Global Strike partnership delivers multi-million-dollar impact in 2020

While 2020 was a challenging year for everyone, the Collaborative Environment (CE), an Air Force Global  Strike Command (AFGSC) partner, persevered to deliver results with a multi-million-dollar impact.  

This Air Force partnership, while a recent development, is producing results on par with similar existing  organizations that have a significant amount of experience. Air Force Global Strike Command has placed  a premium on innovation and is leading the way in the Air Force setting the example for technology  transfer and transition.  

CE is an agile team of talented employees within the Cyber Innovation Center (CIC), a 501c3 not-for profit business. Every day they act as partners with AFGSC headquarters under a Partnership  Intermediary Agreement (PIA) relationship that allows them to work on projects alongside the  headquarters to find quick and efficient solutions that directly benefit the warfighter and revitalize the  Air Force nuclear enterprise. 

Since 2017, the CE has been performing analysis, education, innovation, and collaboration to help meet  AFGSC challenges spending $20 million in a variety of industry sectors, with most of those dollars  invested locally. Craig Spohn, CIC president and executive director, noted the ability to provide a space  that fosters collaborations between local and visiting industry, academic and government officials in  state-of-the-art facilities is extremely valuable.  

“The delivery of 133 collaborative events hosting more than 5,000 attendees with a total local economic  impact of $2.3 million speaks to this,” he said.  

“In 2019, we saw a 67% increase in events. And, even with COVID-19 restrictions, we still maintained  that number of events in 2020,” Spohn added. 

In 2020, CE completed 70 technology transfer and transition events, including two major Air Force  wargames in Global Engagement and Global Mobility, hosting 1,351 people. These events have  generated a significant local economic impact and supported more than 150 direct and indirect jobs. 

While events are high impact, the most substantial contributions are occurring with technology  transition projects, “None of which would have been possible without the commitment and support  from the Louisiana Congressional Delegation,” Spohn said. 

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In 2020, CE added 19 projects to its portfolio, bringing its total number to 38. These projects were on  topics such as advanced nuclear enterprise data analysis, nuclear communications modeling and  simulation (M&S), High-altitude Electromagnetic Pulse (HEMP) studies, an undergraduate/graduate  student Internship Pilot Program with Louisiana Tech University, a senior officer course on nuclear  command and control, robotic process automation, nuclear security M&S, and COVID-19 outbreak  modeling for 61 installations. 

Last year, the CE team stood up personnel and infrastructure to allow for rapid data analysis to occur.  This was evidenced in the September 2020 Blue Ribbon Portfolio Digital Engineering Platform (PDEP)  Panel in which Air Force Chief Data Officer Eileen Vidrine referred to PDEP as an “exemplar Air Force  data program.”  

Furthermore, AFGSC selected the PDEP program as the AFGSC Analytical Team of the Year, which will  compete to be no. 1 in the Air Force. 

Jeff Beene, CE director, went on to explain that the NC3 M&S effort is well on its way to providing AFGSC  great capabilities while also expanding the educated work force in the local area.  

“Louisiana Tech Research Institute has succeeded in bringing amazing talent to the development of all  the nuclear command and control courses. The new Internship Pilot with Louisiana Tech is providing  undergraduate and graduate students research and development opportunities while working alongside  AFGSC and industry teams, magnifying the ability to find solutions, and developing a high-tech  workforce with security clearances that can go on to work in military and industry,” said Beene. 

In the area of innovation, the STRIKEWERX innovation hub opened May 28, 2020. Since that time,  STRIKEWERX has held multiple design sprints — an event that seeks out innovative solutions within days  as compared to years — that brought together industry experts and academic partners, such as LSU  Shreveport, to deliver a low-cost prototype for an Airman-identified need in the intercontinental ballistic  missile (ICBM) fields, as well as a prototype to solve maintenance issues for the B-52. In August,  STRIKEWERX began the command’s first major challenge project to replace nuclear operations aircrew  alerting technology with the next generation system.  

“Our pillars are ‘Collaboration, Innovation and Realization,’ and our efforts in 2020 saw all of those come  to life,” said Russ Mathers, STRIKEWERX director. “We’re excited about our successful year and look  forward to many more challenge events and design sprints to solve future problems.” 

Looking regionally, CE’s efforts are continuing the CIC’s overall intended impact of growing a local  knowledge-based economy by attracting new industry and academic partners. 

“The small, agile team we’ve assembled will ensure we can source and deliver the technology transition  needs AFGSC is bringing to us,” explained Beene. “While we work hard to find regional solutions, this is  not always possible. By looking outside northwest Louisiana, we can bring new capabilities to local  industry, generate new opportunities and expand the region’s knowledge base. We expect more growth  in our local economy along similar lines.” 

Another demonstration of the PIA’s intended capability is to define the need, rapidly design the  prototype and deliver it, such as the work done to develop three nuclear command, control, and communications (NC3) courses. These were developed under the PIA in months–not years–transitioned  to operational status, and delivered to Air Education and Training Command in August 2020.  

“Collectively, these are excellent examples of how the PIA responds to a significant need, validates the  operational delivery to the Air Force, then the Air Force provides a permanent funding transition,”  Beene pointed out. 

Looking ahead to 2021, Beene said the new year will be an exciting time in the life of the partnership as  technology transition and innovation opportunities substantially expand with the establishment of full  operational capability for the CE. 

“The CE will continue to strengthen and grow the internal relationships with Air Force partners to  improve the CE understanding of AFGSC needs and challenges,” he said. “It is anticipated at least 50  structured forums will occur during 2021. We will see expansion of STRIKEWERX to advance AFGSC’s  mission. Data and software development capabilities within the CE will increase and translate to other  PIA opportunities such as PDEP and NC3.”