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Air Force Science and Technology 2030 campaign: Your ideas will shape the Air Force of tomorrow

Maj. Brook Bentley, program manager with the Air Force Research Laboratory, introduces the technical themes of the U.S. Air Force Science and Technology 2030 Forum held May 10 at Indiana University. (Indiana University photo/Chris Meyer)

Maj. Brook Bentley, program manager with the Air Force Research Laboratory, introduces the technical themes of the U.S. Air Force Science and Technology 2030 Forum held May 10, 2018, at Indiana University. (Indiana University photo by Chris Meyer)

WRIGHT-PATTERSON AIR FORCE BASE, Ohio (AFNS) -- The Air Force Research Laboratory continues its support of the Air Force Science and Technology 2030 initiative and joined with Indiana University to host a listening forum at the university’s Bloomington, Indiana campus May 10-11, 2018.

Indiana University is one of six universities to host these types of listening forums as part of the S&T campaign, which is scheduled to last through September. The goal is to help the Air Force review its strategy in science and technology research. To do this, the service has been reaching out to the scientific community, higher education and business communities, as well as the general public to ensure it remains at the leading edge of technological advances.

Those interested in sharing scientific or technology-related ideas with the Air Force don’t have to attend a listening event in person in order to do so. The lab has also created a website with a standing invitation to submit ideas about basic and applied research, as well as innovative business practices for Air Force Science and Technology. To provide your ideas, visit: www.afresearchlab.com/2030.

“In a world where far more innovation is happening outside the government than inside it, connecting to the broader scientific enterprise is vital,” Secretary of the Air Force Heather Wilson said in a statement discussing the initiative early this year. “Our research strategy will look broadly and draw from the best of American research universities as well as Air Force and federal laboratories.”

The forum at Indiana University offered participants a variety of technical presentation tracks covering topical areas such as Artificial Intelligence for Mission Planning and Execution, Novel Sensing and Data Fusion, Cyber Assurance, Human Performance and Human Computer Interface, and Next Generation Propulsion and Advanced Manufacturing.

“The reality of today is that many of the United States adversaries are advancing technology faster than we are,” Maj. Gen. William T. Cooley, Air Force Research Laboratory commander, told those in attendance.

“To stay ahead, we must continue to push the boundaries of what’s possible. We must innovate smarter and faster. The U.S. Air Force is looking to you– our country’s university scientific researchers and industry partners to help us invent the technologies that will keep all of us safe in the future.”

Cooley told the audience that the stakes are too high to not work this way and that national security and the American way of life depend on the Air Force’s ability to innovate quickly and be on the cutting-edge of science.

“In the past, nuclear weapons, stealth technology and precision guided munitions have enabled an advantage over our adversaries and secured our dominance on the battlefield,” he said. “Through this study, we hope to work with you and identify the next major technological breakthrough that will maintain our dominance on the battlefield. Together, we will lay the groundwork for the science and technology that will define the future of the U.S. Air Force for 2030 and beyond.”

Indiana University officials shared their optimism about AFRL’s efforts with regard to the Air Force Science and Technology 2030 initiative.

“The Air Force is forward-thinking. They’re looking for visionary ideas and we’re thrilled to partner with them,” said Fred H. Cate, IU’s vice president for research, in an IU news release.

“Every idea collected, either online by an individual or developed by ideation teams at one of the public listening forums will be reviewed and considered,” said Brian McJilton, Air Force 2030 S&T Program Manager.

AFRL has assembled a robust team of reviewers to ensure that each idea receives multiple reviews from qualified scientists and engineers. The ideas that are well endorsed will be forwarded to an external panel of experts with relevant technical expertise to evaluate and prioritize options, McJilton said.
“The ideas with the greatest promise for enabling the future Air Force will be considered by a panel chaired by the chief scientist of the Air Force,” said McJilton.

A number of highly enabling opportunities will be chosen to be featured as new research priorities for the Air Force. These will be documented in a formal report to the Secretary of the Air Force in September and should shape Air Force research investments over the coming decade, he said.

The next public listening event is scheduled for May 22 at the University of Washington, to be followed by upcoming events at Texas A&M University June 28-29, and the University of Utah July 11.