Odds Are Stacked Against Air Force Cyber Command

The greatest military force in all of history–the United States Air Force–is poised to fail in an attempt to project and protect national interests in the cyberspace domain. Despite its valiant attempt to do the right thing, enemies–foreign and domestic–will not rest until the Air Force fails.

The United States Air Force represents the harvest of the airpower seeds planted by visionaries and tended to by Airmen over the ages. In the first global war of the twentieth-century, armies discovered they could no longer mass without being noticed. Twenty years later, armies and navies alike were not free-to-attack without the freedom-from-attack provided by air superiority. During the global Cold War, Air Force bombers and long-range missiles standing nuclear alert kept the Soviet-bear’s claws contained until other national elements of power could sap its threatening might. Desert Storm showed that modern airpower was unstoppable. Airmen commanded airpower and that was threatening to the sister Services.

In the years that followed, the Air Force’s three sisters did just about everything possible to fight the concept of Airmen having any command over their air assets. Even when centralized command was proven over and over to the be the most efficient way of doing aerospace business, they were against it. The Air Force made many concession to help its Airman-phobic sisters. It even abandoned the long-standing term “aerospace”. But alas, even saying “air and space” wasn’t enough to satisfy the inter-service rivalry.

The competition continues even as the Global War on Terrorism is being fought.

When the Air Force Chief of Staff and the Secretary of the Air Force were recently fired, former Secretary Wynne told Air Force Times that a naval officer, Admiral Donald, had influenced Defense Secretary Gates’ decision. “They [the Navy] just see things differently than we do.”

It was a complex situation, but Wynne’s statement underscores the conflict among the Services. From my experience on the Air Staff, it has been mostly the other three Services against the Air Force.

Since they oppose Airmen commanding air assets, how do you think they will feel about Airmen commanding or even coordinating cyberspace assets?

They are going to hate it.

One solution might be to establish a separate Service to project and protect our national interests in cyberspace. It could be called the Cyberspace Force. With that suggestion, there are probably throngs of entrepreneurial spirits already designing uniforms and badges. But not so fast.

The Defense budget goes in cycles of feast and famine, since the Cold War ended it has mostly been famine. While the national budget continues to grow in leaps and bounds, the defense budget often falls short of requirements. In addition, it is the first place socialist politicians like to loot between their tax-hikes on the American working class. Cutting the barely sufficient pie into more but thinner pieces won’t lessen competition between the Services or increase defense efficiency.

Our laws present a bigger problem than funding. Title 10 of the United States Code and many others are designed to keep the military in check. The same laws that prevent the Army from putting armed guards around Wall Street to stop thieves also prevents military cyber-soldiers from defending Wall Street’s information grid. And repealing those laws could be as dangerous to our freedom-based society than our enemies are.

Cyberspace is just too important to be left to the Defense Department. We need something else. Something higher up. 

What about something like the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA)? Couldn’t a federal cyberspace administration regulate the use of cyberspace and police violators, much the way the FAA does civil aviation? Nope. The problem isn’t just with civil hackers and phishers.

Sovereign nations like China are using cyberspace to digitally disrupt, degrade, and destroy our interests around the globe. They do not operate with the same legal restrictions we place on ourselves. They target us as individuals, businesses, and governments. The FAA doesn’t intercept Bear bombers or police international airspace. Likewise the cyberspace challenge is too much for a mere federal administration.

Would a cooperative measure between the DoD and a federal administration be the way to go? Nope. It would just add another cat to the fur-ball fighting for funds and fame.

It has to go higher.

The President’s Cabinet currently includes the heads of 15 executive departments.

If America really cares about cyberspace, there needs to be one more. The Secretary of the Department of Cyberspace would advise the President on all cyberspace matters in accordance with Article II, Section 2 of the Constitution.

Projecting and protecting American interests in cyberspace would then be somebody’s primary job. Cyberspace shakers and movers would function as an extension of American national policy. If Americans wanted to restrict our cyberspace activities, laws could then be drafted, voted-on, and approved with specific purposes in mind. Then we wouldn’t need lawyers to interpret the existing laws we’ve placed on our military over the last two centuries in order to apply them to cyberspace activities.

And then Airmen, Sailors, Soldiers, and Marines could go back to breaking things and killing people the way they know best.

It just makes sense.

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