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AF looks to ensure cyber resiliency in weapons systems through new office

HANSCOM AIR FORCE BASE, Mass. (AFNS) --

The Air Force, through its Life Cycle Management Center, has stood up the Cyber Resiliency Office for Weapons Systems (CROWS).

Although the office's primary operating location and senior leadership will be at Hanscom Air Force Base, contributing staff will come from various Air Force organizations and geographic locations. It will focus on integrating activities across the Air Force to ensure weapon systems maintain mission-effective capabilities, despite cyber adversities. It reached initial operating capability Dec. 21, 2016.

“The Air Force’s ability to fly, fight and win in air, space and cyberspace is threatened by increasing competent adversaries in the cyberspace domain,” said Dennis Miller, the CROWS director, who also serves as Hanscom AFB’s engineering and technical management associate director. “The cyber threat is more than just network intrusion or traditional malware – it also affects our weapon systems and presents a clear and present danger to successful mission assurance.”

Weapon systems have real-time constraints and complexities coupled with differing sustainment strategies which means the same security management practices that are used for traditional information technology systems require tailoring and adaption to be effective and efficient in a weapon system environment.

Miller said the CROWS will focus on integration across Air Force communities to acquire, field, operate and sustain increased cyber-resilient weapon systems. It will also work to integrate activities in the Air Force Cyber Campaign Plan (CCP) focused on multiple strategic vectors.

According to Daniel Holtzman, the Air Force cyber technical director, achieving the intended mission assurance in a cyber-contested environment involves a complex combination of individual systems acquisition, including design and development; operational concerns encompassing planning and execution; and systems sustainment including maintenance and training.

In addition, when vulnerabilities, external factors and adversary tactics are combined, they create a set of complex interdependencies that must be worked in a holistic and integrated manner to reduce risk, Holtzman said.

“To effectively and efficiently combat the cyber threat, we must horizontally integrate within and across our weapon systems, working together across our Air Force and partnership communities to securely design and operate systems, conduct missions and sustain capabilities,” he said. “We must educate and train our Air Force communities to be vigilant of the cyber risk at all times.”

Some of the ongoing work the CROWS will provide is integrated program management and execution oversight for the lines of action of the CCP including: conducting mission-level cyber risk analysis, integrating cyber into systems engineering, enhancing adaptability and agility via modular design and approaches, developing a cyber-savvy workforce, increasing assurance in fielded systems in a cost effective and efficient manner, increasing the integration of cyber intelligence and enabling cyber operation flights and cyber protection teams.

As part of the Air Force Cyber Campaign Plan, a senior-level steering group was also formed. The Cyber Resiliency Steering Group, is chaired by Jeff Stanley, the associate deputy assistant secretary (science, technology and engineering), Office of the Assistant Secretary of the Air Force for Acquisition. The group will provide strategic guidance and cross Air Force integration.  

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