That’s big news for Colorado Springs, home of the 24th Air Force division, which is on the front line of the cyberspace mission as part of the Air Force Space Command at Peterson.
Government aerospace contractors are branching out into cyberspace, raising hopes of more jobs for the city.
“To say it’s emerging is an understatement,” said Bob Bishop, a marketing director for Boeing Corp. “It’s going to be booming very soon.”
The new Air Force division was established last fall. Because it’s still new, Air Force officials are still determining just what its cyber mission will take.
Gen. Michael Kehler said the mission “represented the same great set of opportunities for Colorado Springs” as the establishment of the original Air Force space mission.
Speaking to business leaders at recent gathering at The Broadmoor, he said companies will be able to compete for contracts in research and development, technical training and software skills.
He compared the job to policing a large city — where people meet, talk, shop and do business.
The Space Command is the management headquarters for the 24th Air Force, and will serve as a blueprint for the nation’s cyberspace operations.
“The bottom line is we are at war in cyberspace … today … all the time,” said Gen. Stephen R. Lorenz, commander of the Air Education and Training Command.
Other countries have successfully used cyber warfare — Israel is one of the leaders, having begun its work in this realm in the 1990s.
Cyberspace adds a dimension to war fighting, and cyber soldiers try not only protect the nation’s information technology assets, but will attack the enemy’s assets as well.
“It will take a little while for us to get our feet on the ground,” Kehler said. “I think the growth potential across all the services here is large.”
Elliot Pulham, executive director of the Colorado Springs-based Space Foundation, agreed.
“It’s vastly underappreciated in the Springs,” he said. “But it’s why the No. 2 guy from McAfee will be here for the (Space) Symposium (next week). It’s the next big thing.”
The Colorado Springs Regional Economic Development Corp. has recently added cyberspace as an industry segment it’s pursuing.
“Years ago, the opportunity was in space systems, missiles,” said David White, vice president of marketing for the EDC. “Now, it’s not so great there, but there is great opportunity for cyber jobs.”
White recently marketed the Colorado Springs area to cyber companies at the RSA Conference in San Francisco, which covers security in the arena.
He said the 60thirtyfive plan developed last fall on behalf of the EDC suggested the group focus on cyberspace, as well as aerospace in general.
While economic developers might have been slow to recognize its potential, aerospace companies have not.
ITT Services, headquartered in the Springs, is seeking to be part of the military’s cyber mission. The company has 800 employees in Colorado Springs — and could have more as it competes for cyber contracts.
“It’s a new strategic growth area for ITT,” said B.J. Talley, marketing director for the company. “That type of work is going to be big — and we won’t be the only ones going after it.”
ITT is already doing some cyber security work, but another big leader in the field is also already located in Colorado Springs. CSC, a global company with $16 billion in revenue, is performing cyber security for both the public and commercial sectors.
“It’s a mission of its own,” said Gayle White, director of engineering for CSC in Colorado Springs. “It’s closely integrated with space and mission control, but it’s also part of war-fighter support around the world. There are a lot of applications, and we’re definitely interested.”
Other international companies with more traditional space missions also are eyeing the emerging market.
“The Springs is important for this cyber mission,” White said. “The budget’s been approved for the 24th Air Force, and they are starting to plan and develop operational policy.
“It’s only a matter of time before we see a lot of activity in this field.”