AFSPC picks 50 SCS for pilot initiative
By Tech. Sgt. Julius Delos Reyes, 50th Space Wing Public Affairs
/ Published January 19, 2016
SCHRIEVER AIR FORCE BASE, Colo. -- Air Force Space Command selected the 50th Space Communications Squadron as the pilot for the Cyber Squadron of the Future initiative, focusing the squadron on defending mission and weapon systems in cyberspace.
"The Air Force discovered that most information technology funding and manpower goes toward operating and defending base networks," said Lt. Col. Dave Case, 50 SCS commander. "That leaves a small percentage the budget and personnel to defend the mission systems, such as space or any mission system that is cyberspace dependent."
As part of the pilot initiative, the 50 SCS partnered with an operational squadron, the 1st Space Operations Squadron.
"One of the benefits of partnering with 1 SOPS is that we have a very dynamic and evolving mission set. The challenges we are facing and what we are learning will identify new requirements and set the standard for future space operations. We are constantly breaking new ground and finding new ways to do business, and this initiative will continue that trend" said Lt. Col. Casey Beard, 1 SOPS commander.
The two squadrons are building a Mission Defense Team, composed of space and cyber operators, whose intent is to conduct defensive cyber operations to assure the space mission.
"This initiative offers a more robust and holistic approach to mission planning and execution in space and cyberspace." Beard said. "I am a big proponent of this. We are developing a new approach to warfare in the information age. Ultimately, we do not project or employ force without integrated space and cyber networks. As we progress, we will identify mission-related vulnerabilities and incorporate prioritized defensive measures to assure access to these networks across the spectrum of conflict."
Case said the 50 SCS was selected due to the success of a previous initiative to defend the Air Force Satellite Control Network in the summer of 2015.
Additionally, the 50 SCS is unique compared to a majority of Air Force's communications squadrons, whose functions are mostly base support. Under the 50th Network Operations Group, the 50 SCS operates and maintains communications-computer systems, establishing real-time connectivity to more than 170 satellites.
"Within the 50 NOG, space and cyber missions are already closely integrated," Case said.
Beard said from a command and control perspective, the initiative will reveal natural synergies between space and cyber missions.
"Functionally, there is an inherent relationship between space and cyber," he said.
Currently, the team is in a pilot phase that will end in October. The information gathered from the current phase will be sent to Air Force and AFSPC, to inform an implementation plan to build what a true cyber squadron of the future will look like.
"I am very excited about it. Our national security is wholly dependent on space and cyberspace, and this initiative provides a forcing function for operationalizing space and cyber integration. In so doing, we are taking a small but significant step toward refining our warfighting doctrine. It's going to take time, but I am very excited about where we are going. We are pioneering a new way of thinking about national defense," Beard said.
Case concluded, "Cyberspace is a contested domain. We have to defend our mission and weapons systems that depend on cyberspace to enable warfighters in the execution of their mission, kill our enemies and protect our nation. This initiative gets cyber operators in to the fight."