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[ISN] Air Force trains warriors to defend cyberspace


By Tom Vanden Brook
January 29, 2008 

WASHINGTON -- Ready. Aim. Click.

The military relies on computers and electronic communication to launch 
precision weapons, spy on its enemies and communicate with troops in 
combat. The Air Force is revamping its training to prepare its 320,000 
airmen to protect its frontlines in cyberspace, Air Force Brig. Gen. 
Mark Schissler said. The battlefield includes the Internet, cellphone 
calls and signals that trigger roadside bombs.

"In cyber, the weapon of choice is going to be the computer that sits on 
your desk," said Schissler, the Air Force's director of cyberoperations.

Every enlisted man and officer will be taught about cyberwarfare in 
basic training, the Air Force Academy or officer candidate school, 
Schissler said. About 100 students per year will receive more advanced 
instruction at the Undergraduate Network Warfare Training course at 
Hurlburt Field in Florida. Graduates of the six-month program will be 
able to operate a computer like "a weapon system" and will be known as 
cyberwarriors or cyberoperators, Schissler said. The first class 
graduated last month.

The Air Force wants to build offensive and defensive capabilities in 
cyberspace. A presentation from the Center for Cyberspace Research at 
the Air Force Institute of Technology states the goal plainly:

The Air Force "can drop a 2,000-pound bomb anywhere we want.  We need to 
be able to do the same thing in cyberspace while denying that ability to 
any adversary!"

Air Force Secretary Michael Wynne noted last year that terrorists 
exploit the Internet and need to be fought there.

"These adversaries can communicate globally with their agents, spread 
propaganda, mobilize support worldwide, conduct training, detonate 
improvised explosive devices and can empty or create bank accounts to 
fund their causes," Wynne told an Air Force conference.

Islamic extremists, Schissler said, run as many as 6,000 websites for 

A cyberwarrior will monitor computers used by terrorists to learn of 
imminent attacks and help thwart them, Schissler said. Wynne wrote in an 
article in an Air Force professional journal that in cyberwarfare, 
airmen in Colorado can use satellites to program weapons on an F-16 to 
kill insurgents planting roadside bombs in Iraq.

The Pentagon acknowledges that its computers are attacked hundreds of 
times each day.

Most of the intrusions are thwarted, but an attack last June disrupted 
an unclassified e-mail system in the Defense secretary's office.

Schissler said there's no ideal cyberwarrior. "You have to be quick to 
learn," he said. "That's the only real requirement."

John Pike, a defense analyst and director of Globalsecurity.org, 
questioned whether the Air Force program would overlap with 
responsibilities of the National Security Agency, which gathers and 
analyzes foreign communication.

Jamming enemy air defense radar and protecting computers from hackers 
have been part of traditional electronic warfare for the Air Force.

"This thing sounds like they've set up their own operation separate from 
the NSA," Pike said.

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