Air Force Fine Tunes Its Cyber Policy

Stephanie Meloni_65x85cybersecurity_092816By Stephanie Meloni, Consultant

Two main themes emerged at the recent Air Force Information Technology and Cyberpower Conference (AFITC) that will affect future Air Force cyber activities: increased automation and further integration of cyber across all warfighting domains.

Air Force senior leaders gathered at AFITC in Alabama to discuss their vision for the future of cyber operations across the organization as the service evolves its cyber practices and discovers vulnerabilities in networks and weapon systems.

When it comes to cyber defense and response, decisions will need to be made in a matter of minutes—not hours or days. That means there will be fewer people actually making decisions after a cyber-attack. Those decision makers will depend on more systems and tools than can automate their processes.

The Air Force will look for tools that can pull together information to monitor cyber data across different platforms. Information sharing and data integration tools will be needed to bring together data for improved decision making. The Air Force is also evaluating how machine learning can further automate analytics and help to predict mission outcomes.

Also, watch for cyber to be increasingly integrated into core missions. Cyberspace Squadron Next is an effort underway that aims to incorporate more cyber personnel into Communications Squadrons.

The Air Force has also stood up a new Chief Information Security Officer (CISO) organization, which evolved from its Task Force Cyber Secure. The CISO will be more operationally focused, a shift from the past when there was more of a policy focus. Cyber is not one of the Air Force’s core missions but it touches nearly all operations. This office is tasked with bringing those elements together and setting enterprise-wide goals for core Air Force missions.

Another challenge is the number of Air Force offices that have more cyber tools than they’re currently using. This means they may have tools that can help solve cyber problems and mitigate threats, but personnel either aren’t properly trained to use these tools or they don’t have the bandwidth to effectively integrate them into their operations.

Technology companies need to make this part of their messaging when meeting with current and prospective Air Force cyber customers. The service is overrun with tools, so tech vendors need to show how their solution can easily fit into and complement their current capabilities with minimal training. This points back to a need for moving personnel off of performing IT tasks and automating wherever possible.

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