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Air Force Mulls Merging Cyber, ISR Troops

Posted by Colin Clark on

AFA: The senior leadership of the Air Force will decide at the late October Corona meeting at the Air Force Academy whether to take the cyber force from Air Force Space Command and merge it with Air Combat Command‘s ISR force.

Why, you ask, would they combine the 24th Air Force with the 25th Air Force? The operational reasons should be pretty well understood by Breaking D readers: the Intelligence,Surveillance, & Reconnaissance (ISR) force includes a wide array of signals and electronic intelligence sensors, and it is increasingly difficult to tell a cyber from an electronic warfare attack.

Gen. Mike Holmes, ACC commander

We understand from a variety of sources that Air Combat Command thinks the move makes all the sense in the world because ACC is where they integrate ISR in with combat forces. Gen. Mike Holmes, the ACC commander, said yesterday on a panel that it is also the center of where command and control are brought together in the Air Operations Centers that employ ISR and cyber. And Holmes noted that ACC includes the Air Force Warfare Center, where it trains the specialists who integrate  capabilities across cyber and other domains.

The other reason we hear is that senior Air Force leaders are making the move to show Congress — in particular Rep. Mike Rogers, chairman of the House Armed Services strategic forces subcommittee — that they have heard the criticism that the Air Force doesn’t focus enough on space. Removing cyber operations from AFSPC would presumably be taken as a sign of increased focus on the space domain. That might help blunt the push by Rogers and others on the House side to create a Space Corps, essentially separating most space functions from the rest of the Air Force.

When the 24th Air Force was created in 2009 it required then-Air Force Chief of Staff Norton Schwartz to cancel the nascent creation of Air Force Cyber Command. There was much talk about how difficult it was to separate space and cyber operations, thus requiring its seemingly logical insertion in AFSPC.

One player who resides outside the Air Force right now is likely to have an important influence on the decision: Strategic Command’s Gen. John Hyten. STRATCOM leads space and cyber forces in event of war and Hyten is an Air Force officer. I understand this proposal to merge the forces has been around since he was head of AFSPC. Might he tip the scales?

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