Takeaways from the Air Force Life Cycle Management Center Industry Day

Published: July 03, 2019

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In June, the Air Force’s Life Cycle Management Center held its annual Life Cycle Industry Day (or LCID) in Dayton, Ohio.

Below is a summation of key takeaways from LCID through two lenses: the demands and priorities that are informing the Air Force’s missions and strategies, and the Air Force’s multi-pronged response to those demands.

What are the demands being placed on the Air Force’s mission, and the resulting strategic priorities?

A number of demands and priorities were referenced that are informing Air Force leadership in its decision-making at the strategic and programmatic levels.  Among those that were mentioned include, but are not limited to:

  • A global security environment consisting of pier competitors engaged in a defense technology race.
  • The continued need to move toward a ‘systems-based’ (versus ‘platform-focused’) construct for weapons systems.
  • The capabilities involved in multi-domain C2, interoperability, and distributed operations needing continued enhancement and development.
  • Weapons systems becoming increasingly, if not wholly, software-based.
  • The need to prepare for readiness and operations at non-peace time levels and beyond an environment of low-intensity conflict.
  • Needing to address the sustainment challenges that come with an aging fleet, adopting new sustainment concepts focused on systems, and moving away from a strictly ‘hardware’ sustainment model.
  • The continued challenge of balancing readiness needs (and what risks can be taken with readiness) against modernization in an increasingly resource and time-constrained environment.

What are the ways the Air Force is responding to these demands?

The initiatives being undertaken as a response to the above challenges are cross-cutting and involve (to name only a few examples) changes to policies, adoption of non-standard acquisition methodologies, shifts in mindset, personnel realignments, and new organizations. Below is a summation of some of the initiatives that were noted.

Note: This is not intended to be an exhaustive list and only represents some of the initiatives that were noted at LCID and that are underway across the Air Force. Directionally speaking, however, they indicate in a broad sense the areas where transitions in process or otherwise are underway.

Upcoming Changes to Policies and Guidance:

  • Business and Enterprise Systems Directorate is looking to pilot a special activity whereby IT spending comes out of one appropriations account versus multiple (i.e. RDT&E, Procurement, and O&M). This is currently set to be included in the FY2021 NDAA, and is likely to result in a sub-appropriation under RDT&E (3600 funds).
  • Business and Enterprise Systems Directorate is piloting an effort to shrink the number of Program Element codes for businesses systems from 17 to 1 as a way to make it easier to move money from program to program on an as-needed basis, potentially reducing some of the delays that can occur from requiring congressional approval.
  • The DoD  5000 policy re-write process (which is anticipated to have software development as a major focal point of its revisions) that is underway - new policy and guidance is anticipated by the end of CY 2019.

Adoption of ‘Rapid Acquisition’ Methodologies:

  • Adoption of Section 804 Rapid Prototyping and Fielding authorities across a number of programs, notably at AFLCMC Digital Directorate.
  • Continued use of OTAs as a means to acquire innovative capabilities and expand the national security industrial base.
  • Building upon the success of Pitch Days by hosting additional ones in 2019 that cut across a variety of technical disciplines.

(For a list of other ‘Rapid Acquisition’ methodologies being utilized, please see the following GovWin article)

Technological Adoption Initiatives:

  • For logistics and sustainment, leveraging AI, adaptive manufacturing, predictive maintenance, and increasing the reliability of components and subcomponents
  • Leveraging AI for use in training
  • Digitizing platforms
  • Emerging standards such as Open Mission Systems (OMS) architectures
  • The standing up of software factories (e.g. Kessel Run, BESPIN, LevelUp) and the adoption of agile software development methodologies
  • Pilot projects currently underway that are looking at integrating development testing and operational testing

Programmatic Initiatives:

  • At the highest levels, leadership is working to make sure the ongoing EITaaS program is successful and will continue.
  • Not doing one RFP for the Advanced Battle Management System (ABMS), but instead, starting small and building.

Organizational Adjustments and Changes in Mindset:

  • Establishment of the Rapid Sustainment Office (RSO)
  • Merging the ISR / Cyber / EW domains as evidenced by the upcoming merger of the 24th and 25th Air Force, and the anticipated creation of a related Air Staff office.
  • Establishment of the Air Force Warfighting Integration Capability (AFWIC) to reconfigure how future warfighting planning is done.
  • Changes in mindset and approach: moving at the ‘speed of relevance’, adoption of agile development frameworks, adopting faster acquisition methodologies, learning to view the Air Force as a ‘software company and not a hardware company’.