An Air Force
the Cyber Age
A partnership between the
air and cyber domains is the
key to blended operations.
The U.S. Air Force is striving to become a multi- domain warfighting unit in the air, in space and in cyber, according to its chief information offi- cer. However, attaining the same degree of supremacy in cyber that
it currently enjoys in the air domain may
prove a far more daunting task.
As do its sister services, the Air Force operates under a
decades-old, traditional model. That model does not serve
information technology needs well, and the issue has become
more crucial as cyber continues to increase in importance.
Cyberspace is both operational and manmade, points out
Lt. Gen. William J. Bender, USAF, Air Force chief information
officer/A- 6. Accordingly, the importance of the cyberspace
domain is on a par with that of air and space. For the Air Force
to move forward, it has “an absolute requirement to think differently,” he states.
“The Air Force is bridging a change from the industrial
age to the information age,” Gen. Bender declares. “We are
a little out of step in that we’re in the information age, but
we haven’t transitioned the Air Force yet fully from the
industrial age. That will take thinking differently. It’s about
the ability to correlate data; form information; organize that
information in a way that gives us a better level of understanding; and eventually … how you operate in the information age that is the equivalent of information warfare.
“We still need to remain the best Air Force of the indus-
trial age, but at the same time we have to recognize that the
environment around us has changed to the information
age,” he continues. “Now it becomes more in terms of how
are you going to take advantage of the cyber domain best—
in a way that can take advantage of opportunities and be
better, faster and smarter than the enemy.”
The key for the Air Force to achieve that goal of dual
supremacy is to begin the evolution of learning to think dif-
ferently, Gen. Bender states. “While the environment is rapidly
changing, we must recognize that it is not purely a matter of
security that we must be concerned about; it also is a great
opportunity for us. If we rely on the OODA model—observe,
orient, decide and act—faster than the enemy because we’ve
done a better job of managing our data and turning it into
knowledge, then in fact we can own the information age in a
way that the Air Force currently owns the industrial age.”
The Air Force must come to a better understanding of the
cyber domain, the general continues. This domain differs from
air and space to a greater degree than those two differ from
each other, but the manmade domain of cyber presents dif-
ferent opportunities, especially in that it can be manipulated.
“We’re trying to recognize that ... the cyber domain and its
unique challenges on the security side and opportunities on
the information warfare side are different than what we’ve
operated in the past,” he emphasizes.
Air Force command, control, communications, computers, intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (C4ISR) has
two top priorities, Gen. Bender says. The first is to transition
BY ROBERT K.