Gain and Maintain Acquisitions Superiority: Why the USAF Needs to Deliver Faster, Fail Smarter, and Innovate Better

Abstract: The US’s near-peer competitors are closing capabilities gaps by rapidly acquiring new technologies deliberately designed to challenge the US Air Force’s air superiority. One main reason for this “capabilities closure” is the slow and risk-averse nature of the Department of Defense’s acquisitions process. But even within the limitations of the DoD’s system, tThe USAF can increase the effectiveness of its acquisitions by prioritizing speed of delivery, accepting and managing the increased risk of failure, and incorporating innovative ideas as core acquisitions priorities. Aggressively adopting these three focus areas may help the USAF to retain – or even expand – its comparative military advantage against near-peer competitors.

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Supply Chain Competition and All-Effects Warfare: Achieving Strategic Advantage (Part 2 of 2)

Executive Summary: Our previous article on supply chain competition and warfare explained how political, economic, and security issues unleash and restrain strategies of competitive advantage. China is waging all-effects warfare. Meanwhile, democratic states and the US compete with a self-imposed disadvantage: inferior operating strategy at the strategic level of significance. How can we compete and when necessary, wage superior complex warfare in kind?

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Supply Chain Competition and All-Effects Warfare: Fundamentals of Strategic Advantage (Part 1 of 2)

Executive Summary: In the hands of authoritarian powers, supply chains are systematically weaponized into broad warfare that subsumes democracies’ traditionally narrow military approach. This series analyzes supply chain competition, warfare, and strategy in two parts. Part I discusses fundamentals that set strategic parameters for achieving an “all-effects” advantage: globalization and protectionism; strategies of national security; incentives and risks; and political and technological change. This broad perspective on competition and warfare is necessary to implement the cooperative and confrontational competition prescribed in the US National Security Strategy. Part II identifies decisions and makes recommendations to combine superior “all-effects” using diplomatic, informational, military, economic, and social instruments of power. This integrative perspective is necessary to synergize strategic advantages derived from the US National Defense Strategy and sixteen other national security-related strategies.

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Communications in Multi-Domain Operations: What Does the BACN Bring?

Communications are an important element of any military operation. A lack of infrastructure and rough terrain have hindered U.S. military operations in Afghanistan (2001-Present) and Iraq (2003-Present). The difficulties encountered in both countries initially led to several different ad hoc solutions for overcoming poor communications. Eventually a long-term solution emerged, known as BACN (Battlefield Airborne Communications Node) with two dedicated platforms, an E-11A and EQ-4B. This article provides new insights on the BACN program and its history, and considers the importance of E-11s providing BACN for future multi-domain warfighting environments. Finally, it encourages new ways of thinking on how to operate in a contested environment, proposing a “BACN-mesh” concept as a way of overcoming such a vulnerability with an adversary jamming the electromagnetic spectrum.

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Defense Of The Homeland In A New Age, Part III

Editor’s note: The following article is the third of a three-part series discussing necessary advancements which will best enable the Department of Defense to continue to lead during current and future periods of competition. Part I focused on the history of the current threats, Part II outlined areas of defense and civilian research which must be pursued, and Part III delves into the path forward for cohesive, joint application of technology and research.

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Defense Of The Homeland In A New Age, Part II

Editor’s note: The following article is the second of a three-part series discussing necessary advancements which will best enable the Department of Defense to continue to lead during current and future periods of competition. Part I focused on the history of the current threats, Part II outlines areas of defense and civilian research which must be pursued, and Part III delves into the path forward for cohesive, joint application of technology and research.

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Defense Of The Homeland In A New Age, Part I

Editor’s note: The following article is the first of a three-part series discussing necessary advancements which will best enable the Department of Defense to continue to lead during current and future periods of competition. Part I briefly reviews threats America has faced thru history and those which it currently faces across all domains. Part II outlines areas of defense and civilian research which must be pursued, and Part III delves into the path forward for cohesive, joint application of technology and research.

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Infrastructure Readiness In The United States Space Force

The men and women of the US military have been protecting and defending the space domain for decades—well before the existence of the United States Space Force. Evolving threats in space drive the country to think differently about how we protect and defend that domain to ensure freedom of maneuver for future generations. Protection begins in facilities supported by robust infrastructure systems that house command and control nodes for space operators worldwide. USSF’s civil engineers have created new standards and are implementing them to measure and track readiness of the facilities and infrastructure directly supporting and inextricably linked to mission success in space.

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Human-led Machine Learning & Advanced Threats: Case Method Inquiry and Visual Analytics Applied to COVID-19

In a pervasive and complex information environment, analytics are vital to understanding advanced threats. As we rely more on machine-learnt results, asking the right questions and visualizing deep analysis are key to grasping and solving problems. These skills are also vital 21st century leadership tools that can forge a common focus among otherwise stove-piped specialists.

The COVID-19 pandemic presents an urgent threat that requires both scientific understanding and decisive leadership. The cause of the disease is SARS CoV-2, a mutating virus that thrives in conditions difficult to control at scale. To counter this threat, this article demonstrates in detail the potential of human-led case method and machine-provided visual analytics.

