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AFWERX appoints new director to lead AFWERX 3.0 efforts

  • Published
  • By Tim Tresslar
Col. Elliott Leigh became director of AFWERX, a directorate of the Air Force Research Laboratory and the Department of the Air Force’s innovation arm, during a change of leadership ceremony Dec. 15, 2022, at the Air Force Institute of Technology, Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, Ohio.
Leigh, in his first remarks as director, praised AFWERX personnel for standing up an organization that works with exciting, cutting-edge technology and encouraged them to stay focused on the organization’s military mission.
“There's a Cold War going on,” Leigh said. “It's a war of technology and economics. This organization has a very specific and relevant role to play. We are pursuing relevant, cutting-edge technology from the private sector and accelerating it quickly into the hands of our operators.”
Andrew Hunter, assistant secretary of the Air Force for Acquisition, Technology and Logistics, presided over the ceremony as Leigh assumed the role of AFWERX director from Col. Nathan Diller, who will retire after 22 years with the U.S. Air Force.
Diller thanked the AFWERX team for “getting up every day and not just meeting, but wildly exceeding all expectations.”
“I couldn't be more grateful for the support that you provided,” he added. “There is so much our nation needs out of you as team AFWERX. You’ve got the right team and it’s going to be amazing.”  
As AFWERX director, Leigh will lead 150 military, civilian and contractors while overseeing the implementation of several new initiatives associated with AFWERX’s 3.0 evolution. AFWERX 3.0, announced in November 2022, supports DAF priorities, Airman and Guardian innovation and industry commercialization by building on the foundation created by the AFWERX team while adding five key lines of effort.
AFWERX and DAF officials discussed these efforts Dec. 14, during a three-hour event that included Diller, Hunter, Leigh and Maj. Gen. Heather L. Pringle, Air Force Research Laboratory, or AFRL, commander.
During the ceremony, Hunter highlighted the Air Force acquisition focus areas that ensure alignment with the National Defense Strategy and the Secretary of the Air Force’s Operational Imperatives
“The three focus areas and associated objectives are meant to drive sound fundamentals in program execution, acquisition policy and human capital,” Hunter said. “My first focus area is delivering operational capability to the warfighter. The second area is shaping a vibrant innovation base for strategic competition. And the third area is transforming the acquisition system for the 21st century.”
“AFWERX 3.0 is well aligned to the three focus areas that I just mentioned through its emphasis on the Operational Imperatives, through its critical role in shaping the innovation base and by serving to drive innovation in the acquisition system,” Hunter added.
Hunter expressed his gratitude to Diller for leading the organization during the last two and a half years and for supporting AFWERX, SpaceWERX, AFVentures and various Prime programs. He also conveyed his confidence in Leigh's ability to lead AFWERX into the future.
“Col. Leigh is perfectly postured to lead this next phase of AFWERX,” Hunter said. “He comes with a fantastic background in space and air acquisition – the perfect mix for leading AFWERX and SpaceWERX into this new 3.0 phase.”
Leigh, who previously served as the materiel leader for a U.S. Space Force program, joined AFWERX in September 2022 as its military deputy. He entered the Air Force in May 2002 as a distinguished graduate of the U.S. Air Force Academy. He has served in numerous test and evaluation and program management roles including chief of the B-21 Raider developmental test program.
In addition to the academy, Leigh is a graduate of the U.S Air Force Test Pilot School and the Army Command and General Staff College.
“Since its launch, AFWERX has repeatedly found ways to solve military problems with commercial technologies,” Leigh said. “We’re achieving hundreds of wins across all areas of the service, including training, medical, maintenance, logistics and operations. And we've been doing that very, very effectively for the last couple of years. Take a moment to reflect on that and be proud of the role you are playing.”
About AFRL
The Air Force Research Laboratory, or AFRL, is the primary scientific research and development center for the Department of the Air Force. AFRL plays an integral role in leading the discovery, development, and integration of affordable warfighting technologies for our air, space, and cyberspace force. With a workforce of more than 11,500 across nine technology areas and 40 other operations across the globe, AFRL provides a diverse portfolio of science and technology ranging from fundamental to advanced research and technology development. For more information, visit:    
AFWERX is an Air Force Research Laboratory Directorate that connects innovators across government, industry and academia. Through innovation and collaboration with our nation’s top subject-matter experts, AFWERX harnesses the power of ingenuity of internal talent while expanding technology, talent and transition partnerships for rapid and affordable commercial and military capability. Additional information is available at: