An official website of the United States government
Here's how you know
A .mil website belongs to an official U.S. Department of Defense organization in the United States.
A lock (lock ) or https:// means you’ve safely connected to the .mil website. Share sensitive information only on official, secure websites.

Leaders discuss operational imperatives, digital transformation

  • Published
  • By K. Houston Waters
  • 66th Air Base Group Public Affairs

HANSCOM AIR FORCE BASE, Mass. – Air Force and industry leaders came together to discuss the Secretary of the Air Force’s operational imperatives, digital engineering, acquisition, the Advanced Battle Management System, and other topics during virtual presentations April 5-6.

The first week of New Horizons 2022, sponsored by AFCEA’s Lexington-Concord chapter, included briefings and panel discussions from Steven Wert, program executive officer, Digital, and Christopher Garrett, technical advisor, systems engineering, Air Force Life Cycle Management Center, among others.

Dr. George Ka’iliwai, director of requirements and resources, U.S. Indo-Pacific Command, was the keynote speaker for the event. During his address, he thanked the acquisition community for their support of USINDOPACOM.

“The Air Force acquisition community is developing non-materiel solutions for materiel issues, all while using imagination to be innovative,” he said. “They are working alongside the warfighter so they really understand what their needs are, which helps close information gaps and deliver important capabilities to the warfighter, faster.”

During a PEO Digital briefing that featured senior materiel leaders from multiple divisions in the directorate, Wert detailed his role in supporting the Secretary of the Air Force’s operational imperatives. He also explained the mission and vision for his program executive office, which is the largest in Air Force Materiel Command with approximately 4,300 employees. In addition, Wert provided program updates and detailed business opportunities.  

While speaking during the Air Force Association’s Warfare Symposium in early March, Secretary of the Air Force Frank Kendall outlined a roadmap for successfully bringing new technologies, thinking, and cultures necessary for the Air and Space Forces to deter and defeat modern adversaries.

According to Wert, these seven operational imperatives embody a pivot from counterinsurgency to a high-end peer or near-peer fight.

“This shift will have a profound effect on what technologies we will need to bring forward, and fundamentally how we operate,” he said. “At the end of the day, these operational imperatives require us to make analytically-based recommendations on the future of Air Force programs and policies. And that’s what we’re doing now,” he said.

Recently, the Department of the Air Force made the decision to divest from two of Wert’s airborne radar programs.

In the fiscal year 2023 president’s budget, the Air Force proposed retiring half of the Airborne Early Warning and Control System, or AWACS, fleet and replacing it, over time, with E-7 Wedgetail. The process of retiring Joint Surveillance Target Attack Radar System, or J-STARS, is already underway and will be completed in less than two years, he said.

During their presentations, many of Digital’s senior materiel leaders provided business opportunities for their divisions. Col. Patrick Maddox of the Command and Control, Intelligence, Surveillance, and Reconnaissance Division, discussed how he is seeking industry partners to assist with a “multitude of services” within his portfolio, including efforts to fully transition the Distributed Common Ground System, or DCGS, from a legacy weapon system to one using open architecture.

Over the past year, PEO Digital has undergone reorganizations within its divisions. Wert noted that several branches within the Strategic Warning and Surveillance Systems Division transitioned to the U.S. Space Force under the Space Systems Command and the E-4B Survivable Airborne Operations Center program shifted from Digital to be a part of the Program Executive Office Presidential and Executive Airlift, which is headquartered at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, Ohio.

Additionally, since the fall of 2021, Digital now oversees Air Mobility Command’s largest air operations center, the 618th AOC at Scott Air Force Base, Illinois.

New Horizons virtual presentations continue April 12-14 with panel discussions and briefings featuring Lt. Gen. Duke Richardson, military deputy, Office of the Assistant Secretary of the Air Force for Acquisition, Technology, and Logistics, Maj. Gen. Michael Schmidt, program executive officer, Command, Control, Communications, Intelligence and Networks, and Scott Hardiman, program executive officer, Nuclear Command, Control and Communications.

C3I&N and NC3 PEOs are both headquartered here.

Arsenio Gumahad, director of the Command, Control, Communications, Computers/Intelligence, Surveillance, and Reconnaissance Division of the Office of the Under Secretary of Defense for Acquisition and Sustainment, is also scheduled to participate.