David Fulghum of Aviation Week, on the continuing development of cyber-weapons:
In a few years, the U.S. Army, Navy and Marine Corps expect to be delivering airborne electronic fires and cyber-attacks for ground troops with a fusion of radio battalions, EA-6B Prowlers, EA-18G Growlers and a range of UAVs.
Who actually commands and controls the technology operationally and strategically remains an open question. The uncertainty was illustrated by the formation of Air Force Cyber Command, followed by its months-long pause in bureaucratic limbo and, finally, its re-designation as a numbered air force under U.S. Strategic Command. The institutional tangle was compounded because the services have still not produced a unified plan for electronic warfare and attack. It also contributed to two failures to get the Air Force back into electronic attack with an EB-52 long-range (80-100-naut.-mi.) standoff electronic attack aircraft. The design included the capability to electronically map and attack enemy networks.
"It's not about putting iron on targets anymore; it's about fighting the networks," says a U.S. EW specialist and senior technology officer. "But there is the difficulty that no one has owned cyberwarfare in the past. Now with the massive [cyber] attacks on Estonia and Georgia, it's a real threat and nobody has the charter [to combat it]."
"The organizations and lines of responsibility are still being worked," agrees Lt. Gen. Dave Deptula, the Air Force's deputy chief of staff for intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (ISR). "Let me be honest, we're still at the stage of understanding what cyber is. Cyber-operations broach everything from the tactical to the operational to the strategic. How it is used determines what it is.
As Mr. Fulghum notes, emerging cyber and electronic attack (EA) technologies make it difficult to distinguish between cyber-warfare, EA, intelligence gathering and other disciplines. Beyond that, there's the matter of trying to effectively integrate those concepts--and capabilities--into something called hybrid warfare.
Read the whole thing. The article also discusses existing "holes" in the development effort, including the lack of a cyber "range," allowing attacks to be planned and practiced, without affecting existing IT networks--or tipping our hand to potential adversaries. DARPA recently awarded $25 million in start-up money for the range project.
However, there are a couple of "missing" elements in the story. First, the Air Force's organizational issues are, in part, a reflection of turf and budget battles in the Pentagon. The other services (and Defense Secretary Robert Gates) saw the USAF's proposal for a new cyber-command as little more than a mission--and resource grab--in an era of tightening DoD budgets. So instead, the cyber-command was downsized to a numbered Air Force, under USAF Space Command.
It's also worth noting that the "compromise" command relationship (a numbered Air Force under U.S. Strategic Command) is somewhat similar to existing arrangements for information warfare. Among his other duties, the STRATCOM CINC is the U.S. military's executive agent for IO. But execution of that mission is the responsibility of the USAF Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance Agency (AFISRA), located at Lackland AFB, Texas, part of an IO command structure that includes 8th Air Force, STRATCOM's element for global attack. Until recently, AFISRA "owned" most of the assets charged with the cyber-warfare mission.
Not surprisingly, the newly-activated 24th Air Force has "acquired" some of these units for its cyber mission. At the top of the list is the 67th Network Warfare Wing, the service's first dedicated cyber-warfare unit. The wing still falls under 8th Air Force, which (as far as we know) still handles the IO mission for STRATCOM.
Still unanswered is the division of responsibilities between AFSPACE cyber assets, and those supporting STRATCOM tasking. Since that delineation is often difficult to detect, it seems certain that the ISR Agency is also a major player in supporting 24th Air Force, and the Space Command cyber mission.