Last week, the Pentagon released a memo throughout Air Force that announcing that the Cyber Command initiative (AFCYBER) was being put on hold. Staffing and budget plans have been halted, delaying the October 1, 2008 stand-up date originally planned. The announcement came the same week as the Georgia/Russia conflict placed a spotlight on cyber warfare. The timing is interesting, but considering the highly visible missteps at the Air Force this year, it's no wonder that newly appointed Air Force Chief of Staff General Schwartz would want to put the brakes on Cyber Command for the moment and take a look under the hood.
The Senate confirmation committee issued some questions for General Schwartz to answer in advance of the hearing. One section was dedicated to AFCYBER. The questions and responses are below:
How do you envision Cyber Command integrating and interacting with the Department and the other services?
Cyber Command, if permanently established, will provide forces, in coordination with our joint partners and the Department, to Combatant Commanders to protect and defend US interests in the cyber domain at home and abroad.
What is your understanding of when a permanent headquarters will be established?
The headquarters will declare Initial Operational Capability by Oct 2008 using distributed locations. The Air Force is studying a list of potential permanent basing locations with an expected final decision in FY 09.
These answers are in line with the standard FAQ responses for AFCYBER, but what is interesting is that General Schwartz threw in "if permanently established," which possibly indicates his perception of continued evaluation of the plan. Considering that the issue was specifically brought up during the Senate confirmation process, it's not surprising that General Schwartz would want to make sure that the initiative was well-planned in order to be well-implemented.
A Government Executive article neatly summarizes many of the "high-profile blunders" that plagued the Air Force this year (including the nuclear weapons mishandling that led to the resignations of Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. T. Michael Moseley and Secretary Michael W. Wynne and the Boeing/Northrop Grumman tanker protest).
The need for a dedicated cyber effort within Air Force becomes greater by the day, so Cyber Command still has a decent shot at moving forward in some iteration. But it makes perfect sense that General Schwartz would want to make sure that a very tight plan is in place so that he doesn't join Moseley and Wynne.