The 50-State Strategy to Sell Cyber Command

Air Force relies on tried-and-true budget politics to gain support for new command.

One way to secure the Hill's backing -- and bucks -- for any new program is to spread it over as many states and congressional districts as possible. The new Air Force Cyber Command takes this approach to its ultimate limit: The service plans a cyber unit in every state, according to a briefing given in April by Maj. Gen. William Lord, the Cyber Command chief. The briefing was sent to me by a source who chooses to remain anonymous.

The very crowded slide of the 50 states that Lord presented at the Scope Warrior Spring Symposium, a gathering of top Air Force communications and information technology folks, looks like a bit of cyber-rebranding of the service's existing IT functions.

The majority of the sites, which will come under the Cyber Command umbrella, are designated as so-called network operations, a fancy way to describe the circuits and connections that already exist to serve those bases. While this is just putting a new name on old operations, it helps to include all 50 states in the count, which then bolsters the sales job.

The real centers of power, in what Lord called in his slides "AF Distributed Cyber Enterprise," are eight bases located in the East, Midwest and South:

Networked Computer Operations:

Bolling Air Force Base, Washington

Theater Operations Integration:

Langley Air Force Base, Va.

Information Systems:

Rome Laboratory, N.Y.

Cyber Operations Integration:

Barksdale Air Force, La.

Information Operations:

Lackland Air Force Base, Texas

Space Operations Integration:

Peterson Air Force Base, Colo.

Global Operations Integration:

Offutt Air Force Base, Neb.

Global Networks:

Scott Air Force Base, Ill.

Then there's the command's new headquarters, which has sparked a sweepstakes that at least 18 states have entered. The Air Force plans to announce in September 2009 its decision on where to locate the headquarters.

I guess the consolation prize will be one of the smaller, rebranded cyber units the command has decided to sprinkle around the country.

It's About Network Attack

During the past year, the Air Force has made it clear that the primary focus of the new Cyber Command will be the ability to attack an enemy's networks, and Lord's presentation reinforces this point.

In a slide under the heading of "Global Power," network and electronic attack capabilities take precedence over cyber deterrence. Lord emphasized that the command's mission is to "provide robust, survivable access to cyberspace, with offensive and defensive capabilities."

I'm hopeful that the Cyber Command can work out a way to conduct these attack missions without knocking out the 6 million Web pages linked to Paris Hilton and the 2 million or so Web pages dedicated to tracking the ups and downs of Britney Spears.

New Jobs, New Slogan, New Badge

It's hard to have a cyber command without cyber warriors. To that end, Lord disclosed that the Air Force plans to develop a cyber career field for officer, enlisted and civilian personnel that will subsume venerable specialties in the communications and electronics field under the new cyber brand.

Lord also floated what could be a new slogan for the Cyber Command: "Transforming Warfare . . . Byte By Byte." I love it. It's punchy, to the point and better than a mission statement.

Courtesy of Maj. Gen. Bill Lord

But you can't set up a new command without a new badge, and Lord unveiled the cyber operator badge, which has what looks like four satellite orbits spaced evenly around the globe on what is the original Air Force badge.

The RFID CAC Card Solution?

I've picked up strong signals that the folks at the Army's Product Manager Joint-Automatic Identification Technology group, who provide the gadgets and gizmos to support the radio frequency identification tracking of Defense Department supplies globally, have selected a new product suite to support the use of the Common Access Card on handheld RFID and bar code readers.

The new PM J-AIT product suite, I've learned, consists of an Intermec CK61G handheld computer and reader integrated with a short range Bluetooth CAC card reader from Apriva and a software encryption client from Juniper Networks to support communications over Wi-Fi networks. This seems to sideline Motorola, which had developed a similar system using its handheld computer along with the Apriva Bluetooth reader and the Juniper client, which the Army Materiel Command tested in April.

PM J-AIT added the CAC reader to its contract in April, but I understand that the entire lash-up requires testing and certification by NSA, which may or may not occur in my lifetime.

PACFLT Goes Live on WGS

John Donaldson, the able public affairs officer at Naval Network Warfare Command, let me know that the Pacific Fleet went live on June 4 on the first Boeing-built wideband global system satellite, which was launched in October 2007.

Capt. Kevin Johnson, the operations chief at Naval Network Warfare Command, said the new satellite, which can transmit data between 2.4 and 3.6 gigabits per second, is a "tremendous first step in improving communications, both afloat and ashore" and will aid both critical tactical as well as routine communications.

It's good to recognize a $1.8 billion program that works -- even if it is a tad late by three years.