Air Force News Flash: "Cold War Has Given Way to Cyberwar."


The Air Force has been feeling neglected lately, since they're not very visible in Iraq and Afghanistan. They faced two options: (1) Do their (important) jobs quietly and be glad they're not getting blown up, or (2) launch a major ad campaign reminding America that they are in charge of Air, Space, and Cyberspace. (No word on whether they had to squabble for jurisdiction with the Department of Transportation over the Information Superhighway.) They chose option (2) for the low, low price of $81 million over the next two years.

I know this, because this morning I was innocently trying to read Slate.com when the screen blacked out. Then a logo appeared. It was Air Force, reminding me that this time it was just my friendly neighborhood Air Force deploying an annoying new kind of pop up ad, but next time it could be a "cyber attack." It was a (very) slow day at Slate (except this excellent piece), so I bailed and clicked through on the Air Force ad.

The centerpiece of the campaign's page is a series of stuttery, balky videos showing about how the Air Force is protecting us in "a changing world": "You used to need an army to wage war. Now all you need in an Internet connection." According to the first video, "the Cold War has given way to cyberwar." Who knew? Note: the visual for "cyberwar" in several of the videos is a newspaper story about an attack on Estonia. But whatever.

I'd post the video here, but the people tasked with defending cyberspace didn't offer me the kind of options that come standard with YouTube. In fact, I can't even link to particular videos directly. Also, anyone who uses the word "cyber" as a prefix this often is probably still hanging out somewhere in the late '90s.

I realize we can't assume that the technological and verbal backwardness of the ad agency in charge of this campaign reflects what's really happening inside the Air Force's "cyber defense" arm. But it's terribly not reassuring about the brass who approved this campaign.

They've mastered the art of the pointless Internet poll, though: A poll on the home page asks "Do you believe cyberwar is a possibility?" At post time, 84 percent of respondents say "Yes." Yikes.