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US military cyber warriors looking for a home

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Cyberwarfare means different thing to different people. To cyberpunk buffs it means Operation Screaming Fist; to the Estonians it means Russian DDoS. In America, as with many other military activities, it means pork.

Specifically in this case, the most important question exercising many Americans regarding cyber war is where the US Air Force Cyber Command will be based. The Colorado Springs Gazette reports that the two front runners are Barksdale airforce base in Louisiana - the Cyber Command's "interim" home - and Beale AFB in California, handy for Silicon Valley. Offutt AFB in Nebraska, home to US Strategic Command, is also hotly tipped.

But Colorado wants to be home to the American cyberwar force, too. The Cyber Command is forecast to be mainly made up of "legions of highly paid computer contractors" who will operate loads of mighty computers.

The US air force is keen to achieve dominance over its enemies in what it calls the "cyber domain" of warfare. (The idea is that we have air, land and sea warfare - perhaps space and special-ops too - and now cyber warfare.) The air force's enemies in this are not so much terrorists or sinister foreign powers as the other US armed services. The air force's traditional business of operating expensive manned aircraft has been somewhat undercut of late by the proliferation of much cheaper flying robots, often operated by the army, navy or marines.

Worse, the current Wars On Stuff seldom offer enemies with enough heavy weaponry for the air force to get much of a look-in.

A belated USAF push to seize overall control of all the hated flying robots has seemingly been rebuffed, and so the service is looking for something new where it can be relevant. Hence the new cyber force, to include subunits such as the 67th Network Warfare Wing, which "organizes, trains, and equips cyberspace forces to conduct network defense, attack, and exploitation. Executes full spectrum AF network operations."

Lots of well-paid contractors + lots of computers = lots of money, and it now seems that Colorado is joining the race to be the cyberforce's home base. Contender bases could include the now-disused Cheyenne Mountain complex, "an inside-the-mountain fortress that could protect sensitive computers from attack".

Colorado defence-IT biz kingpin Wes Clark told the Gazette that Lousiana would be an awful location for the cyber force, because of the threat of hurricanes.

However, the pork-hungry contractor clearly had a firm understanding of just what kind of computer war is being fought by the USAF. He had a plan B in mind should Colorado be sidelined.

"If we don’t get Air Force Cyber Command, then we need to start looking at Army Cyber Command," Clark reportedly said. ®

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