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Flying and Fighting in Cyberspace

Sebastian M. Convertino
2007, 91 pages
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Cost: $0, AU Press Code: MP-40

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On 5 December 2005, the Air Force expanded its mission to include a new domain of war fighting: “to fly and fight in Air, Space, and Cyberspace.” When the Air Force claimed cyberspace as part of its mission, it not only acknowledged the changing terrain of conflict and a shift in tactics of would-be adversaries but also surprised many in uniform who wondered what the move implied. By changing its mission statement, the Air Force sparked considerable debate on the extent to which cyberspace would dominate roles, missions, and the budget. To organize for this task, the Air Force established a new operational command for cyberspace on 6 September 2006, designating Eighth Air Force as the new Cyber Command.

The Air Force has determined that cyberspace is fundamental to every aspect of war fighting at all levels of operations, and it is seriously engaged in developing cyber capabilities. However, the study’s authors argue that the Air Force needs to clearly articulate what Airmen do in cyberspace and how they do it as war fighters. Furthermore, the long lead time to formalize and standardize cyberspace operating concepts and definitions recognizes the complexity and uniqueness of cyberspace as a military operational domain. It also has resulted in a lack of conceptual and doctrinal clarity and consensus on the ends, ways, and means of operating in cyberspace, as well as an unfocused foundation upon which to plan strategy, build and organize forces, and find resources. The study contends that before the Air Force can lead in cyberspace, it must first understand cyber conditions, threats, and vulnerabilities, and clearly define how and where it can contribute to national cyberspace strategy. Furthermore, the Air Force must work toward consensus within the defense community on standardizing cyberspace definitions, doctrine, and operating concepts. Until these issues are fully addressed, the authors contend that the ability of the Air Force to develop, deliver, and employ sovereign and advantageous cyber operations will remain encumbered.

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