As the United States Air Force (USAF) looks to the future, its FY2022 budget request to Congress reflects a vision of a world fraught with uncertainty, with an urgent need to expand its capability to project force into new global domains, including cyberspace and outer space.
The $173.7 billion budget request includes multiple funding increases intended to support modernization and consolidation of Information Technology systems, including $811 million to modernize the Air Force’s Enterprise Information Technology (EIT), with funding to continue the consolidation of EIT into a single Budget Activity to support contracting of IT services, which began in FY2020. Transitioning its network operations to an EIT as-a-service model will enable the Air Force to reassign servicemembers from IT management into roles more aligned with the department’s need to address current and future cyberthreats.
The move comes at a time when cyber threats from independent and state-sponsored actors are growing in number and intensity, with attacks increasingly bringing business operations and critical infrastructure to a halt. A March 2021 report by the Government Accountability Office (GAO) stresses the importance of bridging the critical cybersecurity staffing gap, warning of a shortfall of approximately 3 million cybersecurity professionals needed to defend government IT systems and networks.
The Air Force additionally requested funding to support the ‘All Domain Common Platform,’ a cloud-based, as-a-service model that aims to “deliver highly resilient [command and control] mission applications and data,” empowering service members to “build, deploy, and monitor missions applications” on a global basis, according to the Air Force’s Research & Development budget request. The project, which requested $64 million in funding for FY2022, seeks to enable seamless communications between services and defense partners.
By leveraging EIT as-a-service in its march toward modernization of IT systems, the Air Force will be better positioned to fill much-needed cybersecurity roles within its ranks and to strengthen its ability to protect critical national defense networks and infrastructure. With dedicated contract staff able to focus on the daily operational needs of Air Force IT systems, fighting men and women will be free to focus on protecting the national interests of the United States.