USAF to scrutinize science and technology strategy

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NATIONAL HARBOR, Maryland – The U.S. Air Force will put its science-and-technology priorities and strategy under a yearlong microscope to see how they can be improved and updated, service Secretary Heather Wilson said Sept. 18.

“We need to update our research priorities, but validation of research areas isn’t enough,” Wilson said during her keynote speech at the annual Air Force Association Air Space Cyber Conference.

“We need to rethink the way in which we manage our path-breaking research so that we can effectively partner with others to retain American dominance in air and space power,” Wilson said.

The Air Force Research Laboratory will lead the review, she said. The Air Force Scientific Advisory Board will also conduct a simultaneous, similar review to provide feedback and advice.

She said she also plans to enlist the help of the Air Force Studies board of the National Academies of Science, Engineering and Medicine.

“The Air Force must reinvigorate its focus on basic and applied research to ensure the long-term domination of air and space,” Wilson said. “We must also reevaluate how we manage our research enterprise and spend research dollars in ways that advance air and space superiority for the long term.”

Wilson noted she is a big supporter of university-based research and said the service must find more ways to tap that resource. As part of the review, the Air Force will provide small grants to universities to sponsor regional workshops in partnership with American universities to gather input from academic researchers.

“When it comes to research, the Air Force is stronger when we partner with American universities and let industry know what our priorities are,” Wilson said. “We will advance knowledge and help develop the next generation of scientists and engineers.”

As part of the review, the Air Force will identify high-priority research areas for basic and applied research important to air and space power over the next 10-20 years.

“The Air Force has to drive modernization,” Wilson said. “We must accept risk.”

And, she said, the service must continue to innovate. “What was good enough among the innovators of our fathers and our grandfathers is not good enough for our children and grandchildren.”