By Peter A. Buxbaum
Special to GCN
As cyberwarfare grows in importance, the Air Forces new Cyber Command
could become a magnet for funding, resources and capabilities.
The Air Force announced in November it would create the Cyber Command,
to be headquartered at the 8th Air Force at Barksdale Air Force Base,
La., and named Lt. Gen. Robert Elder the new organizations first chief.
According to Air Force budget documents released Feb. 5, the command
will formally begin operations in May and be fully operational by
The Cyber Command plans to move beyond the idea of cyberspace as network
operations, information operations or use of the Internet as an enabler
for military operations in physical domains, Elder said.
The Air Force now recognizes that cyberspace ops is a potential center
of gravity for the United States and, much like air and space
superiority, cyberspace superiority is a prerequisite for effective
operations in all warfighting domains, Elder said.
The Cyber Command also will work closely with other government agencies
in support of the Joint Task Force-Global Network Operations, part of
the U.S. Strategic Command, he said.
The just-released fiscal 2008 budget proposal doesnt provide many clues
to how much funding the new command will receive.
Budget documents are notoriously difficult to decipher, but, she pointed
out, there is an increase of $300 million proposed for communications,
some of which could be spent on cyberactivities.
In the long term, experts believe, the Cyber Command is designed to
build capabilities for cyberactivities that could extend well beyond the
It is important in terms of funding because it is a dedicated
organization engaged in a major activity, said Phil Finnegan, an analyst
at Teal Group Corp., a defense consulting firm in Fairfax, Va. Having
such a focused organization will definitely improve capabilities over
the long term. Its less likely to be shifted aside as a lower priority.
The Cyber Command clearly provides a focal point for dollars, agreed
retired Lt. Gen. Lansford E. Trapp Jr., now vice president of the Air
Force sector at Burdeshaw Associates, a defense consultancy in Bethesda,
But Mackenzie Eaglen, a senior policy analyst at the Heritage
Foundation, cautioned that, in an era of budgetary constraints, it is an
open question how the Cyber Command will compete for resources.
Potential rivals for available funding could include the administrations
missile defense initiative, she said.
Organizationally, the Cyber Command is a work in progress, Trapp said.
The Air Force is going through the evolutionary process of developing
[the 8th Air Force] into one of the task force components of the U.S.
Strategic Command. In my opinion, the Air Force will devote resources to
it and stand it up as a capability to be made available to combatant
Those capabilities are likely to be threefold, according to Peter Swire,
a law professor at Ohio State University and a senior fellow at the
Center for American Progress in Washington.
The first involves defending cybersystems and preventing an enemy from
disrupting communications. The second involves gathering intelligence on
adversaries cyberactivities. The third and most controversial aspect of
cyberwarfare contemplates the possibility of U.S. forces taking the
offensive by conducting hacking attacks against enemy systems.
It is unclear whether offensive cyberoperations are part of the U.S.
arsenal, but Swire believes that research, at least, is going forward.
Offensive cyberoperations could entangle the military in a legal snare,
according to Swire. Some of the activities could violate the Geneva
Conventions, he said, because actors usually hide their identities.
The successful concentration of funding and capabilities in the Cyber
Command also could promote that unit as the center for Defense-wide
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