Gen. William Shelton, seen speaking last year, said about 70 to 80 percent of the workers will be civilians. (Michael J. Pausic / Air Force)
The Air Force plans to ramp up its cyber personnel in the face of steep budget cuts, the top Air Force cyber and space officer said.
Gen. William Shelton, commander of Air Force Space Command, said Thursday that the service will look to add 1,000 more workers to 24th Air Force in fiscal 2014. About 70 to 80 percent of the workers will be civilians, Shelton said.
The push for more funding and people will compete with a new civilian hiring freeze announced Jan. 14, and a directive to all major commands to prepare for deep spending cuts.
"This is the worst I have ever seen," Shelton told reporters. "The pressures that are on all of us to try and make decisions without good information. This is the national security of the nation we're talking about here."
The Defense Department faces millions of attacks every day in the online domain, Shelton said. Defense officials are working on rules of engagement in the cyber world, he said.
Trying to grow in a time of budget downsizing will be difficult, Shelton said, but the Air Force's cyber and space assets need to be a top priority.
"This is foundational capability," Shelton said. "[Cyber and space] give us the capability to fight globally. … The challenge is to protect that level of service."
About 6,000 people work under 24th Air Force, and the new hiring means that number will jump by 15 percent. Specific direction on the hiring process has not been given yet, Shelton said, and it will be a part of the service's fiscal 2014 budget proposal.
Since Chief of Staff Gen. Mark Welsh took charge last summer, the Air Force has been working to better understand cyberwarfare and improve its communication with the other services and combatant commanders. In November, the Air Force's four-star generals met to discuss cyber issues and visited the National Security Agency to better understand current cyber operations and risks.