ACC, AFCYBER join forces to provide the right tools for cyber success

  • Published
  • By Maj. Gen. William Lord and Lt. Col. Stephen Matson
From the onset of President Eisenhower's presidency (1953) through 1992, the United States military intervened in world events some 51 times; from 1992 through 2000, they had an additional 51 interventions.

Notably, throughout the 1990s, U.S. forces were involved in peacekeeping, peace enforcement, humanitarian relief and extended low intensity operations in addition to war-fighting duties. And as many people know from personal sacrifice, since 2001 our Air Force has been actively deployed fighting and supporting the War on Terror.

For more than half a century Airmen have been supporting our nation to achieve our national interests. What's dramatically different are the changes in technology that have been aiding those Airmen in support of our goals. Aircraft are more sophisticated, air defense systems are more technical and deeper reaching, weapons are more capable and advanced, and the command and control of all these systems is much more advanced and technical.

What used to need waves of aircraft, and several days over the target area in the Korean and Vietnam War's was accomplished by a single formation of bombers in Desert Storm. That same type of objective is now achieved in the War on Terror with a single Joint Directed Attack Munition that flies a single pass over the target area.

Technology is changing, and for the first time since the creation of Air Force Space Command in 1982, the Air Force is changing its major command structure to meet the demands of changing technologies and the domain that those technologies are creating. With the advent of Air Force Cyber Command, the USAF will present cyber warfighting forces and capabilities to U.S. Strategic Command, geographical combatant commanders, and joint task force commanders.

AFCYBER will help us gain superiority in that domain, much like we have achieved and maintained air superiority for the last four decades. For that single JDAM to achieve its effect we rely on advanced technology to put weapons on target--command and control systems, global positioning system satellites, communication networks and electronic warfare capabilities.

AFCYBER's role isn't necessarily running the command and control system, or the satellite network, or even the air and space operations center. It's rather the linking of all these systems for the synergistic capability and the global effect.

AFCYBER's role is to operate within the domain that has been established and to collectively harness the capabilities created by several existing organizations such as the Air Force Research Labs, Air Force Electronic Systems Center, Air Force Communications Agency and the Global Cyberspace Integration Center to name just a few, and then to bring those developed capabilities to the warfighter of the future.

The U.S. and its allies can gain huge advantages by sharing and linking command centers around the world. A tactical action in one theater may have significant national policy implications and impacts to other theaters. Through the use of linked computer based command and control systems everyone from senior decision-makers to planners in an AOC, to operators on the ground and in the air can discuss emerging threats and collaboratively arrive at quick planning solutions.

Collaboration and connectivity are key factors to the warfighter and that's why the 8th Air Force Air Operations Center is shifting its focus from a tactical AOC to that of global reach and global interest that matches well with AFCYBER. Their goal is to bridge the gaps and share data across global and theater operations during the planning, tasking and execution of global operations. These operations are further reaching than aircraft, ships and soldiers -- they are rapidly growing in the cyber domain.

The ultimate goal for all in 8th Air Force is to provide long-range global strike, cyber warfare, information operations, intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance, battle management, and expeditionary construction capabilities to theater combatant commanders.

Eighth Air Force was the first numbered air force to integrate information operations into a warfighting headquarters. The integration will provides the ability to gain, exploit, and attack adversary information or information systems while defending friendly or coalition information and information systems from enemy attack. They'll have the capability to collect, process, and analyze data on weather, foreign weapon systems, friendly and enemy force disposition, etc., from different sources, and to provide this information to warfighters and national decision makers.

The key to success is a positive link with AFCYBER and the command and control tools to make these new missions and capabilities interchangeable with our current tasking procedures. The Eighth Bomber Command became the greatest air armada in history with visionary leaders such as Generals Ira Eaker and Jimmy Doolittle. With the stand-up of AFCYBER, we are given the opportunity to have that same type of effect on future generations of warfighters; hopefully with equal impact to that of our great aviation forefathers.

Maybe it's as simple as jamming communications networks to create deception or disruption as our foes try to mount an offensive. Creating fog in their decision making process may be enough to attain the goals. Being able to affect that type of mission through the normal command and control system is crucial to future conflicts.

Our goal is to develop the equivalent of "air superiority" in the cyber domain whereby no adversary will challenge us force on force once that "cyber superiority" is gained. Our nation has called on the military for involvement in more than 100 operations in the last 50 plus years. Our Airmen place themselves in harm's way every day, faithfully defending our nation and our way of life, and together 8th AIr Force and AFCYBER will give them the tools they need to succeed.