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VCSAF calls for national effort to effect strategy

Air Force Vice Chief of Staff Gen. Stephen W. Wilson addresses a crowd during the Wright Dialogue with Industry event in Dayton, Ohio, July 18, 2018.

Air Force Vice Chief of Staff Gen. Stephen W. Wilson addresses a crowd during the Wright Dialogue with Industry event in Dayton, Ohio, July 18, 2018. During his speech, Wilson addressed several topics dealing with technology including artificial intelligence, along with the importance of civilian and military researchers and developers to work together in the development of new technology. (U.S. Air Force photo by Wesley Farnsworth)

DAYTON, Ohio – Displaying a nostalgic photo of astronauts training at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, Ohio, in the 1960s, Air Force Vice Chief of Staff Gen. Stephen W. Wilson noted that this week marked the 49th anniversary of the lunar landing on July 20, 1969.

Wilson told the 600 attendees of the Wright Dialogue with Industry event in the Dayton Convention Center here July 18, 2018, the landing was the result of three major programs executed by several government agencies with support from industry and academia – a national effort that took just over eight years.

“This was a whole of nation effort because we were in a great power competition with the Soviet Union. Well, it’s Groundhog Day. That is exactly what we’ve got going on right now,” Wilson said. 

Citing the new national security policy outlined by the Secretary of Defense, Wilson explained, “We are back in a great power competition and we’ve got to compete like our life depends on it, because, quite frankly, it does.” 

“The good news is, I think we are. The United States Air Force is open for business,” he added.

A stable budget, new authorities to explore rapid prototyping, streamline bureaucracy, along with outreach efforts like AFWERX, are setting the stage, he said.

“We have an axe in our hand and are starting to chop wood, because we have to,” he said.

Describing how the future fight will impact the speed of decision making, he said the Air Force will need to have a system with people in the center that can orient, decide and act faster than adversaries.

“We are going to have to be able to take information from any platform, any sensor, and connect it at the strategic, operational and tactical levels to bring effects anywhere on the planet, and I’ve got to be able to do that in fifteen minutes or less,” he said. “That’s one of the big strategic problems that I think you all can help us with.”

To help solve what he called the “15 minute problem, the general said he plans to issue a challenge to the service, industry and academia. “Connect-a-thon” will ask them to imagine how disparate things can be connected, enabling them to share information quickly and securely all the way down to the tactical level, where effects on targets are produced.

“I’m hoping when we do this ‘Connect-a-thon’ that someone is going to take a picture, and in 49 years, there will be a guy looking at it, talking about these old guys way back when and the work they did to create this connected network that is going to enable us to continue to be number one across the planet.”