Air Force moving ahead with Cyber Command

The Air Force is moving ahead on establishing its new Cyber Command, searching for permanent facilities and planning meetings to establish rules by which it will operate, according to Air Force officials.

In September, the Air Force announced it would establish a Cyber Command to prepare for fighting wars in cyberspace by defending national computer networks running critical operations and to attack adversaries computer networks.

The Air Force now operates a Provisional Cyberspace Command at Barksdale Air Force Base in northwest Louisiana. Its vice commander, Col. Anthony Buntyn, said the provisional command is solely involved with "standing up the permanent command," meaning it is developing a structure, finding a location for the base and hiring and training staff. Buntyn spoke this week at the Armed Forces Communications and Electronics Association's annual Air Force IT Day in Vienna, Va.

Next week, Air Force officials, mostly with the rank of major and colonel, will meet at Maxwell Air Force Base in Montgomery, Ala., to begin laying out the rules that the command will follow during a possible cyberwar. Called the Cyber Space Warfare Doctrine, the rules will include defining what constitutes an act of cyberwar as opposed to what is merely a cybercrime or act of cyberterrorism.

Buntyn and Lt. Gen. Michael Peterson, chief of warfighting integration and chief information officer for the Air Force, emphasized that determining the origin of a cyberattack is difficult. "We do have significant ability to determine where the attacks are from, but it takes some time," Peterson said. "Two or three things may have to happen before we connect the dots. But as a team, we [the Defense Department, the FBI and other domestic law enforcement agencies] are generally able to say what happened when."

Peterson said part of the command's mission will be to protect critical information systems supporting U.S. infrastructures, but that would not be the primary focus, saying the command will be "ready to fight the fight." He added that there were multiple goals, including a better ability to see inside enemy networks.

Cyber Command also is looking for a permanent home. Officials at Barksdale AFB are looking for sites close to universities engaged in information security research and close to areas with a high concentration of major technology companies. Peterson said the command was considering "multiple good locations," and a recommendation is expected this spring.

Buntyn said the command is expected to begin initial operations by Oct. 1, 2008, and will be fully staffed and operational a year later. There are 160 staff members in the provisional command who have been pulled from various military services and other government organizations. The workforce eventually will reach 541, with about 400 located at the command's headquarters.

Peterson said the Air Force needed "folks that are all about technology," which is partly why it is considering "cyber warrior" -- personnel dedicated exclusively to cyberspace operations -- as a new career path and is determining the skills and tools necessary for that career. He said he expected to "see more suits and ties than at most commands," meaning the Cyber Command would likely hire more government workers from civilian agencies than what other military commands do.

Stay up-to-date with federal news alerts and analysis — Sign up for GovExec's email newsletters.
Close [ x ] More from GovExec

Thank you for subscribing to newsletters from
We think these reports might interest you:

  • Sponsored by G Suite

    Cross-Agency Teamwork, Anytime and Anywhere

    Dan McCrae, director of IT service delivery division, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA)

  • Data-Centric Security vs. Database-Level Security

    Database-level encryption had its origins in the 1990s and early 2000s in response to very basic risks which largely revolved around the theft of servers, backup tapes and other physical-layer assets. As noted in Verizon’s 2014, Data Breach Investigations Report (DBIR)1, threats today are far more advanced and dangerous.

  • Sponsored by One Identity

    One Nation Under Guard: Securing User Identities Across State and Local Government

    In 2016, the government can expect even more sophisticated threats on the horizon, making it all the more imperative that agencies enforce proper identity and access management (IAM) practices. In order to better measure the current state of IAM at the state and local level, Government Business Council (GBC) conducted an in-depth research study of state and local employees.

  • Sponsored by Aquilent

    The Next Federal Evolution of Cloud

    This GBC report explains the evolution of cloud computing in federal government, and provides an outlook for the future of the cloud in government IT.

  • Sponsored by LTC Partners, administrators of the Federal Long Term Care Insurance Program

    Approaching the Brink of Federal Retirement

    Approximately 10,000 baby boomers are reaching retirement age per day, and a growing number of federal employees are preparing themselves for the next chapter of their lives. Learn how to tackle the challenges that today's workforce faces in laying the groundwork for a smooth and secure retirement.

  • Sponsored by Hewlett Packard Enterprise

    Cyber Defense 101: Arming the Next Generation of Government Employees

    Read this issue brief to learn about the sector's most potent challenges in the new cyber landscape and how government organizations are building a robust, threat-aware infrastructure

  • Sponsored by Aquilent

    GBC Issue Brief: Cultivating Digital Services in the Federal Landscape

    Read this GBC issue brief to learn more about the current state of digital services in the government, and how key players are pushing enhancements towards a user-centric approach.


When you download a report, your information may be shared with the underwriters of that document.