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The ability to disrupt United States military operations has long been hypothesized as an asymmetric challenge adversaries are likely to pursue. This is now reality as evidenced by the growing quantity and intensity of malicious incidents ranging from espionage to physical effects in, through and by means of cyberspace. The challenge is acute for air and space operations. Air Power’s enduring characteristics of speed, range, and lethality have traditionally required detailed integration and planning. Contemporary operations are designed and planned by increasingly powerful information technology. Moreover, increasingly capable operational technology has been melded with traditional physical implements of airpower such as aircraft and bombs to form integrated cyber-physical weapon and support systems used to execute complex operations.
Our current Air Force cyberspace challenges are two-fold: create and sustain a workforce to meet tomorrow’s challenges, and develop concepts and capabilities to actively engage, counter and mitigate the efforts of our educated adversaries. Creating and sustaining a highly educated cyber workforce will continue to be a challenge, driven in large part by shrinking defense budgets and commitments to our core mission areas. Operations in cyberspace will continue to challenge us with unknowns and rapidly emerging threats of ever-increasing complexity. Cyber excellence must be grounded on superior cyber education and research. Concepts and capabilities must meet the commander’s mission needs and ensure effective operations with an extremely high level of certainty.
The Air Force and Department of Defense must have leadership and a workforce capable of understanding how cyberspace will and can be used against us, and how we can utilize cyberspace to deliver sovereign options for our national political leaders. Cyberspace options must be advanced, developed, proven, and deployed to our warfighters.
Operational and strategic theory as it applies to cyber and electronic warfare “beyond pipes and wires” is lagging technology. This is causing a significant problem for the United States Air Force and placing missions within the five AF core functions at risk of failure due to cyber disruptions originating in or propagating through the EMS.
The Air Force Cyber College conducts research to lead in the generation and publication of a sufficiently rigorous and robust set of operational theory to guide problem formulation allowing Airmen to leverage the opportunities of new emerging computing and networking technologies while assuring missions against the vulnerabilities of adversary usage.