"Since the birth of military aviation, airmen have claimed that airpower offered a new approach to warfare. Even in the earliest days of aviation, airpower's range of action, its ability to react and refocus quick across a wide area without having to consider the terrain or access, and its inherent above -- the surface perspective all pointed to a new era in warfare" ("AFDD 1, Air Force Basic Doctrine"). Within the military, the United States air force has a great strength and makes a considerable contribution to the well-being and safety of citizens of the United States. As society progresses into a new technology age, where computers no longer take up entire rooms but can fit in the palm of our hands, the USAF must also change with the times. How is the air force going to keep up with the changing demands of the world- should it continue to develop in air? In Space? Or in cyberspace? Based on the lessons of this course, we have learned that the United States Air Force is facing difficult budget choices regarding the development of air, space and cyberspace power going into the future; to that end, the strengths and weaknesses of each air, space and cyberspace will be explored before providing how the USAF can contribute to the joint effort in future operations and the capabilities funding resources should be diverted too.
Foremost, the strengths of having a strong air presence are apparent but the strengths do not come without drawbacks. The importance of a strong air presence dates back far in to history- for instance, in 1849 when "Austrian troops unsuccessfully experimented with balloon bombing of the rebellions Venetians" (Boyne, 2002, 136). Thought a rather antiquated instance, the balloon bombing serves a macrocosm of how important having air dominance is and from how early this type of warfare has been cultivated. Through our studies we have learned that there is a certainly a portion of the Air Force's heritage that is grounded in WWI and rounds out with Operation DESERT STORM- these are key events that have shaped the air force as it is known today. Should the United States divert resources from something that has been clearly been valued and is valuable to the welfare and safety of our nation? Furthermore, the importance of having strong air dominance is an idea that scholars concur with as one asserts that "air power has come to play the dominant role in war" (Singh, 1985, 250). Though, scholars do qualify their assertion by stating that "new technologies hold out the promise of an expanding and increasingly effective role for air power, enhancing its 'dominance' factor in modern and future wars" (Singh, 1985, 250). The issue at hand is that with developing technologies, despite air warfare's omni-presence in history and in present day, it may have displaced the need to further develop and contribute resources to this area.
Additionally, a field that the U.S. air force has developed in the past includes that of space- but as we progress through time, is it necessary for the air force to continue to invest and develop in this specific area? "More than 60 years after the U.S.-Russian space race began, the space domain has become crowed and competitive, with at least 60 nations having objects in space," says Defence Secretary William J. Lynn III (Daniel, 2011). The Defence Secretary goes on to say that the U.S. "needed a strategy to protect space itself, and we needed a strategy to protect space industrial base" (Daniel, 2011). The use of the past tense in Lynn's statement alludes to the idea that the United States's has lost the space domination that it held when it beat Russia into space decades ago. But, with the renewed attention that Lynn has brought to the topic, is it in the best interest of the air force to continue to invest resources in this area? Through our lessons we have learned that the operational function of air and space power describe the actual operation constructs that airmen use to achieve objectives. It seems that Congress has taken notice of this idea and there are thirty-seven U.S. senators that have signed a letter of concern to the Secretary of State regarding "their concern that the European Union is developing a space 'code of conduct' that could undermine U.S. space presence and harm security" (Daniel, 2011). But is this field, overpopulated with the same technology? What more can the air force do to further secure the United States? Evaluating the current state of the situation and the possible strengths and drawbacks is important in ultimately deciding how the USAF can contribute to the joint effort in future operations, and what capabilities should be the top funding priorities.
Finally, the strengths and weaknesses of the cyberspace field need to be explored before evaluating how the U.S. Air Force can contribute to efforts in future operations, and what capabilities should be top funding priorities. In recent years, the internet has taken the world by storm, connecting people and places in a revolutionary way and allowing the exchange of information at a rapid pace; but, with new technology, comes the unknown and other emerging challenges. Some challenges that are important to acknowledge and deal with as society moves forward is summarized by one scholar's perspective on the matter:
"Security holes in current computer and telecommunications systems allow these systems to be subject to a broad spectrum of adverse or hostile actions. The spectrum includes: inserting false data or harmful programs into information systems; stealing valuable data or programs from a system, or even taking over control of its operation; manipulating the performance of a system, by changing data or programs, introducing communications delays, etc.; and disrupting the performance of a system, by causing erratic behavior or destroying data or programs, or by denying access to the system. Taken together, the surreptitious and remote nature of these actions can make their detection difficult and the identification of the perpetrator even more difficult" (Hundley, 2011)
Hundley clearly outlines the major issues that are associated with not having a secure cyberspace and also, lays out a daunting task for the Air Force has it actively deals with the rapid changes in technology. If not effectively dealt with, the possibility of the air force loosing security over its own technology is a real and imminent possibility; one that is something to be fearful of. Hundley does elude to the idea that communication delays can be started, disrupting performance of a system among other things- all things that are imperative for the air force to operate the way it does. As the army, another important branch of the U.S. military celebrated its 236th birthday, it also confronted a modern issue- "what a hacker or a nation with evil intentions does in cyberspace could be detrimental to not only the U.S. Army, but all the nation's armed forces,' Lt. Gen. Rhett A. Hernandex said" (Hess, 2011). The more exploration that is done in this area, one of the weaknesses that is highlighted is that the United States is seemingly unprepared or has deemed itself so in the face of this potential threat. It will take time, and the military will experience many tribulations in its journey to become the authority in this field to a point where they feel "invincible" as they do in other domains.
Ultimately, when exploring and evaluating the different areas that the USAF has the ability to contribute to joint efforts in future operations, and potentially deciding what capabilities should fall into the top funding category, it seems that cyber security is the most real and imminent threat, followed by space and finally by air. As of current, the threat of the unknown is always the scariest- for a person, for a community as well as the military of arguably one of the most powerful nations in the world. With the U.S. Army clearly fearful of what may happen unless the military deals with this threat, by the USAF diverting more human resources as well as monetary resources, it would most effectively contribute to the joint efforts to thwart this issue. Because the U.S. Air Force does attract some of the best in the country, on both a mental and physical level, it would be the USAF's best interest to prioritize this area. Following cyber space, the USAF should concentrate on space next. The USAF has is obviously the military's thought leader in the area of aviation and it seems in the United States' best interest that the USAF to take charge of this impending international space issue that is unfolding. The "space code" that the EU wants to develop may marginalize the U.S. presence in space but if the Air Force utilizes their resources, they may be able to stay ahead of the other countries and ensure the protection of our country from even out of…