Air Force officials are looking to cyber-integrated ISR capabilities and embracing enterprise IT as a service (EaaS) in an effort to better leverage data to protect networks and address growing adversarial threats.

Future ISR efforts will take greater advantage of automation and network support teams will be called onto provide mission defense as the service looks to improve dominance of information operations, according to Air Force C4ISR and information leaders speaking at a Thursday AFCEA event.

Air Force Deputy Chief of Staff for ISR Lt. Gen. VeraLinn "Dash" Jamieson.
Air Force Deputy Chief of Staff for ISR Lt. Gen. VeraLinn “Dash” Jamieson.

“The way our system today looks at things is we take seven to 10 years to field something, and those days are over. This is especially when it comes to software and cyber systems,” Lt. Gen. VeraLinn “Dash” Jamieson, Air Force deputy chief of staff for ISR, said during her panel.

Jamieson wants to see more of a DevOps environment to create capabilities to better leverage her force’s ability to share the data collected in their ISR operations.

Future ISR platforms will have new computing capabilities for analyzing intelligence and will include cyber components to make use of publicly available information as structured data, according to Jamieson. This includes embracing automation to more effectively make use of the full-motion video (FMV) collected by Air Force drones.

“We have started this past year to work with the undersecretary of defense for intelligence on automating that FMV, so that as you watch the screen the algorithms that we have developed from commercial technology already put a confidence level on what we’re seeing,” Jamieson said. “We’re going to re-purpose our airmen so that they have the time it takes to really address the intent of our adversaries, which is what we actually want them to do.”

Lt. Gen. Bradford “B.J.” Shwedo, CIO of the Secretary of the Air Force, also hopes to re-purpose network support forces to more effectively assist mission defense teams against new cyber threats.

A greater emphasis on cloud management and enterprise IT as a service capabilities will allow Air Force IT services to focus on real-time network threats rather than providing communications support, according to Shwedo.

“We are finding our weapons systems have got backdoors that need to be plugged. We’re finding bad guys that are trying to put bugs in our weapons systems. So, at each individual base, instead of seeing a [communications] squadron, you’re going to see a squadron that’s focused on their internal control systems. You’re going to have a beat cop that knows that cyber terrain very well, and they’re going to be constantly hovering over it,” Shwedo said during Thursday’s event.

Air Force information operations collectively will focus on better synchronizing efforts between ISR and computing capabilities, rather than combining ownership of different components such as cyber and electronic warfare, according to Shwedo.

“When you start rolling all this back into one line of information operations, that is how we will fight the war. Is this unique to us? No, you can read Chinese and Russian writing and you’ll see all of that. I’ve got to make sure on gameday that we’re better. And I’ve got to tell you, we’re starting to get the investment for that,” Shwedo said. “Folks get confused over ownership, and it drives me nuts. It’s instead about getting everything orchestrated across the board to make sure that synchronization happens.”  

This “line of information” approach could be used to combine information operations efforts when attempting to disrupt adversarial networks or intercept attempted cyber attacks.

“I’ve got to make sure I’ve got the right information, faster and faster. I make sure data is discoverable, and allow for that data to talk to each other. And getting that information quickly allows me to get into the bad guy’s decision cycle and beat him every time,” Shwedo said.