This work force transformation is the biggest near-term
challenge, the general avers. The JIE will provide a dividend
in the repurposed work force, and this is an important underpinning to the Air Force’s ability to transform its C4ISR. But
the service still must pay attention to its legacy communications and networks while developing this new cyber-savvy
work force, he warrants.
The blending of cyber and air operations is strong with
the Air Force’s F- 35. In addition to being a multirole fighter
aircraft, the F- 35 also is a flying multisensor platform. Its sensor data will be part of any Air Force ISR network, but that
architecture remains to be configured, particularly with the
JIE looming. Gen. Bender offers that the JIE will need to take
into account the F- 35 instead of the F- 35’s data architecture
being configured for the enterprise network.
“It’s the JIE that must meet the needs of the platform, as
opposed to the other way around,” he declares. “The JIE is the
next evolution of our information technology infrastructure,
and there are unique challenges with a state-of-the-art system
both in terms of bandwidth and sensor integration.
“One of the things we need to be cognizant of is ensuring
that our development of infrastructure and eventual next-
generation information technology needs to be conducive of
a high-sensor-specific platform,” he continues. “I’m not sure
that we’re there now, but we certainly have to be.”
The Air Force is developing a data management strategy
for the F- 35’s ISR information. The volume of ISR data cur-
rently flowing across Air Force
networks “is beyond our capability
to process,” Gen. Bender allows.
So, the F- 35 probably will provide
raw data to the network early in
its deployment, but over time data
may be fused to some extent.
The constantly changing defense
environment, coupled with rapid
technology evolution, place the
Air Force at a disadvantage when
it tries to operate with a methodical “1947 corporate process,” Gen.
Bender states. Because the process
is unresponsive to the existing
environment, the result is systems
such as the JIE, which is not a program of record with formal funding. “We need to do a better job
of treating information technology … as a cost of doing business—pay yourself first,” he declares.
The overarching budget environment, with its budget
controls looming in the background, hinders planning and
programming, the general says. These numbers are too low
for Air Force C4ISR requirements, he says. “There are more
requirements than we have budget authority, so all choices
are tough at this point.”
His short-term budget concerns include the joint regional
security stacks and the foundational work needed to
advance the JIE and its joint single security architecture.
Lacking a program of record, these efforts are unfunded
the information technology infrastructure to the future Joint
Information Environment (JIE). This process will take the
infrastructure from an Air Force architecture to a joint single-
security architecture. This is important both from a mis-
sion perspective—it is the way the Air Force will fight in the
future—and from an efficiency perspective, he offers.
The second priority is the transformation of the Air Force
work force relative to the JIE. A number of ongoing initiatives
involve the standup and development of cyber mission forces,
and these are connected to the JIE transition. The general says
the JIE, as it is conceived, would allow the Air Force to repurpose individuals assigned to the commodity side of cyber, such
as operating email servers.
For example, the legacy mission of a communications
squadron largely has been consolidated and centralized
through the 24th Air Force. Some of the roles airmen now
serve can be replaced through cloud technologies or data center consolidation using commercial capabilities. Gen. Bender
suggests that some of these airmen could transition from information technology support to missions that involve defending
the networks and other cyber operations, including advising
commanders on cybervulnerabilities.
Two U.S. Air Force space and cyber
airmen work in the Global Strategic
Warning and Space Surveillance
Systems Center at Cheyenne Mountain
Air Force Station, Colorado. The Air
Force aims to change the nature of
its cyber work force as it transitions
deeper into the information age.
Lt. Gen. William J. Bender,
USAF, is the Air Force chief
information officer/A- 6.