Air Force restructures to better tie cyber to core missions

New definitions of information dominance and an internal reorganization seek to align cyber capabilities with strategic goals.

The Air Force has made strides in reorganizing how the service defines and operates its cyber processes, according to Air Force CIO Lt. Gen. Michael Basla.

Over the past year, the service has redefined what information dominance means to the Air Force, Basla said at a Joint Warfighter IT Day conference hosted by AFCEA NOVA. The working definition had yet to be developed when Basla spoke at the same conference last year.

“After lots of discussion across the department, and combined with intense reviews of the Air Force, the Department of Defense and joint publications, my team and I developed a working definition of information dominance,” Basla said. “Information dominance is the operational advantage gained from the ability to collect, control, exploit and defend information to optimize decision-making and maximizing war fighting effectiveness.”

The new definition entails several tenets for the Air Force. The service will look to information dominance as a means to increase competency for its core missions, as well as provide cybersecurity for its systems. Meanwhile, the Air Force will continue to look for innovative IT solutions.

With the mission defined, Basla’s team moved on to developing strategies to use information dominance to support the Air Force’s core missions of air and space superiority, intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance, global mobility, global strike, and command and control.

The Air Force strategy will involve providing resilient and trusted information, strengthening capabilities against threats, and increasing the speed and transparency of cyberspace investments, he said. Educating and motivating the Air Force’s cyber workforce also remains essential to the strategy.

"The bottom line here is Air Force investments on cyberspace capabilities must align with strategic decision-making and we must improve this alignment so that we can free up resources for modernization and further innovation," he said.

In a change from past years, functional leaders within the Air Force have increasingly turned to Basla for information systems support and guidance as budgets continue to shrink and information sharing becomes paramount.

“They recognize that they cannot deliver the kinds of capabilities with the cybersecurity required by themselves anymore,” he said. “They also recognize that they have a tremendous need to share information for asymmetrical advantages, and they recognize that they don’t have the dollars that they had in the past to independently deploy their individual functional systems.”

Basla admited that his staff was not properly organized to provide that support in the past. But the internal reorganization of the office will now provide more integration to support the Air Force’s core missions.

Basla’s office and realignment has been integral in the creation of the Air Force’s cyberspace operations strategy, which is expected to be published in the near future.

The new strategy will define the Air Force’s vision, mission, end states and objectives in cyberspace for the next 10 years, and is expected to drive the Air Force’s investments and organization in the future, he said. In terms of policy, the new strategy will assign responsibilities across the Air Force and provide standardized procedures, and will be continually updated to deal with new cyber threats.