In 2020, Air Force Materiel Command (AFMC) launched its digital campaign with the goal of modernizing and streamlining the life cycle process of Air Force platforms and systems. The end goal is shortening the time between idea and getting the system in the warfighter’s hand(s).
Maj Gen William Cooley said, “This is a significant shift in the way we have operated in the past and will impact every aspect of our mission-research, engineering, contracting, financial management, test, and logistics.”
Digital Transformation Office (DTO)
A big first step to help meet this goal is a new office called the Digital Transformation Office (DTO). It was created to help manage digital transformation activities across both the Air and Space Force enterprise. This 12-member team will focus on creating a digital governance structure and facility on-going and new digital acquisition transformation actives across the enterprise. This new branch will fall under the AFMC Engineering and Technical Management Directorate.
James Kyle Hurst was selected as the Director of the DTO. He said, “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. 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.
What’s Different about the DTO?
While there is already a focus within a number of organizations to establish a digital-focus office internally, those offices are focused on their particular mission set, such as information technology, infrastructure, sustainment activity, munitions, and more. The DTO will be different because it will look at all digital activities from a wider perspective. With the goal being that since they will look from a higher perspective, they will be able to see what each organization is doing well and help others who can learn from the best practices. The goal is streamlining and learning best practices and then passing on the information to those who need it.
They hope to be able to pull the information that they learn into guides that provide a ‘This is what you want to do, and here’s how you can do it’ approach. The purpose of these changes is to help streamline processes. And with that information speed up the time it takes to get new technology to the warfighter faster. Hurst said, “We are fielding capabilities much slower than our near-peers. We’re taking decades to field our major complex weapon systems, whereas our near-peer adversaries are doing it in half the time.”
Innovation is the Drive
With these twelve new openings authorized under Chief of Staff of the Air Force Gen Charles Q. Brown’s call to establish “innovation positions” to help with innovation and modernization among all the services. There are more than 300 positions being established across commands for efforts related to software innovation factories, AFWERX, the Advanced Battle Management Systems, and more.
“This office along with the entire Department of the Air Force is still in the process of trying to figure out how to leverage digital and the best way to do it. We will continually be looking for inputs from programs, industry, and academia who are currently doing this and doing it well, so we can learn from them and share. Collaboration and sharing are key to our success across the air and space enterprise,” said Hurst.