AFRL commander urges greater government-industry interaction with academia

Dayton Digital Transformation Summit

The Department of the Air Force Digital Transformation office, in partnership with the University of Dayton Research Institute, Sinclair Community College and several Dayton area businesses, co-hosted the Dayton Digital Transformation Summit at Sinclair’s downtown Dayton campus Aug. 2-4.

The three-day event served to educate and align the Dayton region and interested local and national parties to support the department’s digital transformation efforts. Headlining the summit was Air Force Research Laboratory Commander Maj. Gen. Heather Pringle, who created AFRL’s Digital War Room earlier this year to digitally transform how business is conducted throughout AFRL.

“We are at a critical juncture in our nation and what we are doing in AFRL to adapt, to take some risks, to fail fast and get to the next problem that needs to be solved, is only one part of the overall solution,” Pringle said. “I want to underscore that we have a great team at AFRL, but in order to face and conquer the [accelerating] challenges our nation faces and the pace of technological change that we encounter, it is going to take each and every one of us – academia, the research institutes [and] industry – to keep up.”

Pringle’s remarks complement the broad-based, government-industry-academia partnership required to fully leverage the advantages of digitizing data and reducing production time from concept to field operations to improve the nation’s defense posture.

“The bottom line is we need to work on all these challenges and overcome the digital and technological challenges that prevent us from collaborating, as well,” Pringle added.

Over the three days, Dayton area businesses were given the opportunity to become engaged in DAF’s digital transformation efforts and enable the Air Force to face and overcome rapidly evolving threats. The summit provided product overviews and demonstrations in the areas of digital twins, digital design and digital engineering. Also included were panel discussions ranging from government vision to Original Equipment Manufacturer perspectives.

Two leaders from Pringle’s AFRL Digital War Room, Dr. Pam Kobryn and Andrea Mahaffey, were featured panelists during their respective discussions and echoed Pringle’s message while providing keys to transformation success.

“Leaders need to walk the walk … lead by example, embrace digital means of communicating, become comfortable ‘being uncomfortable’ and give their workforce a peek inside their professional transformation journey,” Kobryn said.

Similarly, Mahaffey explained the need for digital solutions and continuous changes to information technology services.

“We need contract mechanisms that embrace agile methods,” Mahaffey explained. “We need to be able to divest, re-architect and pivot our core services at the same rate as the industry changes.”

About AFRL

The Air Force Research Laboratory 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 www.afresearchlab.com.

About the Author