Gen. William Shelton (Air Force)
Demand for airmen with cyber skills will grow to 1,500 in the coming years, up from earlier projections of 1,000, the Air Force’s head of Air Force Space Command said Tuesday.
“I’m being a little fuzzy on the numbers because the numbers are really being finalized, but ... when I say 1,500, we’re not sure where exactly it’s going to settle, but it’s gone up from where we initially thought it was going to be,” said Gen. William Shelton, at a Capitol Hill breakfast.
Space Command announced earlier this year they would be standing up additional cyber mission teams between 2014 and 2016 in support of U.S. Cyber Command.
“I think the future is very bright in space and cyber ... there are challenges in budgets, there are challenges in threats, but in every strategic review that I’ve seen, space and cyber are mentioned prominently as things we have to fund and things we have to protect,” Shelton said.
He explained that regardless of budget setbacks, “[carving] those people out somewhere from within the Air Force structure, and [funding] those civilian billets” remains a high priority within the department.
Another priority Shelton focused on was the Air Force Network, or AFNet. AFNet — which had a relaxed December 2012 deadline — is the breakdown of hundreds of local base IT networks consolidated into one enterprise network. The goal of this project is to collapse all individual or stand-alone Air Force, Air Force Reserve, and Air National Guard networks into a central Air Force Network.
“That’s our number one cyber priority, is getting collapsed down to that single network,” Shelton said.
“The reason we’re doing that is, there are now just 16 touch points to the ‘external world’ — the Internet — within the Air Force. That’s [going to be] much easier to defend, much more consolidated from a command and control perspective, it also allows us more flexibility ... much more ‘defendability’ of our networks, and it’s gonna be great once we get it completed this next year.”
Shelton said the Air Force is still “going through the dialogue” with senior leadership in the Air Force on current and future cyber projects.
“There’s no question that we’re going to support what USCYBERCOM is looking for in terms of these national missions,” he said.
“In terms of what the Air Force does and how we manage career fields, how we organize ourselves, we’re not quite there yet.”