24th Air Force Commander discusses Cyber Oberations

The Commander of 24th Air Force and Air Force’s Cyber Air Component to USCYBERCOM Network Operations, Maj. Gen. Suzanne Vautrinot, spoke Monday at the 4th Annual Cyber 1.2 event at the 28th Annual National Space Symposium in Colorado Springs, Colo.

General Vautrinot, who is responsible for the Air Force’s component force that provides combatant commanders with trained and ready cyber forces, discussed the importance of the 24th Air Force mission.

When we talk about cyber, we are talking about mission, a mission focus and a mission accomplishment.

My mission focus, just like in any other domain-whether it is ground, sea, air or space-the same is true for cyber: we are responding to orders and guidance that support this nation in its responsibilities and national security efforts around the globe,” the general said.

She described how the 24th Air Force is the operational warfighting organization that establishes, operates, maintains and defends Air Force networks and conducts full-spectrum operations in cyberspace.

The general explained that full-spectrum is offense, defense and exploitation and they merge together at Cyber Command and are provided to the combatant commands so they can execute their missions.

She also said that it is important to defend Air Force networks to ensure warfighters can maintain the information advantage as we prosecute military operations.

The defense can make a huge difference,” the general said, “and it makes the difference by understanding what is happening on the field of play and getting in front of it before a play can form, that is the beginning of forensics.”

When looking at forensics from a defensive stand point, it is like reviewing the game tapes before a football game. You’re able to “stop the play” before adversaries get any ground, General Vautrinot explained.

When you watch them over and over again, the “signature” advises the defense. And more importantly you can get to the next step of heuristics and know what any play may look like and let the system automatically adjust…in cyber-time.

It is about proactive defense in depth” she said.

She said cyber defense is all about being able to apply your knowledge across all possibilities of how someone can take advantage of your architectures and your ability to use cyber to your own advantage and to their disadvantage.


Auburn Davis – Air Force Space Command Public Affairs
via Infosecisland.com

An Anatomy of US Cyber Command

United States Cyber Command (USCYBERCOM) is America’s answer to cyber warfare, but who are they and what groups make this elite team up?

Mission Statement

USCYBERCOM plans, coordinates, integrates, synchronizes and conducts activities to: direct the operations and defense of specified Department of Defense information networks and; prepare to, and when directed, conduct full spectrum military cyberspace operations in order to enable actions in all domains, ensure US/Allied freedom of action in cyberspace and deny the same to our adversaries.” – 9ec4c12949a4f31474f299058ce2b22a

The Backbone

When you think of USCYBERCOM, the Air Force comes to mind immediately. Since the beginning, the Air Force has been a driving force behind US Cyber War. But there is another group that is more responsible for the creation of USCYBERCOM and actually forms the Command’s backbone. According to Richard A. Clarke’s book “Cyber War: The Next Threat to National Security and What to Do About It”, this shadowy group had already fully infiltrated foreign Internet infrastructure before the command even existed.

We will take a quick look at the military groups involved in USCYBERCOM and finally learn about the shadow group behind it all.

The Units

Cyber Command is a part of the US Strategic Command and each of the four major military branches are represented and are led by General Keith B. Alexander. The units consist of:

Air Force Cyber Command

The 24th Air Force consists of the 67th Network Warfare Wing, the 688th Information Operations Wing, and the 689th Combat Communications Wing. The 67th is of most interest here. They are the wing responsible for network defense, attack and exploitation.

Navy Fleet Cyber Command

The “Phantom” Fleet, or 10th Fleet coordinated and supervised all Navy Anti-Submarine Warfare in WWII. Originally the unit consisted of no ships, never put to sea, and had about 50 intelligence operators. The fleet was disbanded after WWII but was re-activated in January of 2010 as the U.S. Fleet Cyber Command/U.S. Tenth Fleet.

Their mission is to “execute the full spectrum of cyber, electronic warfare, information operations and signal intelligence capabilities and missions across the cyber, electromagnetic and space domains.” Navy Cyber Command is led by Vice Admiral Michael Rogers. I had the absolute honor of meeting Vice Adm. Rogers at a recent military event and he is an exceptional person.

Marine Corps Cyber Command

Marine Forces Cyber Command (MARFORCYBER) originally consisted of about 800 personnel tasked with the job of protecting Marine Corps cyber space.

Army Cyber Command

The new guys on the block, Army Cyber Command, Second Army was activated in 2010, and has over 20,000 personnel tasked with defending Army systems from cyber-attack. Army Cyber Command consists of the 9th signal command, 1st Information Operations Command, and the U.S. Intelligence and Security Command.


The “Backbone” of Cyber Command. The NSA is the shadowy cryptologic intelligence organization that could just be the driving force or more accurately stated, the reason, for the creation of US Cyber Command. It all began with the “Title 50 verses Title 10” battle. The NSA already had strong communications surveillance & cyber capabilities and many thought that they should be US Cyber Command. But according to Richard Clarke’s book, some in the military brought up the fact that the NSA is technically a civilian organization and could not legally fight wars. Under Title 10, the NSA is restricted to gathering information only and cannot participate in battle.

Thus instead of re-creating the wheel, the Director of the NSA became a four star general, and continued to lead the NSA but also became the commander of the newly formed US Cyber Command.

The NSA just built a $286 million dollar complex in Georgia, and is building a $2 Billion facility in Utah. The facility should be completed in 2013 and according to Wired.com, it will be used to collect and analyze international electronic traffic:

Flowing through its servers and routers and stored in near-bottomless databases will be all forms of communication, including the complete contents of private emails, cell phone calls, and Google searches, as well as all sorts of personal data trails—parking receipts, travel itineraries, bookstore purchases, and other digital “pocket litter.”


Paring one of the nation’s foremost intelligence gathering & analysis organizations with very capable military units and placing them under the same commander has made US Cyber Command one of the most power cyber forces on Earth. Now if we can just unravel the legalese that has handcuffed them and keep them focused on terrorists and foreign threats, we will be all set.