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Strategic Interchange Meetings connect Department of the Air Force senior leaders, researchers, with defense industry stakeholders

  • Published
  • By Patrick Foose
  • Department of the Air Force Strategic Development Planning & Experimentation office

JOINT BASE ANDREWS, Md. – Nearly 400 U.S. defense industry stakeholders recently got senior leader-level insight into Department of the Air Force priorities that could shape future capabilities.
The hybrid in-person/online Strategy Interchange Meetings (SIM), held April 19-22 at Joint Base Andrews, Maryland, were hosted by the Department of the Air Force Strategic Development Planning & Experimentation office and included members from the Air Force Research Laboratory’s Transformational Capabilities Office, Air Force Futures, and the United States Space Force.
According to Mark Ingram, Senior Advisor for Strategic Integration for SDPE and the TCO, the SIM was designed to help the attendees plan future investments, set corporate investment strategies, evaluate independent research and development (IR&D) technology portfolios, and create new or revised approaches to collaborating and partnering by providing attendees from industry and academia insight into four areas:

  • Ongoing capability development activities
  • SDPE experimentation campaigns
  • Air Force Futures vision of strategic engagements with industry
  • Proposed experimentation pathfinders and watch-list efforts

“This event was about helping the Air Force and Space Force meet the CSAF’s (Chief of Staff of the Air Force) Accelerate Change or Lose posture and tackling CSO (Chief of Space Operations) priorities like delivering new capabilities at operationally relevant speeds,” Ingram said. “Delivering future forces for these services, we needed to open the door to working with and collaborating with industry in different ways.”
During the event, senior leaders from both Services shared visionary outlooks on topics of high-level interest supporting our nation’s warfighters and insight into the Future Force needs of the services. The leaders included:

  • Lt. Gen. S. Clinton Hinote, Deputy Chief of Staff for Strategy, Integration, and Requirements of the USAF
  • Brig. Gen. John C. Walker, Deputy Director, Air Force Warfighting Capabilities, office of the Deputy Chief of Staff for Strategy, Integration, and Requirements of the USAF
  • Maj. Gen. Heather Pringle, commander, Air Force Research Laboratory, Air Force Material Command
  • Christopher Ristich, SES,  Director, SDPE and TCO
  • Col. Charles Galbreath, Deputy, Space Force Chief Technology Innovation Office (CTIO)

From an Air Force Science and Technology perspective, Pringle shared the Air Force Research Laboratory’s commitment to the importance of the Future Force design and its continued role as “One lab, serving two Services.”
According to Ingram, the event tried to open the door for collaborative dialogue with external partners, allowing attendees from U.S. defense stakeholders to discuss their ideas with government subject matter experts in one-on-one meetings following the plenary sessions. Forty-two companies registered for the private classified sessions.
“The event demonstrated that SDPE and the TCO are collaborating across both the USAF and USSF and with external partners to succeed and build military advantages,” Ingram said.
This hybrid in-person/online approach proved to be a success, allowing for companies across the United States to participate, said Ingram. He added that there were more than 300 virtual session log-ins for the meetings – with viewers indicating there was often more than one person watching from a single log-in and said the hybrid approach will likely continue for future SIMs after the pandemic ends.
“SDPE and the TCO are collectively working to change the way the Department of the Air Force does business, aligning investments around USAF and USSF Future Force designs and priorities,” Ingram said.  “The ability of these two offices to work so closely together provides a unique opportunity rarely seen in the government, allowing transformational ideas to progress quickly from concept, to technology development and demonstration, to experimentation and prototyping which help can uncover the military utility and inform investment decisions.”
About SDPE and the TCO
SDPE is a small office directly supporting Department of the Air Force and Air Force Futures capability development as a technology agnostic honest broker. The office reports to the Air Force Materiel Command (AFMC) commander and receives its taskings directly from AF Futures and Air Force senior leaders. It resides organizationally within the Air Force Research Laboratory (AFRL) alongside a sister office, the Transformational Capabilities Office (TCO), which identifies and demonstrates the viability of leap-ahead capabilities to drive the Future Force Design, disruptive “first in class” system innovations, and Vanguard programs and reports to the AFRL commander. This close partnership with the TCO and alignment to AFRL allows SDPE to rapidly pivot to evolving demands, build and lead cross-functional teams, and leverage existing Lab capabilities to accelerate capability transition.