The Air Force considers cyber-ISR as a venue not unlike signals, electro-optical or radar-based collection. Planners want the information effectively digested and correlated with other sources and intelligence-collecting technologies. But the information flow has grown so large that manpower—as it is applied now—has become an obstacle to efficiency. The service has more than 5,000 people in its exploitation and dissemination process. They examine 1,000 hr. of full-motion video a day and spend another 500 hr. working with data collected by other air-breathing platforms.
“For the last 10 years, we have devoted airmen's eyeballs to high-definition television to pursue tactical objectives,” says Schwartz. “We will have to move beyond that kind of brute-force approach by increasingly automating analysis work or at least cuing the highest-value products for human review. I think we need to help them better focus their human capabilities on things that require human judgment.”
The technology to reduce manpower needs is available, he says, but it has to have some devoted attention from planners and decision-makers. The Air Force has 20,000 or more people doing ISR, and that's about 10% of the operational force.
Perhaps cyberoperations will escape future defense funding cuts.
“In this budget environment, the absence of reductions is a signal of priority,” says Schwartz. “It's still predominately based on defensive cyber-operations, but where it applies to Air Force missions, offensive capabilities are there as well.”