces. And the Air Force knows how to do airplanes. But how do you organize, train and equip the cyber warrior, who we need to conduct operations and who needs to be part of that continuum that runs from the Stratcom commander on down to the foxhole? And how do we layer that and support that at all levels?
I’m really encouraged by the focus the services are putting on the organize, train and equip part. I’m impatient in that I would like to see that happen faster. And I’m in need of more people to conduct this mission area.
As far as operating and giving orders and aligning to make sure we’re synchronized in our operations and our defense of the network, we’ve got a pretty good model there. What the services are doing is something different. It’s how they stand up their internal organizations so that they can provide forces correctly for the missions. A good analogy is the space domain and how that’s done. For one, they’re both global in nature.
There’s not a lot of people out there to conduct space operations all around the world, so they’re pretty centralized, kind of like cyber, and yet you need those space effects and capabilities presented all around the world. And they’re garrisoned forces — a good deal of them. As a garrison force taken care of by the Air Force and the Army and the Navy, they all have space assets, but they take their operational instructions from a joint commander for combat.
They’re still organized and equipped by the Army, Navy and Air Force. I think that’s a pretty good model, and I think that’s a good way to move forward in cyber as well.
DS: How does cyber get integrated into operations better?
CHILTON: What we need to do is what we had to do in the space domain
15 years ago, which is get out of just having professionals in the space domain that understand it but [instead] make sure that everyone understands the space domain — because otherwise, it’s the old problem of if you don’t know what to ask for, you’ll never ask the right questions to get what you need. It’s the same in cyber. When I talk about the need for including cyber operations and concepts in our schools – the Air War College, the Army Staff College, etc. — it’s to touch beyond the cyber professional community. This is a warfighting domain everyone needs to understand.
This is another domain where we’re going to fight jointly.
DS: Are there any key technologies you’re focusing on to help build cyber capabilities?
CHILTON: We need technologies to help us gain — as you need in any domain you operate in — good situational awareness of our networks. What’s the health and status of our network, whether we’re under attack, what’s the vector, and what are our options to either reroute or block? [We also need] sensor technology to help with filtering and understanding what’s coming in through the connection points to the Internet. I think that is incredibly important. And we’re making some investments in those areas.
But just as you would expect, as we make moves, our adversaries will make counter-moves, and we need to keep that technology refreshed and stay on the leading edge of it.