Air Force considers merging cyber, electromagnetic spectrum activities
By Mark Pomerleau
Graphic representation of Tech. Sgt. Jason Valleley, 204th intelligence analyst, as he simulates manipulating data in Google Earth. Valleley headed the development for a way to use classified Google Earth with integrated intelligence gathered from multiple sources to aid United States' military units throughout the world. The images employed in this illustration are purely representational and do not reflect any current or past intelligence operatons. (U.S. Air National Guard illustration by Senior Airman Kellyann Novak/Released)
Just like some of the other military services, the Air Force is beginning to take steps to move cyber and electromagnetic spectrum activities closer together.
One such effort is the potential merging of the 24th and 25th Air Force. A "tasker" came out of the recent Corona meetings, an annual gathering of the top Air Force officials, to look at merging the two numbered Air Forces, Col. Robert "Chipper" Cole, director of Air Force Cyber Forward, said March 30 at the AFCEA NOVA Warfighter IT Day.
The 24th Air Force houses AFCYBER and falls under Air Force Space Command. The 25th Air Force conducts global intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance, or ISR, and has electronic assets as well, Cole said.
AFCYBER is made up of components from both numbered Air Forces with a 60/40 split of cyber personnel from 24th and intelligence personnel from 25th.
Cole said leadership has tasked them to come back to the four stars in June at the next Corona meeting to discuss a plan for potentially merging 24th and 25th.
Another effort underway surrounds a cyberspace multi-domain innovation team, aimed at trying to break down stove pipes within many organizations, said Cole.
The innovation team has taken a number of different disciplines, he said, such as cyber, electronic warfare, ISR, among others; applied air component command and combatant commander requirements into that multi-domain environment; and tasked subject matter experts with how to solve these problems.
"I know it doesn’t seem like a magical thing, but it is," Cole said. Normally, due to bureaucracy, he said, something like EW will go down one stove pipe and then dissolve or fizzle away. Or, if a cyber requirement comes in and it resembles electronic warfare — given how close the two can be sometimes — the "Air Force corporate process will say, ‘I’m in the cyber portfolio, why am I paying for EW?’ and it falls apart," Cole added.
A solution that has already come to fruition within this process is spectrum GEOINT, which Cole described as the ability to take a compass call and use that or another cyberlike capability to locate a Wi-Fi router across the countryside and do it at a distance.
This process also involves authorities for rapid prototyping and fielding of equipment, Cole said. Maj. General Christopher Weggeman, commander of AFCYBER, has the authority to take some of the rapid capabilities developed — up to $2 million — and field them within six months without having to go to a panel or through traditional acquisition authorities, Cole explained.
Cyber and electromagnetic spectrum activities are closely aligned. The top military officer for all DoD cyber has indicated that in the future, EW might fall under the purview of Cyber Command, but that may be far off given that the command, which is solely focused on cyberspace operations, is still in its infancy.
"As you see the spectrum and the network converging, as you see the integration of the spectrum and the network, information and effects, does that argue then that you need to view cyber as an element of something broader? And would you, as a result, build around CYBERCOM or some other organizational construct, the idea of bringing those functions together?" Adm. Michael Rogers, asked in February. "I would argue the most likely answer over time is yes."
Rogers continued: "Intellectually, I say to myself, this makes perfect sense and is a logical conclusion. When I get asked if I can do this right now, it’s a little about timing to me, but intellectually it makes sense."
About Mark Pomerleau
Mark Pomerleau is a reporter for C4ISRNET, covering information warfare and cyberspace.