On March 8, 2017, the Data Science Institute and the Saltzman Institute of War and Peace Studies, SIPA, hosted Lt. Gen. William J. “Bill” Bender to Columbia for a conversation on the future of the Air Force and its leadership in cyber power. The visit began with a meeting with Saltzman faculty, followed by a public discussion in Davis Auditorium, and ended with an interview session with SIPA students.

Dual-hatted in the posts of Chief, Information Dominance and Office of the Chief Information Officer for the Secretary of the Air Force, Lt. Gen. Bender offered many keen and candid insights into the mission of the Air Force in the cyber domain as well as what the branch looks for in its workforce. Given General Bender’s role in innovation in the Air Force, the topic of innovation versus bureaucracy was a common one, particularly in relation to the needs of the Air Force and its relation to the National Security Agency (NSA). Overall, the discussion emphasized tremendous opportunity for creativity and novelty with relation to cyber, and how the Air Force was unique among the Armed Forces for offering in this role, particularly with respect to research and development and intellectual capacity.