Air Force launches new digital transformation office

U.S. Air Force Staff Sgt. Caleb uses a computer program to identify network issues during his unit's training period at Berry Field Air National Guard Base, Nashville, Tennessee, on May 5, 2019. Caleb's unit was training in advanced network systems and resolving network issues. (U.S. Air National Guard / Tech. Sgt. Mark Thompson)

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Air Force Materiel Command, the force’s major command in charge of buying and sustaining airplanes and weapons, has opened a new office to work on digital transformation across the Air and Space Force acquisition enterprises.

The small office of 12 has big ambitions to work on broad digital transformations in both what the Air Force buys and how it buys it. It is being set up to be an “enabler” for the many new digitally-focused procurement and sustainment offices in the department with the aim to “[create] a digital governance structure” that will reach across specific mission areas, according to a press release announcing the office Tuesday. The goal appears similar to work being done in the Air Force’s chief information officer’s office, but with a focus on acquisition practices.

“This office is the first organization that will stand-up from an enterprise-wide perspective to address digital needs with a long-term perspective in mind,” James Kyle Hurst, DTO Branch Chief, said in a statement. “Though the office sits at AFMC, it will have a perspective for the entire Department of the Air Force acquisition community and encompass activities from research and development to fielding, sustainment and beyond…the entire cradle-to-grave of life cycle management.”

The Air Force Materiel Command oversees the acquisition of everything from new fighter jets to weapon systems and electronic warfare systems. It is an area of the Air Force’s mission that has increasingly relied on digital technology as weapons and planes become more reliant on tech. For example, the F-35, known as the “flying super computer,” has long lines of code and tech that needs refreshing to keep its capabilities sharp.

The Air and Space Force have many offices and groups focused on digital activities in acquisition, like Kessel Run which works to improve the department’s software creation and purchasing or AFWERX that was set up to quickly purchase emerging tech. But the Air Force says the DTO is the only one focused on being an “enabler” across disciplines and work along side many of these other digital offices.

“This office will look across all of those teams and activities to facilitate the sharing of best practices and lessons learned across the entire department. We will focus on the enablers that will help the program,” Hurst said.

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Air Force, Air Force Materiel Command, digital, Digital Air Force, USAF
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