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Artificial Intelligence in the Operational Information Environment: The Need for Proactive Doctrine

Joint operations doctrine omits the agency of artificial intelligence (AI) in the operational information environment, which is a problem. This commentary discusses why, and recommends effective changes. Key points are as follows. AI is becoming an autonomous cause of unanticipated effects. Humans are not the most effectively intelligent actors in all environments, yet our doctrine draws lessons from the past rather than anticipating emergent futures. Machines currently excel in experience-based learning and can discover relationships in data that we cannot discern. Humans can intuit, deceive, somewhat control, and manufacture and destroy machines. In time, AI will be able to perform those cognitive, informational and physical functions as well. As out-thought becomes out-fought, we need proactive doctrine now.

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May We Mutate

The DoD, with all its branches and organizations, has adopted a model of pursuing innovation that creates peripheral spaces for experimentation and development, which has proven effective to an extent. The next steps to becoming inherently and organically innovative require focusing on the internal characteristics of the institution and its various bodies, from both cultural and systemic perspectives, to identify where mutation and adaptability can be incorporated into the smallest component parts. By adopting these measures, innovations can emerge organically from within their unique context, and those developed at the periphery can be adopted more easily and effectively, as adaptation enables more contextually appropriate integration.

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Using Prizes to Harness the Power of the Population

By: Michael Carlson Estimated reading time: 5 minutes The United States (US) Air Force proudly proclaims it has been “breaking

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A Bomber for the Navy

Rather that sending the B-1 Lancer into early retirement, the Department of Defense could transfer it to the Navy for duty as a land-based ship-killer.

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Innovation Madness: Accepting Risk Today to Avoid Defeat Tomorrow

The United States Air Force (USAF) recognizes a need for future innovations as near-peer competitors make rapid advancements in military capabilities. However, the current USAF system does not facilitate keeping up with these competitors. Innovation requires a cultural shift regarding risk acceptability at all levels, starting with leaders. The USAF can facilitate this shift by further addressing regulatory guidance and Professional Military Education programs. Until the USAF as an organization is willing to accept risks and ultimately failures to achieve success, mission impacting innovations will continue to be elusive.

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Forget “The Frozen Middle”: This mysterious layer of bureaucracy is not an insurmountable obstacle to innovation, even if it did exist.

The frozen middle is a term that we, as the AF, need to move past. Airmen need the courage to try, courage to fail, and the top cover to try again. It isn’t going to be easy or comfortable, but it is necessary.

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Changing change while it changes: The rise of disruptive military thinking (Part 3 of 3)

Militaries need to introduce design education as early as possible; cadets and privates need to experience design.

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Changing change while it changes: The rise of disruptive military thinking (Part 2 of 3)

Military design is about constantly changing, transforming, challenging, and disrupting.

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Changing change while it changes: The rise of disruptive military thinking (Part 1 of 3)

Many of the seemingly successful mechanical planning processes of the last two centuries are now holding us back

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Igniting a Cultural Insurgency in the Acquisition Community: Part II

A cultural reform in DOD acquisitions and USAF professional development is critical to timely delivery of capability to the warfighter.

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#RescueIcarus: A Manifesto for Heroic Innovation

Excerpt: The moral of the myth is not—as we’ve been taught—to value Daedalus’s pragmatism over Icarus’s playfulness, but rather that

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Leading Distributed Teams: Theory and Practice (Part 2)

Leaders must purposefully plan how they will engage and conduct business within their own distributed organization by defining each team’s

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Avoiding the Early Bird– Innovation in the US Air Force

“The early bird gets the worm. The early worm… gets eaten” – Norm Augustine With support from the highest levels

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The Laird-Packard Way: Unpacking Defense Acquisition Policy

Exploring David Packard’s leadership in defense acquisitions may help guide the path for present day acquisition reform.

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Designing Through Complexity and Human Conflict

Rather than focus on specific or contextual concerns within a single conflict or foreign policy approach, we ought to consider

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OTH Video: Interview with Lt Gen Jeff “Cobra” Harrigian

At the end of the day it’s about killing and surviving. To do that, we’ve got to go faster and think beyond just air, space, and cyber.

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Innovation from the Bottom-Up: How Design Thinking Can Transform the Air Force Culture

Incorporating Silicon Valley’s design thinking methods can revolutionize the way the Department of Defense approaches innovation.

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Interview with Lieutenant General Jack Shanahan: Part 2

Excerpt: In an interview, Lt Gen Jack Shanahan shares his vision for the role of artificial intelligence and machine learning

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DROP ZONE: The Rise of the Machines

Although the machines have not taken over, swarms offer a solution to the problem of accessing contested areas and destroying challenging target sets.

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Multi-Domain Operations Security

OPSEC is one of many information related capabilities that must evolve in the next few years to ensure our military protects its future critical information.

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War as a Living Phenomenon: Change from and Continuity with the Past in Warfare

War is a living, multiform and complex phenomenon in perpetual motion, where there is no culmination point. The future of war is both decided by a slow-pace adaptation to experiences and history and radical innovations.

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Understanding Change: Improve, Innovate, or Create?

Innovation is not an end in and of itself, but rather a tool that can be used to achieve a desired end.
By Jon Farley

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