WRIGHT-PATTERSON AFB, Ohio (AFLCMC) – The book, “The Digital Mindset: What It Really Takes to Thrive in the Age of Data, Algorithms, and AI,” quotes Albert Einstein saying, “The world as we have created it is a process of our thinking. It cannot be changed without changing our thinking.”
Lt. Gen. Shaun Morris, Air Force Life Cycle Management Center commander, used those words to illustrate the challenge during his keynote remarks to the Dayton Digital Transformation Summit held at Sinclair College August 4.
“We have got to think about how we engage with each other in more effective ways, more digital ways,” Morris said. “We’ve got to get where we can collaborate inside of real models together in real-time.”
The Air Force is making progress particularly in new programs although many times classification levels restrict showing progress to a broader audience. The current effort, he said, to create a Digital Transformation Center in Dayton could represent an opportunity to build out a hub to let people experience it.
“As great as digital transformation is, it briefs poorly. You cannot put digital transformation on a PowerPoint slide and expect people to really understand the power of it. You have to actually immerse them inside of the models to really understand the value and how we get the most out of it,” he said.
Looking to Secretary of the Air Force Frank Kendall’s’ Seven Operational Imperatives, Morris said the digital journey will be critical to success.
“When you think about those [imperatives], the backbone behind them is our ability to deliver capability faster. What digital does for us, it doesn’t eliminate steps, but allows us to increase flexibility and reduce risk,” he said.
The digital trinity of model based systems engineering, agile systems development and modular open systems architectures represents a powerful way to move and respond to threats faster.
“What it gives you is the flexibility that you don’t have to change an entire weapon system when a threat changes. I can change subsystems, I can change apertures, I can change wavelengths inside of my system in a much more responsive manner than what I do today. I can address threats quickly.”
In terms of program management, digital transformation also helps drive down risks because it allows you to gain collective insight into programs much earlier.
“When you have discovery at the end of your program, all you incur is cost and schedule impacts. There is nothing that drives our cost and schedule more than this risk.”
The digital models, he said, significantly reduces the risk of late discovery by giving everybody better insight earlier. Citing recent programs like the Ground Based Strategic Deterrent and Next Generation Air Dominance, Morris said the ability to share data earlier helps mitigate risks and brings better control over budget and schedule.
From here, Morris said it is important to look for any opportunity to move the digital ball forward.
“I talk to our team about this all the time. Every program activity that we do is an opportunity to move digital forward. Everybody should be asking themselves, ‘What can I do today with this event to move us forward.’”
Those actions could be at any juncture in new programs and old. Even small steps, he said, can add great value.
“We’ve got to change our thinking comprehensively across the entire spectrum of our acquisition process and we can’t be reliant on ‘I only do this on brand new programs.’”