Cyberwarfare: What are we doing today?

  • Published
  • By Antoinette Smith
  • Secretary of the Air Force Public Affairs Command Information
Lt. Gen. J. Kevin McLaughlin, the U.S. Cyber Command deputy commander, discussed the missions, capacity and capabilities of USCYBERCOM during a cyber warfare session at the Air Force Association Air, Space and Cyber Conference here Sept. 20.

McLaughlin detailed the journey toward building cyber mission forces and how the command plans to fight and command and control those forces.

USCYBERCOM is in its sixth year of operations, McLaughlin said, and was tasked to build the Department of Defense’s Cyber Mission Force in 2013, as outlined in the DoD Cyber Strategy. The CMF consists of 133 teams, which are slated to reach initial operational capability (IOC),with “great, robust intelligent ability,” he said. The CMF teams are built to perform offensive and defensive missions, he went on to say, and the Air Force’s portion of the CMF consists of 39 teams (of 133 total) under the auspices of Maj. Gen. Christopher P. Weggeman, the 24th Air Force/Air Forces Cyber Command commander.

“The Air Force has moved from air to space and now to cyber,” McLaughlin said. “We now have created an environment where we can take individuals or small teams, entire teams, or groups of teams, including those who are allies and train them.”

USCYBERCOM is tasked with three core missions. The first mission, is to defend the Defense Department Information networks.

The second mission is to support combatant commanders. With forces assigned to support all combatant commands, they have the ability to protect critical data and provide full spectrum (both offense and defense) cyber capabilities to joint forces.

The third mission is, when directed by the president or secretary of defense, to protect U.S. critical infrastructure from attacks of significant consequence. USCYBERCOM will defend the nation’s critical infrastructure – roads, power, water –from cyber attack, if called.

Mclaughlin also said USCYBERCOM is in the embryonic stage of building important enablers, which include infrastructure from which U.S. Cyber Command will conduct offensive and defensive operations, a persistent training environment, cyber situational awareness tools, and command and control capabilities. The command looks to make progress with some funding in place for FY17.

“Our number one mission is defending networks,” McLaughlin said. “Anything today that touches a computer system or embedded (information technology) is our responsibility.”

Cybersecurity is the responsibility of every Airman and servicemember, McLaughlin said. The best way to improve cybersecurity is to be aware of the rapid growth and abilities in this domain.