US Air Force Grounds Cyber Defense Unit

Top United States Air Force officials announced Thursday they are considering putting the military branch’s Cyber Command program on hold.

The Secretary and Chief of Staff of the Air Force have considered delaying current activity and development for the Air Force Cyber Command (AFCC) in order to conduct a comprehensive assessment of the AFCC’s mission and to synchronize that mission with other key Air Force initiatives, they said.

The unit, located at the Barksdale Air Force Base in Louisiana, was planned to “secure our nation by employing world-class cyberspace capabilities to control cyberspace, create integrated global effects, and deliver sovereign options,” according the the vision statement found on its Web site.

News of the program’s possible suspension has arisen at the same time as high-profile cyber attacks have been leveled against the nation of Georgia during its conflict with Russia, putting the issue of national IT security in the spotlight.

Mission: Redundant

The actual goals of the Cyber Command Project have never been particularly clear, according to John Pike, director of GlobalSecurity.org.

“I was never able to develop a coherent explanation for [the] thing as to how it related to everything else that was going on,” he told TechNewsWorld. “Some of the descriptions that the Air Force provided made no sense.”

The U.S. Air Force’s newly installed leaders, who took over after the military branch revealed two incidents involving the nation’s nuclear missiles, probably took a look at plans for the 8,000-troop-strong unit and decided it did not make sense, Pike said.

“I assume that that is what happened. In the sense that they were talking about this thing doing offensive cyber attacks, the NSA [National Security Agency] already does that. They were talking about defending the domestic information infrastructure, well, the Commerce Department and FBI have been doing that for 15 years,” he explained.

In addition, according to Pike, the Air Force had no legislative mandate from Congress to conduct its programs.

“Cyber Command was completely redundant. We have boatloads of [protection in cyberspace], two boatloads of it. Everything they were talking about doing was being done by someone else,” Pike pointed out.

The Air Force will likely take a look at the various tasks Cyber Command was involved in and sort them out to the departments in which they properly belong, he said.

Other Systems

Andrew Jaquith, a Yankee Group analyst, concurred with Pike’s assessment.

“I think this is about eliminating redundancy between armed forces branches more than anything else. The Navy has long had a well-regarded cyber warfare group. Also, the intelligence services, in particular the NSA, have always excelled here. I am sure they are being put to good use both in Georgia and in China for the Olympics,” he told TechNewsWorld.

“Putting this another way: When you’ve got a garage with a Ferrari and a Porsche in it, do you really need a Corvette to go with it?” Jaquith concluded.

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