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AFSPC Commander speaks on changing nature of warfare

“When you come to work and you log in… you are entering a war zone, and everyone has to be a defender," said Gen. C. Robert Kehler, commander, Air Force Space Command at the Air Force Association's Air Warfare Symposium in Orlando Feb. 27. General Kehler spoke on the changing nature of warfare in the 21st century and the measures that must be taken to respond to those changes. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class David Dobrydney)

“When you come to work and you log in… you are entering a war zone, and everyone has to be a defender," said Gen. C. Robert Kehler, commander, Air Force Space Command at the Air Force Association's Air Warfare Symposium in Orlando Feb. 27. General Kehler spoke on the changing nature of warfare in the 21st century and the measures that must be taken to respond to those changes. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class David Dobrydney)

ORLANDO, Fla. -- General C. Robert Kehler, commander, Air Force Space Command, spoke at the Air Warfare Symposium in Orlando Friday about the future of conflict.

"We're very excited about what is happening in our command," he said, referring to the decision to make Air Force Space Command the lead for (Air Force) cyberspace operations, which will entail creating a new numbered Air Force.

General Kehler also talked about the missions AFSPC is already charged with, such as the intercontinental ballistic missile force, comprising approximately 10,000 individuals.

"We continue to provide that ready, capable, responsive deterrent force that we've provided for over 50 years," he stated proudly, adding that "there has never been a question about the enduring capability, or credibility, of that force."

The dedication of the Airmen safeguarding the nation's ICBMs "is the foundation of the nation's security," said General Kehler.

He recognized the 39,000 Airmen in the command including those working in satellite operations. "We wield capabilities that allow joint commanders to know more about their adversaries, to see the battlefield more clearly and to strike more quickly and effectively than ever before."

He said space is an integral part of the joint fight, even though many members of the joint force are only beginning to realize what AFSPC brings to them. "I would offer that's the best of all worlds; we are bringing tremendous capability to that joint force, and all they know is that it's there."

Referring to the recently released Capstone Concept for Joint Operations and Joint Operating Environment, General Kehler said that although Ghengis Khan or Gen. Robert E. Lee might recognize some aspects of war in the 21st century, there is much that has changed dramatically.

The Joint Operating Environment refers to the possibility of "sustained engagement in the global commons," which caught the General's eye because as he said "the global commons... clearly includes, and may be dominated by, space and cyberspace."

Among the elements of warfare that have changed are distance, because as an operator of a pilotless drone aircraft, it doesn't matter where you are operating from for your target to be reached; and physical boundaries, which are meaningless to computers or satellites orbiting overhead.

The final element General Kehler mentioned was symmetry. "If you want to take on the United States, you don't do it straight up, you find an asymmetric way to do it," he said, such as infiltrating an urban area. He suggested that cyberspace itself is a densely packed urban area, including people learning and communicating with friends, but also vandals, spies and even rival militaries.

"When you come to work, and you log in... you are entering a war zone and everyone has to be a defender. We do not have a security forces squadron for cyberspace," said General Kehler.

"Make no mistake about it, the fight is on in cyberspace. The adversary can be down the street or halfway around the world," he said, "and you never know, the enemy could be down the street and look like he's halfway around the world."

Having outlined the challenges that lie before AFSPC, General Kehler gave ideas of how to meet them.

First and foremost, situational awareness in both space and cyberspace must be improved. "We've got to answer some tough questions when something happens," said General Kehler, "What happened? Who did it? What are the consequences and what are my options?"

In addition to situational awareness, General Kehler urged greater protection of capabilities, as well as deploying services faster and expanding the team that provides those services, and embracing industry and allies more effectively.

With regards to the changing nature of warfare, General Kehler concluded, "it's about the rules of the game, and how you play it."