Wednesday, August 19, 2009

24th Air Force Cyber Command – Wither PSYOP?

According to the August 18, 2009 San Antonio News:
“The 24th Air Force, headquarters for a new cyber command, has been activated at Lackland AFB.A ceremony activating the command was held today at the base, which was chosen over five other U.S. sites. The command will oversee efforts to prevent cyber attacks on military bases and systems……Local leaders predict moving the headquarters from Barksdale AFB, La. and adding 400 new positions will provide an economic impact of $30 million annually in salaries.” (
The DOD indicated that Brig. Gen. Charles K. Shugg, vice commander, Air Force Cyber Command (Provisional), Lackland Air Force Base, Texas, will be the new vice commander, 24th Air Force, Air Force Space Command, Lackland Air Force Base, Texas ( You can find his bio at:; photo courtesy of DOD
So what does this all mean? Size, or as in this case, rank matters, so let’s address that for a moment. If the Vice CDR is a one star, stands to reason the CDR will be a MG or two star. So that makes the 24th CDR comparable to a Division CDR. Experience has shown that your rank rather than your competence is your ticket to admission to the CDR’s inner circle. Consequently if PSYOP is to have a seat at the 24th’s Cyber table its representative would have to be at least an 05 or LTC because 04s (Majors) would just get lost in the shuffle.
The mission of the Cyber Command is to: “provide combatant commanders with trained and ready cyber forces to plan and conduct cyberspace operations, and to extend, maintain and defend the Air Force portion of the global information grid.” (source is the general’s bio cited above).
Assuming this is the Air Force component and cyberspace operations means offensive as well as defensive this all begs the question of how PSYOP and the other elements of IO fit in the picture. I’ll hazard a guess that if there is PSYOP representation at the 24th it might come from Air Force PSYOP resources with any Army PSYOP resources being junior in grade and responsibility.
Furthermore – strikes me there may be some very significant strategic challenges and command issues as the ‘big’ Cyber Command fleshes out at Fort Meade. There is no evidence that the President and DOD have established a a total cyber strategy: offense, defense and influence or that there is a top down chain of cyber command that reaches down from the White House and incorporates the influence side (DOD and DOS at a minimum) into the picture.
So, while standing up cyber resources is the right thing to do and this is surely the time, unless the White House stands up to the task of formulating an overarching information/cyber strategy the new cyber units are like aircraft without rudders.

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