KIRTLAND AIR FORCE BASE, N.M. --
The Air Force Scientific Advisory Board visited Kirtland April 9-12 to gain perspective on the development of game-changing technologies.
The board, an independent group of scientists, technologists and engineers, advises the Air Force on strategic direction in the areas of technological advancement. According to SAB chairman, James Chow, Kirtland is a key location for the board to get exposure to these missions and the people who are conducting them.
“The purpose of our visit is for our members to receive Air Force ‘blueing,’ by obtaining first-hand knowledge of Air Force missions and the people who perform those missions,” Chow said.
The first-year chairman and five-year member of the SAB is also a senior engineer at the Rand Corporation. Like Chow, the 54 other members of the SAB make a voluntary commitment, with the support of their home organizations, of at least 30 days a year to serving as special government employees with the Air Force. While many of the board’s meetings take place in Washington, D.C., field research is imperative.
“When we visit bases like Kirtland, we get an up-front look at many diverse missions from Kirtland’s perspective,” Chow said.
Melissa Choi, SAB vice-chair in her fourth year with the board, said exposure to the people conducting research, development, test and evaluation as well as operational execution, is essential.
“It’s been very helpful for our members, from a board perspective, to learn about the missions and hear from people executing them. It is also helpful for our specific areas of studies, where we ultimately come up with findings and recommendations from information gathered on site,” Choi said. “This is also more broadly useful for our members when they go back to industry to academia, when they go back to the labs. This info will continue to be helpful, as they often continue to work on Air Force problems.”
During the visit, the board met with the Air Force Operational Test and Evaluation Center, Air Force Safety Center, Air Force Nuclear Weapons Center, 58th Special Operations Wing and the Air Force Research Laboratory’s two New Mexico directorates. Chow explained that assessment of AFRL’s strategic direction has been a key part of the board’s work.
“One of our key roles every year is to review a quarter of AFRL’s directorates,” Chow said.
Over a four-year period, the SAB is able to review AFRL’s entire portfolio.
In fact, the board and the ancestral research and development organizations that have become what is today AFRL are linked over the board’s almost 75-year history, Chow explained.
AFRL NM celebrated the Air Force’s 73rd birthday in 2017 by tracing its heritage to the board’s formation in 1944. The SAB had also recently assessed each of the AFRL NM’s directorates, visiting them in 2016 and 2017, according to Choi.
Gen. Henry “Hap” Arnold formed the board in 1944 to provide direction to what were primarily aeronautical technological challenges, Chow said.
“He was looking for an external, objective board to provide expert advice to the Air Force on its most important missions, and we’ve been doing that for the last 70-plus years—working on the Air Force’s most current and important problems and providing that independent advice throughout our history,” Chow said.
Today’s challenges emanate from multiple warfighting domains to include air, space and cyber, which the board has undertaken studies on this year, looking for technologies that will provide technological superiority for the Air Force, Chow said.
“The Air Force mission set has expanded to include space forces and cyber forces, each potentially warfighting domains of their own, and the Air Force has recognized the need to integrate and exercise command and control over these domains,” he said. “The threats we are facing don’t stand still, so we’ve captured briefings here and at other locations so that we can provide well-informed findings and recommendations for the board’s FY18 studies and to Air Force senior leaders.”