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Air Force boosts cyber mission capabilities

May. 29, 2013 - 06:00AM   |  
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The Pentagon has spent hundreds of millions of dollars on building cyber capabilities, an effort that has gained urgency as China, Russia, North Korea and other nations have been using cyberspace to attack adversaries or steal secrets.

And while other areas of the Defense Department’s budget are targeted for cutbacks, the military is increasing its budget for cyberwarfare and expanding offensive capabilities, making cyber careers among the hottest in the Air Force.

Here’s what you need to know:

1. New jobs. The Air Force expects to add more than 1,000 cyber jobs between 2014 and 2016, although the final number has not been approved, said Gen. William Shelton, commander, Air Force Space Command, in an email to Air Force Times. About 80 percent will be airmen and the rest civilian.

2. The teams. Each of the services has a cyber force that falls under U.S. Cyber Command, which plans to field 100 teams by 2016, divided into three categories: defending military networks, damaging the capabilities of enemy networks and helping to defend the nation’s infrastructure.

“The Joint Staff, U.S. Cyber Command and the services are currently developing an implementation plan to include sourcing and training this new cyber workforce,” Shelton said.

3. On offense. Next year, the Air Force plans to spend $14 million to research and develop offensive cyber capabilities, budget documents show, while it plans to devote about $5.8 million to research for cyber defense. The Air Force has been developing systems designed for the “exfiltration of information while operating within adversary information systems,” according to budget documents. The Air Force declined to release details on the program, saying it was classified.

Overall, the Defense Department plans to increase its cyber operations budget to $4.7 billion, up from $3.9 billion this year. Much of that additional money is going into the development of offensive capabilities, usually referred to as computer network attacks, according to budget documents.

4. Cyber weapons designated. To make sure the Air Force can secure the money it needs for its cyber mission, the service designated six capabilities as weapons, underscoring the importance of making them available to combatant commanders, Shelton said. The weapons are: cyberspace defense, cyberspace defense analysis, cyberspace vulnerability assessment/hunter, cyberspace command and control mission system, cybersecurity and control system, and intranet control.

5. Secret rules. The Pentagon is nearing completion of a revised set of “rules of engagement” that will help field commanders determine how and when to use the cyber capabilities. The rules will be kept secret.

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