Air Force picks 15 airmen-designed projects to automate menial tasks

(DOD / Lisa Ferdinando)

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The Air Force’s Vice Chief’s Challenge yielded 15 winning ideas based on technology to help automate menial tasks and give airmen new opportunities to get their hands on code.

The winning ideas ranged from chatbots for financial management systems to network monitoring software to improve cybersecurity. And now those ideas will be given the resources to pilot, test and scale across the Air Force.

Launched in February 2020 with the theme of “Saving Airmen Time,” the challenge was aimed at finding new solutions for time-consuming but low-skill tasks that members of the Air Force face every day. The challenge combines two priorities of the Air Force and other military branches: to automate low-skill, time-intensive workloads and give more opportunities for service members to develop tech skills.

“We asked for our Airmen’s help in identifying and eliminating drains on time that do not directly contribute to warfighting readiness — and our Airmen delivered,” Air Force Vice Chief of Staff Gen. David Allvin said in a news release. “The response to this challenge was impressive.”

Over the past year, pitches were evaluated based on their scaling potential and how much time they could save for airmen. This model of airmen pitching their ideas to senior leaders has quickly become a favorite across the service, which has hosted similar “Shark Tank” style events in recent years to generate new technology pilots.

The program’s design of calling for ideas directly from end users is a key part of the technology-driven, innovative culture that Air Force leaders are trying to develop.

“While the entire staff remains focused on pursuing innovative solutions, we firmly believe that no one knows better what processes or tasks weigh on our Airmen, than Airmen themselves,” then Vice Chief of Staff Gen. Stephen Wilson said in 2020 at the start of the contest. “We are asking for Airmen’s help in identifying and eliminating drains on their time that do not directly contribute to warfighting readiness.”

Other winning ideas include automated flight scheduling for squadrons, Microsoft Word templates for Air Force documents and data collection on Air Force child care programs.

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Air Force, Air Force Pitch Day, automation, robotic process automation (RPA)
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