Welcome to Cyberwar Country, USA

Welcome to Cyberwar Country, USA
Welcome to Cyberwar Country, USA 

By Marty Graham

BARKSDALE AIR FORCE BASE, Louisiana -- When a reporter enters the Air 
Force office of William Lord, a smile comes quickly to the two-star 
general's face as he darts from behind his immaculate desk to shake 
hands. Then, as an afterthought, he steps back and shuts his laptop as 
though holstering a sidearm.

Lord, boyish and enthusiastic, is a new kind of Air Force warrior -- the 
provisional chief of the service's first new major command since the 
early 1990s, the Cyber Command. With thousands of posts and enough 
bandwidth to choke a horse, the Cyber Command is dedicated to the 
proposition that the next war will be fought in the electromagnetic 
spectrum, and that computers are military weapons. In a windowless 
building across the base, Lord's cyber warriors are already perched 24 
hours a day before banks of monitors, scanning Air Force networks for 
signs of hostile incursion.

"We have to change the way we think about warriors of the future," Lord 
enthuses, raising his jaw while a B-52 traces the sky outside his 
windows. "So if they can't run three miles with a pack on their backs 
but they can shut down a SCADA system, we need to have a culture where 
they fit in."

But before Lord and his geek warriors can settle in for the wars of the 
future, the general has to survive a battle of a decidedly different 
nature: a political and cultural tug of war over where the Cyber Command 
will set up its permanent headquarters. And that, for Lord and the Air 
Force, is where things get trickier than a Chinese Trojan horse.

With billions of dollars in contracts and millions in local spending on 
the line, 15 military towns from Hampton, Virginia, to Yuba City, 
California, are vying to win the Cyber Command, throwing in offers of 
land, academic and research tie-ins, and, in one case, an $11 million 
building with a moat. At a time when Cold War-era commands laden with 
aging aircraft are shriveling, the nascent Cyber Command is universally 
seen as a future-proof bet for expansion, in an era etched with portents 
of cyberwar.

Russian Hackers and Chinese Cyberspies

The news is everywhere. When Russian hackers were blamed for a wave of 
denial-of-service attacks against Estonian websites last spring, 
President Bush voiced concern that the United States would face the same 
risk. The national intelligence director, Michael McConnell, recently 
claimed a computer attack against a single U.S. bank could cause more 
economic harm than 9/11, and called for more National Security Agency 
surveillance of the internet. A CIA official followed up with a tale 
about cyber attackers causing multi-city power failures overseas. Some 
in the military believe Chinese cyberspies have already penetrated 
unclassified Pentagon computers.

Where buzz flows, money follows, and the investment in info-war comes as 
the Air Force cuts back personnel elsewhere to fund new aircraft: The 
service just finished phasing out 20,000 enlisted men and women, with 
plans to dump 20,000 more by 2011. The effect of military cutbacks on 
the surrounding communities can be devastating. "If you gain or lose a 
unit in a place where the military is already a major employer, it has a 
huge impact," says Chris Erickson, a New Mexico State University 

Unofficial estimates say 10,000 military and ancillary jobs could clump 
around the 500 posts at the Cyber Command's permanent headquarters. The 
governors of California, New Mexico and Louisiana are pitching their 
locales directly to the secretary of the Air Force. In December, 
Louisiana governor Bobby Jindal took advantage of a meeting with 
President Bush on Katrina recovery to lobby for the Cyber Command. A 
dozen congressional delegations have weighed in as well. Lord is feeling 
the heat.

"Oh Lord," the general sighs, "there's congressional pressure."


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