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Outgoing USAF secretary proposes new S&T strategy

April 25, 2019

Last week, U.S. Air Force secretary Heather Wilson released a new Science and Technology Strategy outlining three broad areas for realignment within the branch. The secretary’s emphasis on transformational partnerships should be particularly noteworthy for non-defense organization working with new technologies or STEM workforce. The strategy outlines three objectives: improving delivery of transformational capabilities, reforming S&T management, and likely to be of most interest to the tech-based economic development community, expanding the S&T enterprise with a particular focus on workforce and facilitating innovation partnerships.

For the secretary’s first objective, improving USAF’s delivery of transformational capabilities, the branch will focus on multidisciplinary work and developing a “vanguard” program to target the development of promising tech.

As part of the second objective, reforming S&T management, the USAF will create a chief technical officer and office to manage science activities throughout the branch.

The third objective, expanding S&T enterprise, is likely to be of the most interest to tech-based economic development organizations. Part of this objective is focused on workforce development; USAF wants a pipeline of “technology-proficient” airmen and wants to implement training programs and authorities to cultivate efficiency and risk-taking among current personnel. The other part of this objective is to facilitate innovation partnerships, including encouraging joint research with academics and industry and expanding tech transfer opportunities.

Most of the activities spelled out in the plan are possible under USAF’s current authorities, but may take time to implement. Secretary Wilson has also announced her intention to resign on May 31. Obviously, the implementation of this strategy will be determined largely by her successor, who is currently unnamed.

science policy, strategic plan