by Tech. Sgt. Meredith Mingledorff
Secretary of the Air Force Public Affairs Command Information
9/17/2015 - WASHINGTON (AFNS) -- Chief
Scientist of the Air Force and other senior leaders conducted a panel
discussion about the importance of innovation in a time of austerity
during the 2015 Air Force Association Air and Space Conference and
Technology Exposition Sept. 14.
The panel members, led by Dr. Greg Zacharias, included Air Force
Research Laboratory Commander Maj. Gen Thomas Masiello, Air Force Test
Center Commander Maj. Gen. David Harris, and Institute for Defense
Analyses Science and Technology Policy Institute Director Dr. Mark
Each member of the panel presented his perspective on why continued
innovation is imperative, especially during times of financial struggle.
They each added that while the Air Force may be tempted to cut funding
for science and technology development and testing during budgetary
restrictions, financially constrained environments are exactly when the
Air Force should be investing in their future.
Zacharias began the discussion by stating there are game changers being
developed by science and technology fields including hypersonics,
directed energy, nanotechnology, unmanned systems and autonomous
systems. He stated these innovations will revolutionize the world, and
the most cost effective solution is to find ways to move them through
the acquisition process quicker.
"We have a great opportunity to benefit the acquisition process,"
Zacharias said. "We could benefit from earlier, more extensive, and more
comprehensive modeling and simulation; using the same resources we use
Masiello agreed, adding Air Force Materiel Command's objective of being
more agile is a key to the solution, and important to how AFRL supports
the Air Force. The general said his organization is working on
"Warfighter Focused Innovation."
"We cannot afford to be working in areas that the warfighter and acquisitions are not on the same page," said Masiello.
The general instituted capability collaboration teams, representing
every major command to document warfighter needs and science and
technology requirements. The result is three-way conversations that
The AFRL commander attributed a broad network of innovators to include
small business, international collaboration and an innovation network
are imperative to mission success. He emphasized work must be more fast
paced; which requires a change in Air Force business practices.
"In a time of austerity, when you're worried about where the next dollar
is coming from, that's when you really want to be thinking about these
capabilities," Lewis said. "That is a time when you want to be investing
in the future of S&T (science and technology)."
When asked how the Air Force can establish policy to ensure adequate
testing without going overboard, Harris responded the balance must be
made between the acquisitions professional and the person paying the
bills. He said testers are the quality control.
"Just remember, at the end of the day, it should work. If it doesn't
work, coming in under cost and under budget doesn't matter," Harris
The panel emphasized cutting funding from science and technology
innovations is a risky proposition that costs more in the long-run.
"The cost of making a mistake is more costly," Lewis said. "In testing,
any result is a good result because we are learning. If you want
something to succeed, you have to pay for it, and you have to make those
investments up front."