The Cyber Edge: Posturing the US Air Force for the Information Age

The Mitchell Institute for Aerospace Studies is pleased to release the fifteenth entry in its Mitchell Forum paper series, The Cyber Edge: Posturing the US Air Force for the Information Age, by Lt Gen William Bender, USAF (Ret.).

Bender, who served as the US Air Force’s chief information officer from 2014 until his retirement this August, writes that the Air Force is undoubtedly the world’s greatest industrial age air arm, but technological advances are driving change that is outpacing the ability of the US military services to organize and adapt, and the pace of these advances is accelerating.

In his paper, Bender examines the challenges and foundational changes necessary for the US to remain the world’s greatest Air Force in the information age. The service should move to increase its focus on information mission assurance, resiliency, and risk mitigation, rather than merely keeping its various information technology systems (IT) “compliant” with patches and checks. The service must also move to build a cyberspace force focused on maneuver in cyberspace domain and less focused on IT procurement and maintenance activities, he notes, and the services should strive to use data from across the cyber enterprise to improve the Air Force’s efficiency and effectiveness. The Air Force, he argues, has to fully embrace cyberspace as an operational domain, and notes that “operations in, through, and from cyberspace represent the current focal point of asymmetric combat advantage.” The US must continue to ensure its dominance in the cyberspace domain, as well as the air and space domains. However, to achieve this dominance “will require making changes that will challenge the Air Force as an institution and its culture,” he argues.

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