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WASHINGTON — The Air Force is finalizing details for a new career path in network and Internet security for both enlisted personnel and officers, the head of the service’s cyberspace operations said Tuesday.

Lt. Gen. Robert Elder, 8th Air Force commander and head of the Air Force service component headquarters for global strike and network operations, said officials expect to announce the new specialty codes in coming weeks.

“We want something where we’re not just pulling people out of communications or pulling people out of intel,” he said. “We want a path where you enter the Air Force to be a cyber-operator, and that’s what you do for the rest of your career.”

Elder’s comments came at an Air Force Association event on long-term military cyberspace goals. Experts there said the military needs to develop clearer security goals and better working relationships with other agencies to ensure the Internet and other computer networks remain protected from terrorist attacks.

They pointed out that while military satellites and communications systems are obviously vital to the services’ warfighting capabilities, public networks such as the Internet are just as crucial for the military to monitor and protect.

But conflicts over responsibilities and rules regarding military jurisdiction have hampered efforts to develop a national cyberspace security plan, according to retired Gen. John Jumper, former Air Force chief of staff.

“It’s time for us to get started now,” he said. “It isn’t about ownership. There are many stovepipes out there, but this networking world is a new way of doing business. It has to be defended.”

Elder said he also wants to set up at least one network security unit — staffed most likely with Air National Guard personnel — in every state to help put the Air Force at the front of potential threats.

The service has already declared cyberspace one of its warfighting domains, and late last year established the Air Force Cyberspace Command to address the issue. Last December, the Defense Department published a new national military strategy on network security, underscoring its future importance.

Elder expects to have the new guard units operational within a year, hopefully including some personnel in the new cyberspace career codes.

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