Networks, Innovation Key to Air Force Philosophy

Building networks and continuing innovation are key to success in the future, Air Force leaders said at the Defense One Tech Summit here today.

Richard J. Joseph, the Air Force’s chief scientist, and Mark Tapper, a special advisor on intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance at the service, spoke to’s Oriana Pawlyk during a panel discussion.

Both men said that Air Force culture must change to ensure the service can handle future threats.

“Everyone seems to recognize that the threat we face has evolved to the point where it is a real challenge to us,” Joseph said. “In order to address that, we are going to do things differently — not just having new technologies, but we’re going to have to have new approaches.”

If the service fails to adapt to this new culture, it will lose confidence of leaders and innovation will then lose priority, Joseph said. “It is up to us to fix all these things at once,” he added.

Seeking Dominance

China and Russia and some of the smaller players have access to technology that allows them to become significant opponents. “We should not be just following their lead. We should be looking at this in a grand way and try to decide where we need to go to retain dominance,” the chief scientist said.

New technology is great, Tapper said, but he wants an answer to the question, “New technologies to do what?” It comes down to using new tools and data to combat what leaders believe the future threats will be, he explained.

At its core, the Air Force projects American military might with speed and power, and, if necessary, with persistence, the officials said. But some communities within the service look at problems via a narrow lens, they acknowledged — the airlift community, for example, would come up with an airlift solution, the air combat community with an air combat community, and so on.

Joseph said there needs to be a way for communities to share a common viewpoint and that these communities should also share data so all communities can benefit.

Both men agreed that the United States shouldn’t just look at the threats posed by Russia and China and devise counters to them. Rather, they said, the military should look to see where potential threats are not operating in order to be ahead of potential threats and to force potential adversaries to invest in ways to counter American developments, rather than the other way around.

(Follow Jim Garamone on Twitter: @GaramoneDoDNews)