NEWS | Aug. 19, 2009

Air Force Organizes Cyberspace Units Under One Command

By Army Sgt. 1st Class Michael J. Carden DefenseLink

Air Force Space Command activated a new unit yesterday to better organize space and cyberspace capabilities and to keep pace with the rapid changes in information technology, the Space Command's top military officer said.

The 24th Air Force, activated at a ceremony at Lackland Air Force Base, Texas, provides the Air Force with one operational command for the entire tactical space and cyberspace community. It will allow space and cyberspace capabilities to be more accessible to military ground commanders and more effectively resourced, Air Force Gen. C. Robert Kehler said yesterday in roundtable interview with military reporters.

Kehler called the activation "the beginning of what will be a deliberate and focused effort to develop and evolve cyberspace forces and capabilities. "

"[Air Force Space Command] is committed to organizing and equipping the 24th Air Force so it can be a premiere organization dedicated to supporting combatant commanders," he added.

The new command consolidates already existing units under one command and improves the way capabilities such as satellite-controlled unmanned aerial systems and GPS technology are resourced. Those units also will be able to adapt easier to mission requirements by centralizing their efforts to meet ground commanders' needs, Kehler said.

"We already have units that conduct cyberspace operational missions," the general explained. "That's not new. What's new is that we've put them all under one [command]. The mission will continue that we have today to defend and operate the network and conduct our other operations. "

Space and cyberspace assets are described by three characteristics: access, persistence and awareness. The cyberspace domain links deployed military forces with each other as well as with higher headquarters, giving them immediate access to information and capabilities around the world, he said.

Cyberspace and space capabilities also provide commanders with enduring coverage and strategic views of their environment. The capability allows officials to determine where capabilities would be the most effective. Combining and consolidating capabilities brings "game-changing effects" to the military, Kehler said.

"[The new command] provides synergy across these various mission areas, and it allows us to begin to look to the future," he said. "We now begin to think differently about requirements, acquisition and resourcing. All of those are very important for us to put in place as good foundations as we try to improve our agility to deal with what we see coming our way. "

The command's initial concern is to ensure protection of its space and cyber networks, Kehler said. Today's military is well-versed in information technology and relies heavily on dependable cyber and space capabilities. The general declined to specify exact capabilities, but said safeguarding them against potential threats is the command's top priority for now.

"Virtually everything we do in the Air Force anymore is related to network activity in some fashion," he said. "It's about mission assurance, so protecting the networks for mission assurance is No. 1. "

Air Force Maj. Gen. Dick Webber is in charge of the new command. The command is made up of the 688th, 67th and 689th Information Operations Wings. The 689th is also a new command created from realigning the 3rd and 5th Combat Communication Groups.

Webber said the new command will have everything it needs to operate and provide support in fixed and deployed environments.