AFRL people: a national asset

WRIGHT-PATTERSON AIR FORCE BASE, Ohio -- We recognized Air Force Research Laboratory's top scientists and engineers on Oct. 22 during the AFRL Fellows and Early Career Awards banquet. It was a spectacular event.

We inducted seven senior researchers as AFRL Fellows, our most prestigious honor, representing the top 0.2 percent of our professional technical workforce.  Another five S&Es were presented awards for truly exceptional leadership potential and research contributions early in their careers.

They were spotlighted from among a small, diverse and highly talented workforce of 3,511 engineers and scientists, who are charged with providing our nation's Air Force with revolutionary, relevant and responsive capabilities.  It's an awesome responsibility and our efforts focus on all three domains of air, space and cyber.

The fact that both Gen. Ellen Pawlikowski, Air Force Materiel Command commander, and Dr. Greg Zacharias, Chief Scientist of the Air Force, joined in honoring these men and women underscores senior Air Force leaders appreciate what AFRL brings to the table.  AFRL is the global technology integrator that brings agile, innovative and trusted value to the U.S. Air Force.

In September, I attended the Air Force Association Air and Space Conference, where the theme was "Reinvent the Aerospace Nation."  Leaders clearly emphasized we cannot do that without great people. Our senior leaders understand that the people are the platform for which innovative ideas, strategies, and technologies are delivered to the fight. The people, along with innovation and technology will remain the pillars of the American strength and its determination.

AFRL people are at the foundation of every Air Force weapon system currently fielded and on the horizon.  They absolutely are a national asset.  Collectively, AFRL people are the lens that focuses the national technical base on Air Force needs, to provide tomorrow's warfighters with an unfair advantage.

Working closely with our industry, academic, international and other government agency partners, AFRL people fulfill the critical leadership role of turning science into warfighting capabilities.

I frequently get asked what's the next big thing... What's on the horizon? My answer is always the revolutionary game-changers which AFRL and others are focusing on: hypersonics; directed energy; autonomy; nanotechnology; and unmanned Systems. But, we are also charged with thinking about the next game-changers, technologies like: quantum technologies, additive manufacturing and synthetic biology. This mix of game-changing research will continue to evolve and revolutionize how we fight in the future.

However our contributions to leverage science and technology to enhance the capabilities of today's warfighters and to rapidly respond with solutions to the urgent "We need this now" problems are equally important. Our research supports all service core functions and major commands by addressing prioritized capability gaps.
It's true that focused science and technology investment has given the U.S. a qualitative military advantage.  Our peers and adversaries had decades to study the American way of war.  So it should come as no surprise they're investing heavily in their own technology, and they are catching up fast.  Our technical dominance is no longer assured.  The work by AFRL people to prevent technological surprise and to deliver agile capabilities is more important now than ever.

From advanced turbine engines, to human performance augmentation, to advanced space situational awareness, AFRL people are at the cutting edge, focused on providing America's Airmen the best technology at the right time.  We owe them a debt of gratitude.  I could not be more proud to serve as their commander.