When the Air Force put its Cyber Command effort on hold there were shouts that the service was dropping one of the few missions that might provide it with new funding and help reinvigorate a service desperate to find missions for its members.
The memo that went out froze manning and budget transfers for Air Force Cyber Command. It was supposed to stand up on Oct. 1. So a reasonable person could infer that the service is backing away from the effort. But I spoke with a source very familiar with the issue who said the service is not by any means backing away from its commitment. The memo is part of a policy pause by a new leadership in charge of an organization that has been traumatized by the unprecedented firing of its top leadership. This source said the Air Force wants to look at its manning levels and command structure before committing to creation of a new entity with headquarters staff of about 500 people and 7,500 other personnel.
Cyber Command's main jobs are to perform the Air Force's Title X responsibility of defending its own networks from attack and, more controversially, to engage in offensive action and to take control of an enemy's computers and either manipulate them without the enemy knowing or to cut them off from the outside world. La., and will eventually have a headquarters staff of about 500 people and 8,000 personnel total.
However, there is another spin to all this. The Air Force has clearly targeted cyber warfare as a source of new money (there is $6 billion in new money at stake) and a new mission. While our source denied it and claimed the service only wants to stand up it own command and help ensure that every service does something similar, joint cyber warriors and some senior officials in the Pentagon believe the Air Force is trying to effectively become the executive agent for cyber war.
After all Strategic Command in Omaha is the military's official lead for cyber issues. And it's a high priority for the command. Gen. Kevin Chilton, its new commander, made that clear in May at his first command appearance, placing cyber issues second on his list of command priorities.
The Air Force will have to perform its legally mandated task of protecting its own networks. But we'll have to see if Gen. Norton Schwartz, new Air Force Chief of Staff, continues his push to make the Air Force more of a joint player and clearly subordinates Cyber Command to StratCom.