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AF launches cyberspace task force

by Senior Master Sgt. Anne Proctor
Air Force Print News

4/6/2006 - WASHINGTON -- Cyberspace. The word generally conjures up images of computers, wires, connections and hardware. But, for the Air Force, cyberspace is far more than that.

“Cyberspace is a domain where the Air Force conducts operations," said Dr. Lani Kass, director of the Air Force Cyberspace Task Force.

It is the primary medium where the service does its command, control, communications, intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance. 

“It’s where we provide reach, speed, distance, stealth, and precision in air, space and cyberspace across natural and man-made boundaries," she said.  "It is far more than the components that make it. The content, context and cognition matter greatly."

It matters so much that the cyberspace domain has been added to the Air Force mission statement. The Air Force is the only service to do so, and has stood up a task force to harness capabilities and take stock of gaps and vulnerabilities. The president set forth his own policy of securing cyberspace in 2003 and the domain was added to the National Military Strategy in 2004.

The Air Force mission in cyberspace is no different than the domains of air and space, said Dr. Kass, a former professor of strategy at the National War College. She uses the analogy of defensive counter air operations to describe the mission, “In cyberspace we have to be able to give commanders the ability to conduct offensive, defensive and exploitation operations.

“Anything we can create to exploit and control in cyberspace can be done to us and done cheaper and faster,” Dr. Kass said.  

And there’s no constraint of distance, time, or space and no social and political boundaries. The fact that the country is so dependent on cyberspace makes it vulnerable, she said.

Another part of the task force’s mission is to increase awareness about cyberspace because most people don’t understand it or feel there is any threat. 

“It is something we take for granted every day. Technology is evolving exponentially and this is the only warfighting domain which we have peer competitors and we have to stay ahead of them,” she said.

An adversary can easily get into cyberspace, just like anyone can go on the Internet, and can do it anonymously. 

“They can not only use cyberspace in new, asymmetrical ways, but can actually make it fit their needs." Dr. Kass said.  "There’s low entry cost, high impact, and little chance of attribution. Cyberspace’s edge for an enemy is they can strike from a distance and at lightening speed -- at the stroke of a key board.”