Secretary of the Air Force Michael Donley highlighted cyberspace as an important Air Force priority and joint force enabler during remarks to airmen, industry officials and Air Force Association members March 23 at the Air Force Association’s 2012 CyberFutures Conference and Technology Exposition in National Harbor, Md.
“Access to reliable communications and information networks makes it possible for today’s modern forces to operate effectively at a high operations tempo,” Donley said. “Our military depends on resilient, reliable and effective cyberspace assets to respond to crises, conduct operations, project power abroad and keep forces safe.”
Given this, he said it was no wonder that cyberspace is a priority for the Air Force and the Department of Defense. In addition, he also pointed out that cyberspace operations impact every other operational domain, making the Air Force’s integration of air, space and cyberspace operations an important requirement.
“As the only domain created by man, cyberspace is dynamic and evolving,” Donley said. “Its operations support and closely interact with operations in all of the other domains – land, sea, air and space. And through the integration of air, space and cyberspace operations, the Air Force is developing unique capabilities that support military operations across the spectrum of conflict.”
The secretary said the Air Force has a long history of being a forward-leaning service that has always been at the forefront of applying new technologies to strengthen U.S. national security.
“Cyberspace is just the latest arena offering the Air Force the challenge and the opportunity to keep evolving as we again wrestle with technology and policy issues right on the cutting edge of national security,” he said. “But more than that, we recognize that as cyber-related technologies transform the way we communicate, share information, provide services and conduct any number of daily tasks, the Air Force cannot afford to stand on the sidelines.
“Much like the inventors who created the technologies of the 20th century, today’s innovators will redefine our expectations and expand our capabilities as cyberspace continues to develop and mature,” he said.
Donley said the Air Force is determined to ensure the service is ready to leverage these state-of-the-art technologies; to have the right plans and strategies in place; and that Air Force cyber operations and cyber support Airmen have the skills and the training needed to meet the defense challenges and opportunities this newest frontier presents.
To help tackle emerging cyber challenges and threats, the secretary said the Air Force has fielded a total force of more than 45,000 trained and certified professionals equipped to ensure continuity of operations. In addition, he said the service will establish three new total force cyber units this year, consisting of two Air National Guard information operations squadrons to be located in Washington state and California, and one Air Force Reserve active association with the 33rd Network Warfare Squadron at Lackland Air Force Base, Texas.
There are also plans to expand the Maryland Air National Guard’s 175th Network Warfare Squadron, he added.
“Cyberspace may be the newest recognized operational domain, but its importance in the way we think, the way we organize, train and equip is becoming more evident all the time,” Donley said. “Today’s joint missions in the air, space and in all domains are increasingly dependent on skilled and innovative cyberspace forces.”
He said the Air Force must maintain its cyber security commitment by resourcing; developing cyber plans and strategies; developing and acquiring the best technology; and, most importantly, building the intellectual capital and expertise of its airmen who make it all work.
“Doing so will contribute to our national defense as well as reinforce our proud position as the world’s finest Air Force,” Donley said.