During a media conference on November 2, 2007, Secretary of the Air Force Michael W. Wynne said the 8th Air Force would become the new Air Force Cyber Command. Now this statement has become reality. A three-star general, Lt. Gen. Robert Elder Jr. is the commander and will lead the Air Force's (AFCYBER) Cyber Command. AFCYBER will have over 20,000 personnel, and the Air Force is recruiting officers and airmen from all over for careers in Cyber War. Thousands of existing air force electronic warfare specialists will be assigned, or offered, jobs in AFCYBER. This will include units operating in the full spectrum of electronics and the electromagnetic spectrum to store, modify, and exchange data via networked systems and associated physical infrastructures.
Compliment of high tech equipment includes the following:
U2 - strategic reconnaissance aircraft
EC-135 electronic-eavesdropping aircraft
EC-130E Commando Solo radio/TV broadcasting aircraft
EC-130H Compass Call radio-jamming aircraft
A cyber attack can be launched from anywhere and at anytime. A cyber weapon attack requires no physical access (land or air) to the target or targets or significant skill. Basic cyber weapons are openly shared via the internet today. Technolytics conducted analysis of the evolution of cyber weapons and determined we are currently moving from basic weapons like vulnerability exploits and traditional viruses to more advanced classes of weapons such as self-morphing malicious code.
The U.S. Air Force is currently training 40,000 Cyber Warriors that make up this unique force. The cyber war training program will take from six to 15 months to complete. The first Undergraduate Network Warfare Training Class graduated Dec. 7, 2007. They are representing the Air Force's expansion into the lead role in cyberspace threat management. It is estimated that it will take over seven years to get the full complement of staff trained. The training coupled with experience will combine to give them what they need to perform their critical mission. Not all of the people trained as Cyber Warriors will be in the 8th Air Force. Many will be assigned throughout the Air Force to take care of Cyber War needs of their units. We are developing a new breed of soldier- cyber soldiers are ones who engage in cyber conflicts, wars, or espionage. They are armed with hackers' skill and knowledge and newly developed cyber weapons and stand ready to defend our nation against cyber threats.
Construction of a Cyber Innovation Center (CIC), which would serve as the civilian counterpart to the AFCYBER, began in the fourth quarter of 2007. The CIC will be built on a 58-acre site, near Barksdale Air Force Base. Bossier City, LA has allotted $50 million USD for the construction, while the state of Louisiana has matched the financing and approved another $50 million. While many believe that Barksdale Air Force Base will be the HQ for AFCYBER, other are not so sure.
Officials from six states are competing over the headquarters location of the Air Forces Cyberspace Command, which promises thousands of jobs and millions in revenue. Lobby efforts have turned into an all out war between several Air Force towns in recent weeks. This coupled with rumors that the Capital Hill is discussing establishing a new department or agency to deal with cyber threats. The final decision about the location of AFCYBER should be made by the end of February 2008. The new command is expected to meet its initial operational late in 2008 and become fully operational by October 2009.
While location of and reporting responsibility seem a bit uncertain, what is certain is the threat we face from the build up of cyber weapons by more that 120 countries is very real.