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Published:July 28th, 2008 11:42 EST
AF Role in Cyberspace

AF Role in Cyberspace

By SOP newswire2

"Airmen must implement their warfighting traditions in the cyberspace domain," Dr. Rebecca Grant, founder and president of IRIS Independent Research, said July 15 to more than 250 attendees of a week-long cyberspace summit here. "I think we need the Air Force to truly embrace and understand this and excel in cyberspace, as they have in the domain of air and space."

Air Force ,Strategic Command In an effort to bring together minds and ideas from across the spectrum of the cyberspace community, Air University hosted the symposium this week in cooperation with United States Strategic Command, the 8th Air Force and the provisional Air Force Cyberspace Command. Professional civilian and military information experts gathered to discuss the implications of cyberspace, especially with regard to the Air Force and national defense.

"If there was ever a domain that needed an `air-minded` look, [cyberspace] is it," she said, after comparing the current development in the cyber realm to that of Brig. Gen. William "Billy" Mitchell`s approach to airpower.

Trust is the foundation for a working cyberspace realm, Lt. Gen. Robert Elder, commander of the 8th Air Force and Joint Functional Component Commander for Global Strike and Integration, U.S. Strategic Command, said in opening remarks earlier the same day.

"How do you put the trust relationship back in?" he asked. "It`s not by establishing a hierarchical organization. It`s by establishing a body of law [which mandates conformance as a prerequisite to connection]. Defense of a network requires everyone`s involvement."

In his speech, General Elder focused on defining cyberspace and discussed how cyberspace relates to national security operations and the Air Force.

And, he noted, adaptation cannot come too quickly in the protection of such an amorphous domain.

"We are not changing fast enough," he said. "This is a national problem, not just a military one. You have to approach [cyberspace] from a network standpoint."

The general`s "Mighty 8th" Numbered Air Force serves as the air component headquarters to U.S. Strategic Command for cyberspace operations, among other things, and is responsible for the security and defense of the Air Force`s global computer enterprise network.

"Every military service provides cyber forces," General Elder said. "We`re trying to provide forces that can provide support for joint cyber warfare operations."

He correlated cyberspace adaptation with airpower, and noted that this relatively new domain is unlike any other. But, the general said, it must be defended.

"We have a physical, logical, wireless and social network to defend," he said. "The bottom line is that there is an attack vector that goes against each facet. We have to protect each one."

The Air Force has taken on a role in cyberspace protection and plans are underway to select the host base for the newly formed, provisional Air Force Cyber Command. In a memo to attendees, General Elder said the symposium, "will allow discussion on the vital topic of the Air Force`s role in protecting the cyberspace domain."

Following midday working group sessions, conferees heard remarks from Dr. Grant. She focused on policy decisions and the philosophical nature of cyberspace as a "domain," in contrast to the traditional "domains" of air, land, and sea.

"I think it`s really exciting that we`re able to watch a new domain emerge," she added, comparing cyberspace to the emergence of air as a domain for technology propagated by the Wright Brothers and airpower icons such as General Mitchell.

Dr. Grant compared the relatively new domain to ancient Socratic thought and the dilemma of what is real and what is not.

"Cyberspace is not land, the sea, or the air. It is, in large part, a cognitive domain," Dr. Grant said. "That is partly why it gives us trouble as we think of policies for how we will act in this domain."

Dr. Grant also approached the issue of nation-state sovereignty in a domain which knows no bounds.

"Our objective is to safeguard the commons," she said. "But where are the new sovereign boundaries? If it`s not a geographic line, is it somewhere in that technical transport structure that creates the Internet?"

Conferees were treated to briefings such as these, which addressed a broad range of cyberspace topics. They were also able to choose from three focused learning tracks which were "Cyberspace Doctrine and Concepts of Operations," "Cyberspace Policy and Law" and "USAF Cyber: Supporting National Security."

"It is fitting that we have this symposium at Maxwell," Lt. Gen. Allen Peck, Air University commander, said in opening remarks. "This is the intellectual and leadership center of our Air Force. Seventy years ago, the Air Corps Tactical School moved to Maxwell Field, and was instrumental in developing our understanding of the potential for exploiting the air domain for warfighters. Today we are exploring another relatively new domain and the implications it has for the Air Force and our nation."

by Scott Knuteson
Air University