AF IT Day: Gen. Shelton says service needs to refine its cyberspace mission

The Air Force still cannot define its role and responsibilities in cyberspace, despite stating for years that the domain was a zone of operations, a top service official said Oct. 11.

To come to grips and pin down an effective description and model for its operations, the service needs to answer several critical questions, said Gen. William Shelton, commander of Air Force Space Command, speaking at Air Force IT Day.

The first question the service needs to ask is how to define cyberspace in a way that is effective and that works for the entire service, said Shelton. Noting that previous Air Force definitions of cyberspace were too vague and unfocused, he said that the service needs to refine its role and specific mission in the domain.

“We need to figure out cyberspace now, or at least get on a common vector,” he said.

Besides coming up with a definition, the service needs to define its proper role in cyberspace. This definition must mesh with Defense Department needs for cyber operations and be written in “plain English,” Shelton said.

The Air Force also needs to consider how it recruits, trains and retains its skilled cyber personnel. To hang onto these specialists, Shelton said the service must work out more effective methods to educate and advance this group of officers and enlisted service people.

Another challenge for the service is to determine how best to defend its networks. Because it is so inexpensive for attackers to hit government networks, the Air Force must pull back from defending its entire perimeter to a more flexible defense, Shelton said. One way to achieve this goal is to move to a more centrally managed architecture.

Being able to mitigate attacks is vital, and one way to do this is by limiting the number of paths attackers can take. The Air Force is in the process of reducing its service gateways down to 16, which will greatly improve its defensive posture, he said.

About the Author

Henry Kenyon is a contributing writer for Defense Systems.

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