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About the Air Force Cyber College

Context of the Need

The ability to disrupt United States military operations has long been hypothesized as an asymmetric challenge adversaries are likely to pursue. This is now reality as evidenced by the growing quantity and intensity of malicious incidents ranging from espionage to physical effects in, through and by means of cyberspace. The challenge is acute for air and space operations. Air Power’s enduring characteristics of speed, range, and lethality have traditionally required detailed integration and planning. Contemporary operations are designed and planned by increasingly powerful information technology . Moreover, increasingly capable operational technology has been melded with traditional physical implements of airpower such as aircraft and bombs to form integrated cyber-physical weapon and support systems used to execute complex operations.

Our current Air Force cyberspace challenges are two-fold: create and sustain a workforce to meet tomorrow’s challenges, and develop concepts and capabilities to actively engage, counter and mitigate the efforts of our educated adversaries. Creating and sustaining a highly educated cyber workforce will continue to be a challenge, driven in large part by shrinking defense budgets and commitments to our core mission areas. Operations in cyberspace will continue to challenge us with unknowns and rapidly emerging threats of ever-increasing complexity. Cyber excellence must be grounded on superior cyber education and research. Concepts and capabilities must meet the commander’s mission needs and ensure effective operations with an extremely high level of certainty.

Problem Statement

The Air Force and Department of Defense must have leadership and a workforce capable of understanding how cyberspace will and can be used against us, and how we can utilize cyberspace to deliver sovereign options for our national political leaders. Cyberspace options must be advanced, developed, proven, and deployed to our warfighters.

Operational and strategic theory as it applies to cyber and electronic warfare “beyond pipes and wires” is lagging technology. This is causing a significant problem for the United States Air Force and placing missions within the five AF core functions at risk of failure due to cyber disruptions originating in or propagating through the EMS.

The AF Cyber College conducts research to lead in the generation and publication of a sufficiently rigorous and robust set of operational theory to guide problem formulation allowing Airmen to leverage the opportunities of new emerging computing and networking technologies while assuring missions against the vulnerabilities of adversary usage.

Planned Operational Approach

The College focuses on the education and research required to provide AF cyber community with cutting edge solutions to their problems. This research is an integral part of the graduate education at Air University and provide for the AF workforce, and provides students with creative, meaningful thesis and dissertation topics. The core engine that drives the Cyber College are the faculty, research, methodologies, and publications.

In the short term, the Cyber College will focus on developing a cadre of core and adjunct faculty for the Cyber Horizons program. Associate faculty will be drawn in from across Air University, including AFIT, to support Cyber Horizons, cyber electives and cyber PCE in their niche specialty areas overlapping with cyber and electronic warfare.

The center also provides cyber and electronic warfare expertise at other schools at Air University and within mobile education teams (METs).
To be successful, AF Cyber College will: •Strongly link and leverage talents and resources from education, science and technology, and operational communities.

  • House and closely interact with innovators from across society who possess exceptional academic, research and  development, and experience credentials.
  • Provide a forum for creativity, innovation, and exchange to shape policy.
  • Strongly couple technological innovations and development with tactics and doctrine development. 
  • Blend state-of-the-art education with experiential learning (i.e., “fly” the cyber ideas). 
  • Closely integrate cyber developments to overall mission assurance requirements to provide effective non-kinetic courses of action to the decision maker.

Strategic Direction

How do we grow cyber airpower thinkers at every level? How do we increase understanding of cyberspace and military operations across the Air Force?

The AF Cyber College aims to provide thought leadership to promote new ideas and concepts to perform Air Force core missions (air and space superiority, ISR, rapid global mobility, global strike, command and control) in, through and by means of cyberspace.

Our vision is To equip the traditional domains of warfare with strategy for enhancing operations with cyber, and pioneer new defensive and offensive strategies in the cyber domain.

Expected Benefits

AF Cyber College will draw from a broad array of faculty and operators across the Air Force to integrate existing Air University wide cyber education at the operational and strategic level. Establishing Cyber College generates several distinct benefits:

1.Consolidates Air University’s growing prominence and prestige as a premier interdisciplinary research-oriented cyber strategy and policy program and allow it to establish itself as a leading center of global affairs worldwide.

2.Generates better linkages between the research activity of faculty and those of students, creating a better prepared and educated cohort of graduates able to perform Air Force missions in an emergent threat environment.

3.Enhances Air University’s capacity to develop long-term partnerships with the programs, funds and specialized agencies of the Air Force and several national governments, as well as partner institutions across the globe, enlarging Air University’s global network of linkages. Current initiatives involving partner institutions that have recently been initiated but would be housed under the new Center’s rubric, such as the Cyber Advisory Group and the Cyber Opportunities Forum.

In sum, Cyber College will consolidate the identity of Air University as one of the most reputable programs in PME on issues pertaining to cyber conflict, link Air University to other cyber elements of the Air Force, enhance partnerships, and generate external support.

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