Command Decision

By John Reed / May 15, 2009 at 5:00 AM

The Air Force today announced that it plans to make Lackland Air Force Base in San Antonio, TX, the permanent headquarters for the service's cyber-fighting arm -- the 24th Air Force.

This comes after years of fits and starts for the numbered air force, which was originally going to have major command status -- a proposal viewed by many as the Air Force's attempt to establish itself as the lead service for defending the nation in the cyber arena.

However, this notion didn't exactly go over well with everyone in the Pentagon. Public relations flaps over an ad campaign depicting the Air Force as all that protected America from cyber devastation, distracting scandals involving nuclear weapons and subsequent leadership changes led the service to downsize the cyber arm to a numbered air force, reporting to Air Force Space Command, that would be responsible only for protecting the service's networks.

The 24th Air Force's new home of San Antonio makes good sense in that Texas has a fairly robust high-tech economy and nearby Austin is host to the main campus of the University of Texas and its research facilities. Other bases that were vying to host 24th Air Force were Barksdale AFB, LA, Langley AFB, VA, Offutt AFB, NE, Peterson AFB, CO, and Scott AFB, IL.

A provisional command has been working toward the official stand-up at its temporary home of at Barksdale just outside of Shreveport, LA, for more than a year.

Now that the Air Force has made its choice, service officials will have to wait until summer to get the green light to stand up the command at Lackland while the Air Force conducts and environmental impact study to ensure the new mission will not harm the local environment. This. however, is not likely to be a problem because the online-oriented command will require little “brick and mortar” development, said provisional cyber command chief Maj. Gen. William Lord earlier this year.