Battleland

New Air Force Mission: Cyberwar Belongs to Us

  • Share
  • Read Later
REUTERS / Rick Wilking

Personnel at the Air Force Space Command Network Operations Security Center at Peterson Air Force Base in Colorado Springs, Colorado.

The Wall Street Journal noted last Friday about how the “Pentagon digs in on cyberwar front.” Bit misleading, as it’s really the Air Force that’s desperate to corner that market. You know the general story of Big War Blue (Navy, Air Force) feeling disrespected and underfunded across the “war on terror” era, and you’ve been treated ad nauseum to their budgetary counter-revolution in the form of the AirSea Battle Concept (whose combined Air-Navy motto should be: “It’s China’s turn — as well as ours!”).

Well, the Air Force has it far worse than the Navy in terms of existential fears, primarily due to the rapid rise and unbelievable dissemination of drones, where seemingly now every military unit has their own miniature air wing of what would have recently passed as toys. Amidst all that, the Air Force has clearly decided that its institutional salvation lies in convincing Congress and everybody else that – somehow – cyberspace is the natural domain of their service and their service alone.  It reminds one of the Navy feeling lost in the post-WWII drawdown and eventually finding its purpose in nuclear-missile-launching subs.

I have personally seen one hilariously over-the-top briefing by the Air Force’s top futurologists that paints a Tomorrowland where individual bad actors can destroy  the human race with a stroke of the keyboard and . . . if the U.S. government were smart, it’d basically dump the entire Defense Department budget into the Air Force’s coffer to allow it to monitor every byte of the WorldWideWeb 24/7 in a groovy, “trust us” Skynet sort of way. Without realizing it, I actually blurted out “bullshit” halfway through the presentation.  It was a bureaucratic jump-the-shark moment I will never forget.

Is there anything about cyberspace that particularly screams Air Force?  Not really.  If cyber warfare is going to be as all encompassing as it’s made out to be by its vigorous proponents, then it will disseminate throughout the services even more than the drone phenomenon has.

Having said that, it’s not hard to imagine a future where the Pentagon gives the “air” Force this sop as a way of encouraging its bureaucratic accommodation to its profound institutional downgrading due to drones going DoD-wide and essentially killing much of the USAF’s rationale as a unique war-fighting service (it was always weak, since the Army, Navy and Marines all kept their own air forces all along).

My point is saying all this: all of us who are interested in rational debates about U.S. national security (i.e., non-fear mongering and non-hyperbolic discussions) need to understand that virtually everything the Air Force tells us about cyber warfare will be reflect that service’s deep fears about its future, meaning it will be 90% sales-job and 10% reality.

Bottom line: if you want trustworthy analysis of the cyber threat, you will need to look outside the Pentagon.

11 comments
esion lin
esion lin

Nike Air Force One debut in 1982 and have been a major hit in the hip-hop community since then. Although the original purpose of Nike Air Force one is basketball, it is more like a shoe for urban style.Nike Air Force One was the first pair of Nike shoes to have a full length air sole. It has grown so much in popularity and has been released so many times with so many color combinations. In 2007, Nike Air Force One 07 was released to celebrate its 25th anniversary. Nowadays, Nike Air Force Shoes have become an icon of fashion and culture for its popularity off the court.

http://www.sportshoesale.com

2011 nike air force one low GS black green white logo shoes

2011 nike air force one low holiday black white shoes

2011 nike air force one low holiday Bordeaux shoes

esion lin
esion lin

Nike Air Force One debut in 1982 and have been a major hit in the hip-hop community since then. Although the original purpose of Nike Air Force one is basketball, it is more like a shoe for urban style.Nike Air Force One was the first pair of Nike shoes to have a full length air sole. It has grown so much in popularity and has been released so many times with so many color combinations. In 2007, Nike Air Force One 07 was released to celebrate its 25th anniversary. Nowadays, Nike Air Force Shoes have become an icon of fashion and culture for its popularity off the court.

http://www.sportshoesale.com

2011 nike air force one low holiday white red shoes

2011new women nike air feather high black black white logo shoes

2011new women nike air feather high black pink shoes

2011 nike air force one low premum black white shoes

2011new women nike air feather high black white logo shoes

draginlady2u
draginlady2u

It may be that the AF skews cyber fears towards its own corner in order to secure funding, but that's hardly new or surprising.  Every service views the world and its threats through its own service prism.

What is interesting is why anyone pays any attention to Barnett and his histrionic, navel-gazing pronouncements.  One would have thought he lost any remaining credibility after the Fallon incident in 2008.

JimNtexas
JimNtexas

I'm a retired Air Force Electronic Warfare Officer (F-4G, EF-111).  For the last 15 years I've worked in various non-governmental internet security software startups.

I agree that the USAF can play only a supporting role in defense of American information networks. 

The Air Force has no place for the kind highly paid highly trained individual software expert that is needed for deep network offense and defense.

 The 'up or out' Air Force promotion system places  huge emphasis on the PT score, political skills, and 'looking the part'. Technical skills are secondary to personal traits in the Air Force system.  That works well for growing pilots who can lead wings and squadrons, but has almost nothing to do with identifying individuals with deep network security skills. 

