Air Force Looking to Add More Cyber-Airmen (Updated)

By Yasmin Tadjdeh
NATIONAL HARBOR, Md. — The Air Force made one thing loud and clear at the Air Force Association’s (AFA) annual meeting: They desperately need more cyber-airmen.
Air Force leaders and insiders expressed the need to train more airmen to work in cybersecurity at AFA's Air and Space Conference and Technology Exhibition at the Gaylord National Hotel and Conference Center.
"We intend to mature and evolve our cybercapability by tapping into the potential all of our airmen being cyber-airmen," said Maj. Gen. Earl D. Matthews, director of Cyberspace Operations for the Air Force on Sept. 18.
Matthews stressed that a strong cyber program requires a strong workforce.
“While delivering effective IT solutions are vital to enhancing our cyber capabilities, none, none of it would be possible without growing and fostering the premier cyberspace airmen that accomplish our missions,” said Matthews.
Under Lt. Gen. Michael Basla, the Air Force's chief information officer, the service has ordered that the fostering and growing of elite cyber-airmen is a priority, Matthews said.
The Air Force has invested in various cyber educational programs. For example, cyber operators, officers, enlisted airmen and civilians receive six month of technical operations training. They are also offered continuing educational classes such as Cyber 200 and 300.
The Air Force has also recently started a cyber weapons instructor course that Matthews said would keep cyber airmen on the cutting edge of technology.
“A cyber weapons school is very important to us. When you put a cyber operations officer next to an intelligence officer, next to an F-22 pilot and a space operator, and they work together now to plan and execute missions, that is real power,” Matthews said.
Duke Ayers, program manager of SAIC’s CyberNEXS initiative, a live-training program that focuses on cyber education, also spoke on the importance of growing a cyber workforce on Sept. 17.
“We know that we’re not developing people fast enough in cyber or the technical skills,” Ayers said. That is why SAIC, along with other partners such as the University of Texas at San Antonio, developed the CyberNEXS program that gives immediate feedback to participants as they pursue cyber education.
Ayers also praised the AFA’s CyberPatriot program, a nationwide high school-level cyber defense competition that showcases the future generation of cyberwarriors, for helping nurture talent.
And all this training and education comes just in a nick of time.
“This new training and education comes at a crucial time for our cyber operators. We face challenges in our manpower allocation as our role in cyber operations continues to grow,” Matthews said. “I believe we might not have nearly enough of the airmen we need to accomplish the goals that have been set out for us.”
The equivalent of the holdings of the Library of Congress is being lost each year through cyber-attacks affecting academic institutions, defense contractors and the government, Matthews said. This is why it is absolutely imperative that the Air Force invest in cyber operations.
“This mission is operationally relevant; its capabilities that it brings to the Air Force are imperative. We must continue to leverage the innovative, imaginative spirit that built our Air Force to becoming the greatest the world has ever known," Matthews said.
Correction: The original blog post incorrectly listed the dates of the events.
Photo Credit: Air Force

Topics: Cyber, Cybersecurity

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