Speaking at the Air Force Association's annual Air, Space and Cyber conference, Secretary of the Air Force Heather Wilson announced the Air Force will conduct a 12-month Science and Technology review to update its research priorities and strategy.
The review will focus on how the Air Force conducts and manages research, and where the service should prioritize research for the next decade and beyond.
In announcing the effort, Wilson highlighted the history of Air Force science and technology leadership that began shortly after the establishment of the Air Force as a separate service.
"The Air Force must reinvigorate its focus on basic and applied research to ensure the long-term domination of air and space," Wilson said. "We must also reevaluate how we manage our research enterprise and spend research dollars in ways that advance air and space superiority for the long term."
The Air Force Research Laboratory will lead the review. The Air Force Scientific Advisory board will conduct a parallel effort this year and provide feedback and advice throughout the process. The Air Force Studies board of the National Academies of Science, Engineering and Medicine will also conduct at least one workshop to provide input to the effort. All of these efforts are intended to be input for an updated science and technology strategy.
The Air Force will also provide small grants to universities to sponsor regional workshops in partnership with American universities to gather input from academic researchers.
"When it comes to research, the Air Force is stronger when we partner with American universities and let industry know what our priorities are," Wilson said. "We will advance knowledge and help develop the next generation of scientists and engineers."
The review will focus on three key areas. The Air Force will identify high priority research areas for basic and applied research important to air and space power over the next 10-20 years.
The review will also evaluate how the Air Force can more productively partner with states, consortia, universities and other non-federal research entities to advance knowledge and its application. The Air Force is interested in potentially new management structures and approaches for its research portfolio.
Finally, it will guide the Air Force in adjusting the ways it can stay on the cutting edge of technology for the long term by examining the strategies pursued by some of the world's most innovative organizations.
"Our adversaries are advancing rapidly," Wilson said. "We need to update our research priorities, but validation of research areas isn't enough. We need to rethink the way in which we manage our path- breaking research so that we can effectively partner with others to retain American dominance in air and space power."