Reserves will play a larger role in cyber defense

As the Air Force faces militarywide budget pressures and an enemy that is increasingly savvy from cyber and technology standpoints, it will look to its reserve component to help enable shifting strategies and operations, according to a top official.

“We must leverage the strength of both our active and reserve components,” Lt. Gen. Christopher Miller, Air Force deputy chief of staff for Strategic Plans and Programs, said Feb. 23 at AFCEA Air Force IT Day in Vienna, Va.

The Air Force will draw from the unique position of reservists, who often work full time in the part of the private sector that supports the force’s missions, offering a cross-pollination of ideas, strategies and perspectives, he said.

“Our Reserves [allow for] focus on warfighter needs,” including mobilization and cutting-edge technologies, Miller said.

The move to augment the Air Force Reserves signals the force’s increasing focus on IT and cyber capabilities, which Miller stressed as being critical to Air Force operations going forward.

“Until recently the U.S. could rely on assured access [to the network], but it’s becoming more contested, congested and competitive,” he said. “We need to prepare to operate in situations of seriously degraded command and control and situational awareness.”

The role of military in cyberspace is complicated by a number of factors, including a reliance on commercial products, technical difficulty locating sources of cyberattacks and political sensitivity surrounding offensive and defensive reactive measures, Miller noted.

Those are issues that are complicated by shrinking defense spending; the Air Force will in turn reduce in size and plan carefully to accommodate, Miller said.

“Another dollar for cyber will likely come from another critical area for the foreseeable future,” he said.

As the Air Force sacrifices force size for modernization, it will work to institutionalize an emphasis on technological and cyber capabilities.

“The bottom line is the Air Force is serious about cyber in an organizational sense,” Miller said.

About the Author

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

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