Software enginner Kevin Young from LinQuest Corp. brainstorms with Cadet First Class Ren Herbert and Cadet Second Class Erik Lecy during the new CyberWorks course.
Software enginner Kevin Young from LinQuest Corp. brainstorms with Cadet First Class Ren Herbert and Cadet Second Class Erik Lecy during the new CyberWorks course.

Military officials announced Wednesday that the U.S. Air Force Academy’s Cyberworx program — designed to train the next generation of warfighters to more effectively engage threats in cyberspace — has reached its “initial operating capability.”

High-ranking Air Force officials from the Academy and from Air Force Space Command announced the achievement at a press conference during the 2017 Cyberspace Symposium (Feb. 6-9) at The Broadmoor hotel.

According to Lt. Col. Cynthia Brothers, an Academy professor who handles partner relations and outreach for the program, Cyberworx is now operational due to its recent completion of three simultaneous projects.

“These projects focused on cyber risk and situational awareness reporting,” she said. “Every one of those projects has leveraged social and intellectual diversity through the use of human-centric design thinking methodology found and applied in the most successful private industries.”

Although officials weren’t specific about which companies the Academy is currently working with, Brother said program partners include local and national businesses. The program also includes Air Force cadets from 11 academic majors, as well as partners in local academia (namely UCCS), the National Cybersecurity Center and the Center for Technology, Research and Commercialization in Colorado Springs.

During the press conference, Academy Superintendent Lt. Gen. Michelle Johnson said her vision for the program relies heavily on collaborating to educate and train officers to keep up with the rapidly changing digital environment, and to use that in order to more effectively integrate the Air Force’s three mission domains: air, space and cyberspace.

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“For the Air Force, Cyberworx represents a new and unique opportunity to — through design thinking and problem-solving — harness the ingenuity of 4,000-plus digital natives to innovate new and better ways to revolutionize our employment of cyber,” she said. “The future of Cyberworx is bright; it’s full of possibilities and we’re currently finalizing space on two floors of our library … to develop the capacity for up to three simultaneous projects.”

While the Academy is worked to create a dedicated space for the program, its already looking ahead with plans to eventually construct a “state-of-the-art facility paid for with MILCON and private donor funds with high-tech laboratories and collaboration spaces to support 10 simultaneous projects,” according to Johnson.

“But the crown jewel of this program will not be its physical location but its revolutionary breakthroughs,” she said.

Gen. John Raymond, who is commander of Space Command at Peterson Air Force Base, said during the press conference that the work that is currently being done at Cyberworx is already making its impact on the military and informing a “new cyber training model.”

“There is nothing that we do as a joint force that doesn’t rely on cyber — so it’s important that we up our game in cyber,” he said. “What Cyberworx does is it puts cyber in the hands of really young, talented ‘digital natives.’”

The Cyberworx was introduced in August as 16 cadets began collaborating with technology industry professionals to develop cybersecurity solutions through design thinking and the culmination of broad perspectives.

“Within the past year, Cyberworx stood up as a new operational Air Force unit with a mission of accelerating operational advantages by moving toward a simpler, more intuitive and agile Air Force created by airmen and innovators,” Brothers said. “Cyberworx focuses on three lines of effort: increasing the diversity of cyberspace forces through unique collaborations between warfighters and industry; to enhance airmen’s innovative spirit and opportunities; and to design new ways of exploiting cyberspace for air force missions across all war fighting domains.”

For more information, read the Feb. 17 issue of the Business Journal.