Historically, the Air Force has remained the world’s preeminent air and space fighting force by forging innovators from within the ranks, empowering them to problem solve and providing them the resources to do so.
Today, the Air Force is formally expanding this call for innovation through the AFWERX program, which encourages partnerships with academic institutions, science and technology communities and private industries with an invested interest in solving complex security issues.
According to Air Force leadership, the Secretary of the Air Force established the AFWERX program to facilitate the integration and implementation of creative and disruptive technology to ensure today’s Airmen maintain the capability advantage over tomorrow’s adversary.
“Airmen are the ones closest to the problems, the people at the tip of the spear, who understand the problems, who understand the enemy, and have the ideas to make us more lethal,” said Capt. Steven Lauver, co-director of the Air Force Technology Accelerator at AFWERX. “It all exists with the people who are there solving the problems on the battlefield. Innovation is important because we are taking the people who understand our problems and enabling them to solve them.”
Private industries are moving exponentially faster than the Department of the Defense in autonomous technology. Recruiting innovative solutions from these outside resources requires the Air Force to take a chance before the technology becomes obsolete, Lauver said.
“It’s a higher risk not to act than to act,” Lauver said. “If we don’t begin executing on the innovation conversation then we are going to fall behind on a global scale.”
AFWERX is the first step in furthering that conversation. Each AFWERX facility will serve as an innovation hub to bring tools and resources together in physical, open, “first stop” public access points. The goal of the program is to create a mutually-beneficial partnership with innovators and entrepreneurs to generate technology at an accelerated rate, said Air Force leadership.
“When people’s lives are on the line, and time is of the essence, you have to be willing to take those smart risks to solve problems quickly,” Lauver said. “Right now, there is an appetite to try new things and implement new technologies and new solutions to make us better on the battlefield.”