The Air Force is currently evaluating changes in the way it organizes itself in the cyber domain. One prominent proposal under evaluation is the merging of two numbered Air Forces: 24th and 25th.
24th Air Force/Air Force Cyber, or AFCYBER, is the sole cyberspace operations component for the Air Force but derives its cyber intelligence personnel from 25th Air Force, which is responsible for providing global intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance. AFCYBER’s breakdown of personnel is roughly 60/40 cyber personnel from 24th and intelligence personnel from 25th.
As C4ISRNET reported previously, a “tasker” came out of Corona meetings, an annual gathering of the top Air Force officials, to look at merging the two numbered Air Forces.
“We’re certainly looking at how do we better integrate and close the seams between cyberspace operations, intelligence, surveillance, reconnaissance, electronic warfare, information operations,” Maj. Gen. Christopher Weggeman, commander of AFCYBER, told C4ISRNET in an interview, noting he didn’t want to get ahead of the secretary or chief of staff prior to any formal decisions being made. “Then how do we integrate all of that portfolio seamlessly across the war-fighting functions so that we can get to multidomain command and control, which is where our chief of staff wants to go.”
The Air Force is doing deliberate planning to look at the integration between 24th Air Force and 25th Air Force, which Weggeman said is still predecisional.
In his words, he described what could eventually come of a merging of the two numbered Air Forces as an “information warfighting numbered Air Force.”
This is where the force is headed, he said, noting this integration will better help support the war fighter, the air components with multidomain operations, multidomain command and control.
On top of these numbered Air Forces, Weggeman said the two Major Commands involved are Space Command and Air Combat Command.
“I think you’ll see some more news on that here in the next few months on where the Air Force is putting their cyber forces internally within the Air Force. I think that’s maturing onto the next level in where we want to put those people,” Peter Kim, the Air Force’s CISO, told reporters in June. “Right now they’re under Space Command, and I think you’re going to see some changes here in the near future. I don’t think I can say anything more on that.”
Weggeman expects a decision on this in the next couple of months.
Other changes could come in the way the force organizes, trains and equips its cyber warriors.
“We are always evaluating whether we are organized correctly or not and are there appropriate changes that should be made to benefit us not just in cyber but in all of the Air Force, the five core missions of the Air Force,” Maj. Gen. Patrick Higby, director of Air Force cyber strategy and policy, told C4ISRNET in June. ”We should always be assessing that. There are some discussions ongoing trying to figure out is there a better way to organize the Air Force around the cyber mission. That’s all being evaluated and discussed right now.”
“We’re looking at the cyberspace war-fighting workforce, how do we best manage that from a talent and human capital perspective, how do we best organize the workforce functionally so that they can have a path to greatness and they can prosper and they feel valued,” Weggeman said. “We’re looking at how do we modernize and evolve our training along the continuum of learning endeavors that Air Education Training Command are putting out.”
Weggeman added that the Air Force is looking at how to get out of the network business.
“How do we pivot the NIPRNet [Non-Secure Internet Protocol Router NETwork], the enterprise IT to go to as a service model so we can potentially repurpose resources and manpower to focus on the war-fighting mission assurance and the threat-based cyber defense capability we want to have across our mission and data systems,” he said.
These were issues that the previous CIO took aim at both in and out of the military as outlined in a paper published this week.
In “The Cyber Edge: Posturing the US Air Force for the Information Age,” published by the Mitchell Institute for Aerospace Studies, retired Air Force CIO Lt. Gen. William Bender provides his thoughts on four areas in which the service should start to meet these challenges: increase focus on mission assurance; build a future cyberspace force; manage data as a strategic asset; and take measured steps to manage IT services and investments at an enterprise level.
Mark Pomerleau is a reporter for C4ISRNET, covering information warfare and cyberspace.