It only reached “initial operating capability” in February, but already the Air Force Academy’s CyberWorx program is making real policy changes, and seeing plans accelerated for a permanent secure facility and full operating capability.
“We’re excited, and the Air Force is excited about what we’re doing,” said CyberWorx director Col. Jeffrey Collins.
Collins said the new CyberWorx building, originally planned for fiscal year 2021, has been moved ahead by almost three years.
CyberWorx currently operates out of “a temporary, temporary studio,” Collins emphasized, where the team can handle one project at a time. They go off-site for design sprints.
The new building will raise capacity to 10 simultaneous projects — or full operating capability.
“We thought we would get [to full operating capability] in ’22. The Air Force has moved that up for us, so we’ll be ramping up to that,” Collins said.
Even at initial operating capability and in temporary quarters, CyberWorx has been true to its goal of providing “rapid, creative and agile solutions” in the cyber domain, bringing fresh perspective through public-private partnerships and tackling operational problems quickly through design sprints.
Three projects of note in the first half of 2017:
CYBER Command & Control
In the Cyber Command & Control Semester Sprint, Air Force cadets and industry participants worked to answer a key question: “How can cyber communications become more effective between different squadrons?”
The project aimed to “define and refine the command and control relationships affecting today’s communications squadrons as they transition to become Cyber Squadrons,” according to the Scott Air Force Base website.
Collins said Command and Control cyberspace problems come with added layers of complexity.
“Why it’s a wicked problem is not technical — it is [because of] stovepiped and bureaucratic policies,” he said.
“[There are] very good reasons for them individually but it prevents agility, which is what you have Command and Control for: to make decisions and enact them quickly. So the cadets have been working over the course of the semester on what we can do to improve that situation.”
Collins said cadets find real value in the process, and in seeing tangible results from their work. “The idea that they’re working on something that is real, and that the people in the Pentagon care enough to come out here, hear them, and will change the policy accordingly — you don’t get that in an everyday math class,” he said. “So there’s that exciting aspect to it.”
In April, the Smart Bases Design Sprint at Catalyst Campus addressed how the Air Force could leverage Internet of Things and IT commercial technologies to make Air Force bases better places to work and more energy efficient and engender a culture of continuous learning.
The task, particularly relevant as USAFA and Maxwell AFB transition to smarter technologies and campuses, was tackled by representatives from the Air Force, Navy and Marines, along with industry participants.
Collins said the sprint developed user stories that helped the team understand how to best use emerging “smart cities” concepts in Air Force operations, to improve mission effectiveness and airmen’s lives on smart bases of the future.
User stories, which describe a software feature from an end-user perspective, help identify what cyber infrastructure is needed for planned technologies.
Collins talked through potential IoT solutions while the sprint was underway.
“Many of the projects you’ll hear about are aimed at, ‘We can make this squadron better by integrating this, or doing that,” he said.
“Our [Air Force] chief of staff, General Goldfein, is very interested in how we improve the squadrons, because it’s our squadrons that bring the warfighting capability of the Air Force to bear. …So it’s both mission focused and mission support focused, with the understanding that mission support is really important for allowing people to focus on the mission.
“[For example] can you take a burden off airmen… using IoT in some way to help them be assured that their child in the Child Development Center is safe … so that they’re focused on the mission and not on ‘What is my child doing right now?’” Collins said.
It’s all about what will help the airmen day-to-day, he said. Follow-up design projects will start at USAFA in the fall.
A new sprint starts June 19.
“The #AFSpaceSA sprint will design a solution to a big data problem that’s of huge importance to Air Force operations in space,” Collins said. “… The USAF provides GPS data for so many military and civilian uses, so it was an honor for CyberWorx to be asked by [Air Force Space Command] to pull together a design thinking sprint to come up with some good answers for improving and protecting our operations.”
According to information from C-TRAC, which is partnering with CyberWorx on #AFSpaceSA, the sprint will come up with the best options for using academic, commercial and foreign data to make better decisions for operational advantage in the space domain, and will lead to an integrated Space Situational Awareness data profile.