The Air Force is moving ahead with work on the cyber command

The Air Force is moving ahead with work on the cyber command (LINK).

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.

Besides the fact they are going to be having a meeting at Maxwell AFB a site of dubious consideration (see other posts in SWC for more on this), the Air Force is standing up this command in a vacuum. We have the NSA, the FBI, the CIA, and a host of other federal agencies and councils that deal with cyber warfare. I’m not suggesting this is a bad idea, but it is a strange idea. I really wish they would drop the word cyber from warfare too.

Besides the obvious overlap and repetition of effort the military is an interesting entity to be attempting the most flexible thinking form of war in repelling a cyber attack. The article refers to suits and ties being more prevalent when Mountain Dew and “Mountain Man Chocolate” would be more appropriate.

Cyber warfare by definition is almost always an asymmetric form of warfare. Cyber warfare draws on all of the thinking of perpetrating and protecting from an insurgent or guerilla form of warfare. The attacker in cyber-warfare uses the enemies strengths and tools to defeat him. The counter insurgent is required to assess the goals and methods of the attacker and close if not disrupt the patterns of attack. Due to the asymmetric nature of this form of warfare doctrinal and normal warfare strategies will fail to stop the insurgent.

In an interesting twist the Westphalian concept of a nation state will come back to haunt those nations when the cyber adversary has the means and will to attack the nation state. The concepts of Westphalian peace specifically set roles for nations that hamper specifying a particular person as an enemy rather than the nation-state sponsor. When there is no nation state sponsor the treaties and agreements fall like a house of cards. (I have a paper pending on this topic).

Cyber warfare as a militarized arm promotes an idea that the nation may be at war (as constitutionally mandated) when instead it is at odds with a variety of assailants some of whom may be totally unaware. Since infrastructures can be taken over and used without the knowledge of the owner (including countries) a huge political issues exists. Here again the concepts of counter insurgency inform us for the future on how to deal with non-state actors operating out of friendly or victimized countries. Diplomacy is a sliding scale of force and persuasion. We have to work with the people who possibly may have harmed us as unwitting dens of insurgent operations.

We as a nation don’t have a good “rules of engagement” in cyber warfare and our understanding of the international relations and climate is severely hampered by our current conflicts. The military does have some good people at the different academies who can inform them on technical aspects of cyber warfare. There are people at the NSA sanction NSF funded Centers of Academic Excellence. Historically though few academics have studies offensive weaponization of cyber space and even fewer understand the military mind set.

It will be interesting to follow the different aspects of this story as it moves forward.

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