From AFTEC to AFOTEC: One word made a significant difference

  • Published
  • By Dr. Stephanie Smith, Chief Historian
  • Air Force Operational Test and Evaluation Center

On April 4, 1983, the addition of one word became the basis of the Air Force Operational Test and Evaluation Center’s existence.

When Headquarters Air Force activated the Air Force Test and Evaluation Center (AFTEC) on January 1, 1974, at Kirtland AFB, N.M., the Center provided independent assessments of the military utility, operational effectiveness, and operational suitability of major weapons systems. Putting these systems through their paces in realistic operational environments allowed the Center to advise the Air Force and Department of Defense on go/no-go decisions on these weapons systems.

In 1975, the ninth Chief of Staff of the Air Force, Gen. David C. Jones, went so far as to say that “AFTEC should play an adversary role in testing,” in order to provide the most impartial view of a system.

Then known as a separate operating agency, the Center had the power to communicate directly with other U.S. Air Force commands, governmental agencies, the Office of the Secretary of Defense, and the other Armed Services, while providing operational test and evaluation expertise to the Air Force.

In 1983, during President Ronald Reagan’s administration, several changes to operational test and evaluation took place with the intent to make acquisition faster and more responsive. AFTEC’s leadership worked to support initiatives like cutting acquisition timelines, increasing military readiness, and ensuring realistic budgeting while helping to strengthen the nation’s industrial base.

Another significant change happened April 4, 1983, when Secretary of the Air Force Verne Orr directed AFTEC be renamed to the Air Force Operational Test and Evaluation Center. Adding the word operational more accurately described the Center’s unique mission of evaluating the operational effectiveness and operational suitability of new systems. It also clearly delineated its role as a direct reporting unit under the Chief of Staff of the Air Force and as the Air Force’s operational test agency.

Whether as AFTEC or AFOTEC, the Center has tested and evaluated new systems and new capabilities in operationally realistic environments. AFOTEC continues to execute operational tests gathering the data needed to produce independent, fact-based test reports about system effectiveness, suitability, and mission capability. These reports inform decision makers as they allocate the nation’s resources and support the nation’s warfighters who use the systems. AFOTEC continues to test with an operational focus to ensure quality systems are fielded to support all branches of the armed forces, other government agencies, and U.S. allies.