USA — Air Force School Focuses on Cybersecurity

WASHINGTON, Oct. 29, 2010 — “The wars of the future will be fought in the cyber domain” sounds like a bad movie tagline from 20 years ago, but it’s becom­ing truer by the day, and the Air Force is ready­ing troops for that bat­tle.

Dur­ing an Oct. 27 “DOD Live” blog­gers round­table, Air Force Brig. Gen. Wal­ter D. Givhan, com­man­dant of the Air Force Insti­tute of Tech­nol­o­gy at Wright-Pat­ter­son Air Force Base, Ohio, dis­cussed the impor­tance of cyber­se­cu­ri­ty and the newest class of stu­dents grad­u­at­ing from the AFIT Cen­ter for Cyber­space Research.

AFIT itself has been in exis­tence since 1919, research­ing and expand­ing the tech­nol­o­gy avail­able to the U.S. mil­i­tary, begin­ning with flight.

“Even at that time, there was a new tech­nol­o­gy — flight, the abil­i­ty to fly,” Givhan said. “Part of what had to be core to us in deal­ing with this new tech­nol­o­gy was edu­ca­tion — edu­ca­tion and research — and that we couldn’t just depend upon oth­ers, but it had to be part of what we were doing, direct­ly con­nect­ed to us.”

Now, Givhan said, AFIT has added grad­u­ate-lev­el cyber­se­cu­ri­ty edu­ca­tion and research to its aca­d­e­m­ic offer­ings. Some train­ing and research has been going on already, since the advent of com­put­er net­work­ing on a large scale, but now AFIT offers master’s degrees and doc­tor­ates in cyber fields.

“What we are doing is tru­ly con­tin­u­ing edu­ca­tion — it’s not train­ing,” he said. “We’re edu­cat­ing [stu­dents] on the capa­bil­i­ties, with a lit­tle bit of hands-on work as well on par­tic­u­lar tech­nol­o­gy and capa­bil­i­ties with­in that tech­nol­o­gy. But it’s not like we’re giv­ing them a spe­cif­ic cyber­weapon and teach­ing them how to fire or use that spe­cif­ic cyber­weapon.”

The two main cours­es, Cyber 200 and Cyber 300, give stu­dents two slight­ly dif­fer­ent looks at cyber oper­a­tions, but cov­er the same main top­ics: the tech­nol­o­gy, the pol­i­cy, the doc­trine and the law as they relate to the cyber domain.

Cyber 200 is intend­ed for field grade offi­cers and some non­com­mis­sioned offi­cers with six to eight years of ser­vice and some expe­ri­ence in the cyber domain. In the three-week course, Givhan said, stu­dents focus on tac­ti­cal and oper­a­tional issues rel­e­vant to what they may face in their line of work.

The more advanced two-week 300 course, designed for high­er-rank­ing offi­cers with 12 or more years of total ser­vice with at least six of those years work­ing with cyber issues, focus­es on broad­er con­cepts, the gen­er­al said.

“These are the folks who are actu­al­ly going to be help­ing make this hap­pen in terms of what the joint force com­man­der needs and how to inte­grate our cyber capa­bil­i­ties into his plan and to accom­plish his objec­tives,” Givhan said.

The first class of Cyber 200 and Cyber 300 stu­dents grad­u­at­ed yes­ter­day.

The ven­ture is excit­ing, Givhan said, because it involves new tech­nol­o­gy. They’re test­ing lim­its, he added, rather than work­ing with­in “safe” para­me­ters. Thanks to the growth of com­put­er net­work­ing jobs in the pri­vate sec­tor, he not­ed, the Air Force Reserve and Air Nation­al Guard can be involved close­ly as well.

“They’re actu­al­ly involved in this on the out­side, in civil­ian jobs hav­ing to do with cyber,” he said.

The field’s growth in the pri­vate sec­tor also helps to bring in recruits who have worked for civil­ian com­pa­nies in net­work admin­is­tra­tion or secu­ri­ty. AFIT has begun some pro­grams for ROTC cadets, Givhan said, adding that he hopes those will expand as peo­ple learn more about the impor­tance of cyber­se­cu­ri­ty and as the Air Force can teach more about it.

“This is a con­ver­sa­tion. … This is not a one-way sort of deliv­er­ing lec­tures and things, and peo­ple are just soak­ing it up,” the gen­er­al said. “This is all so new and excit­ing and rapid­ly chang­ing.

“We depend upon the par­tic­i­pa­tion of every­one who’s part of the class and the instruc­tors,” he con­tin­ued, “and we all learn from each oth­er in this. And it’s chang­ing so fast that the iter­a­tive process that we use to rein­force what we’re doing … is going to change every time we give it.”

U.S. Depart­ment of Defense
Office of the Assis­tant Sec­re­tary of Defense (Pub­lic Affairs)

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