Virginia Air National Guard to stand up new cyber operations squadron

SANDSTON, Va. — The Virginia Air National Guard’s 192nd Fighter Wing will stand up a new cyber operations squadron at Langley Air Force Base in Hampton, Virginia, according to multiple announcements made Dec. 9, 2015, by Gen. Frank J. Grass, the Chief of National Guard Bureau, the Governor of Virginia and the Virginia Congressional Delegation. Virginia was one of four states selected to stand up cyber operations squadrons by the Department of Defense.

“Virginia’s selection as one of four states to stand up a new Air Force cyber unit is the result of a great team effort between state government, our congressional delegation, National Guard Bureau, the Virginia National Guard, and Joint Base Langley-Eustis,” said Governor Terry McAuliffe. “Virginia emerged as a front-runner due to its existing facilities, strong defense industrial base with a cyber focus, and academic institutions to sustain recruiting and retention. It is also a testament to the outstanding reputation of the Virginia National Guard for excellent performance and dedication to mission accomplishment.”

Approximately 70 airmen will be assigned to the cyber operations squadron, and they will be a combination of full-time Virginia National Guard Airmen and traditional drill status Guard Airmen who normally train one weekend a month and 15 days a year.

As a National Guard unit, the squadron will have both federal and state missions. The cyber operations squadron’s primary federal mission will be cyberspace mission defense protecting Air Force and U.S. critical infrastructure against cyber attacks. As part of the state mission, the unit will be available to assist state and local government agencies with vulnerability assessments to help improve network security.

The cyber capability will add to the Virginia Air National Guard’s current primary missions of air superiority, intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance, civil engineering, medical support, global logistics, security forces and weather forecasting.

“We really appreciate the hard work that went into bringing the cyber operations squadron to Virginia,” said Maj. Gen. Timothy P. Williams, the Adjutant General of Virginia. “Our selection comes from tremendous teamwork at the state level led by Governor McAuliffe as well as great support from our Congressional Delegation. I am confident that our Airmen will be just as successful with this mission as they are with F-22 Raptor flight operations and ISR support conducted at Langley Air Force Base.”

No exact timeline has been established for standing up the new unit, Williams said. He hopes for more specifics about the timeline and other details early next year.

Virginia’s bipartisan delegation, including Sens. Mark R. Warner and Tim Kaine (both D-VA) and U.S Reps. Scott Rigell (R-VA-2), Bobby Scott (D-VA-3), Gerry Connolly (D-VA-11), Rob Wittman (R-VA-1), and Randy Forbes (R-VA-4), issued a joint news release after advocating to locate the cyber capability at Joint Base Langley Eustis since December 2014.

“We were very pleased to hear that the Air National Guard chose Joint Base Langley-Eustis for an Air Force Cyber Operations Squadron,” the Virginia delegation said in their release. “Cybersecurity is one of the greatest challenges we face as a nation, and this mission will play a critical role in responding to threats and protecting the integrity of our networks and cyber systems. This decision is a testament to Virginia’s strong record in cyber capabilities, including top defense and technology companies, research institutions, and a highly skilled workforce. We are proud to host this critical mission.”

According to their news release, the Virginia delegation sent two bipartisan letters to the Air National Guard advocating for Virginia as a location for the cyber squadron in the months leading up to the decision. Virginia is home to 9 higher-education institutions recognized by NSA and DoD as centers of academic excellence.

The new Virginia Air National Guard unit is part of ongoing growth of cyber forces throughout the Department of Defense, according to an announcement made by National Guard Bureau. The plan is to activate 13 additional cyber units spread throughout 23 states by the end of fiscal year 2019.

“Our goal for cyber-defense is to train, equip and provide highly skilled forces responsive to the needs of the nation,” said Army Gen. Frank Grass, chief of the National Guard Bureau. “Working with the Army and Air Force our cyber squadrons and teams will provide trained and ready Soldiers and Airmen to support requirements established by the services and U.S. Cyber Command.”

Seven new Army Guard Cyber Protection Teams will be activated across Alabama, Arkansas, Colorado, Illinois, Kentucky, Louisiana, Minnesota, Mississippi, Missouri, Nebraska, New Jersey, New York, North Dakota, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, and Wisconsin. They join four previously announced Army Guard CPTs spread across California, Georgia, Indiana, Maryland, Michigan and Ohio.

In partnership with the Air Force, the Air Guard will activate four new Cyber Operations Squadrons in Idaho, Michigan, Texas and Virginia. In addition, a cyber Information Surveillance Reconnaissance squadron will stand up in California and a cyber ISR group in Massachusetts.

The Virginia National Guard currently has cyber capability in the Fairfax-based Data Processing Unit with the mission of conducting full spectrum cyber operations. The unit has more than 160 Soldiers whose missions include conducting web risk and vulnerability assessment in support of U. S. Army Cyber Command and other federal agencies.

Soldiers from DPU have taken part in national-level training exercises. In March 2015, Virginia cyber warriors joined more than 350 Soldiers, Airmen and civilians from 42 states for the 2015 Cyber Shield Exercise at Camp Atterbury, Indiana. The exercise focused on training and developing National Guard cyber capabilities, and Virginia Soldiers provided the opposing force, or OPFOR, as well as exercise participants. The exercise was part of the National Guard’s ongoing efforts to improve readiness to respond to real-world cyber incidents.

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Governor McAuliffe Announces Virginia Air National Guard to Stand Up New Cyber Unit
http://governor.virginia.gov/newsroom/newsarticle?articleId=13673

Air Force Selects Langley For New Cyber Squadron
http://www.kaine.senate.gov/press-releases/air-force-selects-langley-for-new-cyber-squadron