Secretary of the Air Force Frank Kendall and Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. CQ Brown, Jr. visited 16th Air Force (Air Forces Cyber) Feb. 2 to learn more about the numbered air force’s capabilities in gray zone warfare.
Sixteenth Air Force Airmen highlighted information warfare options such as cyberspace operations, intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance, electromagnetic spectrum operations, weather, information operations and public affairs.
Airmen showcased how the NAF converges capabilities, partnerships and authorities from various units and functions in a way that increases the effectiveness of operations and generates outcomes that support information warfare objectives during competition.
“As we continue honing our cyber capabilities, after what I heard from these talented Airmen, I am heartened that 16th Air Force is leading the charge in transforming how the Air Force operates in the information environment,” Kendall said.
“The world has changed, and our approach to warfare must change with it. Those who can leverage information for strategic advantage will benefit as the world moves from successive regional conflicts to continuous global competition,” said Lt. Gen. Timothy Haugh, 16th Air Force commander. “It is clear that we are in lockstep with the secretary.”
As the Air Force’s information warfare NAF, 16th Air Force is the direct result of this new reality. The IW NAF was stood up in 2019 at the direction of the Air Force, to reorganize how the service implements information as the seventh joint function and transforms the way it fights.
In addition to discussions at the NAF headquarters, the Air Force’s senior leaders took a closer look at the missions of 16th Air Force’s 67th and 688th Cyberspace Wings.
During their visit with the 67th CW, Kendall and Brown received an up-close look at service cyberspace operations. Cyber Airmen briefed the leaders on both offensive and defensive cyberspace operations and presented demonstrations of the wing’s diverse mission set from an operator’s perspective.
The senior leaders also learned about the 67th CW’s in-house and out-sourced development efforts and how the wing provides capabilities at all classification levels to enable successful cyber operations.
The 688th CW highlighted how they conduct enterprise operations and defense of the Air Force Information Network through the Network Operations Center and Security Operations Center. Additionally, leaders of the 688th CW demonstrated ongoing efforts to defend the data that weapon system platforms and decision makers depend on.
“The Airmen of the 67th and 688th (CWs) are doing the work we need done with great professionalism. I intend to ensure they have the funding, backing and authorities they need to carry out their critically-important mission,” Kendall said. “Their grasp of the strategic environment and passion for winning in the gray zone -- or if necessary, in conflict --, convinces me they are more than up for the challenges we face against China.”
“As adversaries test the gray zone boundaries of cyber warfare, the risk for miscalculation rises,” Brown said. “Which is why the work that the women and men of the 67th and 688th (CWs) do every day is critical to the U.S. Air Force’s continued success at keeping our cyber systems safe from strategic competitor’s attacks.”
The day-long tour was topped off with a visit to National Security Agency-Texas, where the leaders learned about national cyberspace operations and Hunt Forward Operations.
Kendall and Brown took time out of the packed schedule to recognize outstanding achievers and to spend some time with Airmen from the NAF and wings.
“Our competitors seek to reshape the world order and have both the power and resources to do so, if left uncontested,” Kendall said. “But what they do not have is our highly skilled, multi-capable Airmen and Guardians. They are our nation’s greatest weapon system.”