Following a significant merger and reorganization of its intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance and cyber enterprises, Air Force leaders are turning their attention to how these functions can work more closely together.
“We’re maturing this organization, moving past merging and focusing on integration,” Lt. Gen. Mary O’Brien, deputy chief of staff for intelligence, surveillance, reconnaissance and cyber effects operations, said during a Joint Service Academy Cybersecurity Conference webinar June 11. “We find that our intelligence and cyber roles are focused increasingly interdependent and interconnected.”
The Air Force’s new information warfare command will open an operations center in March as part of a broader effort to better integrate the service’s information-related capabilities.
Within the last 18 months, the Air Force reconfigured its intelligence shop, formerly known as the deputy chief of staff for intelligence, surveillance, reconnaissance, and added cyber effects operations. That change was followed by the merger of two numbered Air Forces – 24th Air Force and 25th Air Force – to create 16th Air Force last fall, the service’s first information warfare entity.
The Air Force released its cyber flight plan, aimed at guiding the service in the cyber realm for the next decade.
Officials have said in this new setup the deputy chief of staff handles the workforce, concepts, training, platforms, tools and integration. This is done so operators at 16th Air Force have the guidance they need.
O’Brien added that the Air Force is now working at integrating the 2018 ISR flight plan and the 2019 cyber warfare flight plan. Each sought to chart a path for how the Air Force will fight in each respective area into the next decade as part of a great power competition.
The ISR flight plan examined transforming the enterprise to meet future threats as opposed to modernization. The cyber flight guided funding, resourcing, training and capabilities for Air Force cyber offices.
O’Brien also said integration related to network defense has proven critical with the increased telework during the pandemic.
Intelligence and cyber experts are “identifying the threats and they’re posturing to defend against them,” she said. “This was not always the case.”