If the Air Force is serious about 'cyberwar' then they need to figure out how to have a 20 year  Tech Sargent or Captain (who is ugly and can't pass the PT or waist size tests) making more money and better working conditions than an F-22 squadron commander.

The NSA and CIA are the places in the government that can encourage the kind of deep network knowledge that is required to protect America's network infrastructure. 

Military members can help by gathering intelligence and perhaps inserting offensive network tools in hostile enviroments.   The uniform military can't take the lead, they just don't have the technical depth that is needed for the core mission of network security.

Few people in this country can imagine a world where the U.S. military doesn't enjoy total air dominance in any and every conflict.  It has been over 50 years since the last time any U.S. Army or Marine Corp ground force was attacked by an enemy aircraft. 

That didn't happen by accident, we have air domiance because of the great work the Air Force has done over the decades.

The Air Force should stick to the air, and leave network security to people who are really serious about deep network understanding.

freefallingbomb
freefallingbomb

With so many bureaucrats “working” in the Pentagon and still others dependent on the military-industrial complex for their subsistence, and with so much inter-service wrangling over who should control those new, cross-branch weapons like satellites, drones and malware, etc., shouldn't “Administration” become an Armed Forces branch in its own right like the Army, Navy and Airforce?

I already have a motto for these warriors in service uniform: “9 to 5”.

Gary McCray
Gary McCray

Unfortunately, everything in America is run like a business.

And business in America is all about competition and winning, not about doing anything at all of genuine value.

And our multiple military services are one of the most glaring examples of just how inefficient and counter productive this entire concept can be.

They aren't business's and competition between them only results in redundancy and waste.

As the Author said they use hyperbole and fear mongering to make their case for how important they each are and why only they should be the arbiters of our entire future.

Nonaffiliated
Nonaffiliated

In a perfect world, we would eliminate the Army/Navy/Air Force stovepiping and go completely 'purple suited'.  Inter-service rivalry serves no purpose.  Instead, it creates C3 issues in joint service operations.  Plus, the redundant administrative channels and duplicate supply chains add cost for no benefit.

I know, a million veterans will scream about the unique history of their particular branch of service.  Be reassured; the history won't change.  It's the future we need to worry about.

freefallingbomb
freefallingbomb

A well-written article (obviously I'm not referring to the turf wars of prestige-hungry, unadaptable, dinosauric, obsolete generals. Like watching a race between two turtles).

One historical side remark only. The text says: “It reminds one of the Navy feeling lost in the post-WWII drawdown and eventually finding its purpose in nuclear-missile-launching subs.”

While the sad U.S. Navy may have felt “lost” doing “only” that, this same task (= nuking the enemy's fleet and cities in only a few minutes) became nothing less than the MAIN DOCTRINE of the emerging Soviet Navy, which saw absolutely no point in matching the U.S. Navy ship by ship – least of all in building lots of large, extremely expensive, extremely vulnerable aircraft carriers.

Communism may have failed in Russia, but was the Red Navy's mission necessarily wrong...?

Joel Gordes
Joel Gordes

Considering Stuxnet and its ability to delay the Iranian nuclear aspirations, this type of article is dangerous but has historical precedent.  Back in 1921 US Navy admirals scoffed  at the notion that an aircraft could sink a battleship--and that July it is exactly what Billy Mitchell did. Across the ocean in Italy, Air Marshal Giulio Douhet warned,  Victory smiles upon those who anticipate the changes in the character of war, not upon those who wait to adapt themselves after the changes occur."  Still relevant. Barnett suffers from what is called "cultural lag" and indicative of a mindset that still wants to prepare for the last war often found in the Pentagon -- and outside it.

GrayAxiom
GrayAxiom

The Air Force claimed cyberspace after the Navy took hold of the domain.  More than half of all military CNO operators are Naval personnel.  This should come as no surprise, considering the Air Forces' history.  The Air Force attempted to claim space after the Navy took hold of that too.  Navy submarines are closer in comparison to space-craft than traditional aircraft, and more NASA astronauts have been Navy pilots than Air Force.  The US Navy provided the personnel that conducted the recently publicized covert action; they were chosen because they have proven themselves as professional CNO practitioners.  The US Army is going to have a powerful seat at the table as well due to General Alexander standing up US Cyber Command.  He has placed key Army generals in leadership positions within the organization so that the Army can maintain a controlling interest for the first few years.  The Air Force will continue to advocate that they are the suitable service for leading the movement, but as they fight for control in the Pentagon the other services have already staffed the positions. 

US Cyber Command is a joint service command that will soon become a combatant command.  This will allow for the services to divide up cyberspace.  Each theater commander will have the ability to conduct operations against their own targets of interest in the area of operation.  The services will specialize in targeting capabilities that align with their traditional domains.  The Navy will develop the ability to remotely control an adversaries off-shore oil platform.  The Air Force will provide a capability to disable air defenses, while the Army may choose to disable command amp; control communications used by an adversary's tank division.  If the Air Force wants a piece of the pie, they must begin to develop capabilities that will benefit the war-fighter now.

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 2,106 other followers