recommended reading

Air Force Debuts New Plan to Beat Tech Curve -- ‘Strategic Agility’

Air Force Secretary Deborah Lee James

Air Force Secretary Deborah Lee James // Department of Defense

The Air Force has proven to have a pretty poor record of predicting the future, so it has decided to adopt the concept of “strategic agility” as its operating philosophy over the next 30 years.

Air Force Secretary Deborah Lee James told reporters during a Pentagon press briefing yesterday, the new strategy would help the service better deal with changes in technology and the geopolitical landscape.  

Strategic agility “should allow us to rapidly adjust to evolving threat environments faster than our potential adversaries,” James said.

This means the opportunity to modify or abandon pieces or technologies within programs as needed and the ability to harness rapid prototyping to bring a design idea into service more quickly, she added.

The new 30-year strategy the Air Force introduced yesterday emphasizes that dramatic changes in technology have empowered a wide range of adversaries, including ad hoc groups.

“The portability of information-sharing technology has enabled disaggregated communities to self-organize and threaten unstable governments,” the document stated.

The 22-page strategy paper added, “As the future unfolds, an increased awareness of the opportunities and threats created by disruptive technological change is vital, particularly the implications these changes have for geopolitical balance.”

Swift technological change will become the “new norm,” and the Air Force must have the ability to quickly adapt, the strategy paper said, including space and cyberspace operations, per the strategy.

The Air Force also needs to adopt a multidomain role in future operations, in which cyber and space support conventional air missions, rather than each working in isolation, the strategy paper advocated.

The service should also make the switch “from large, complex programs rife with crippling interdependencies to programs with simple, severable components, open architectures and more distributed participation,” the report stated.

The service plans to cut back on contractor support and, in the future, the Air Force will act as its own integrator and synchronizer, James said during the press conference.

The strategy paper also identifies key technologies that “could be game changers,” she said.

“We don't know yet, but they could be -- things like hypersonics, directed energy, to name just a few,” she said. 

The new strategy recommends looking into nanotechnology, advanced unmanned systems and autonomous systems.

But the strategy paper concluded:

“This list is by no means exhaustive. In fact, it’s just the beginning! The future will generate new combinations of technologies we cannot describe, or possibly even imagine, which will shape the way our service provides airpower.”

Threatwatch Alert

Thousands of cyber attacks occur each day

See the latest threats


Close [ x ] More from Nextgov

Thank you for subscribing to newsletters from
We think these reports might interest you:

  • It’s Time for the Federal Government to Embrace Wireless and Mobility

    The United States has turned a corner on the adoption of mobile phones, tablets and other smart devices, outpacing traditional desktop and laptop sales by a wide margin. This issue brief discusses the state of wireless and mobility in federal government and outlines why now is the time to embrace these technologies in government.

  • Featured Content from RSA Conference: Dissed by NIST

    Learn more about the latest draft of the U.S. National Institute of Standards and Technology guidance document on authentication and lifecycle management.

  • A New Security Architecture for Federal Networks

    Federal government networks are under constant attack, and the number of those attacks is increasing. This issue brief discusses today's threats and a new model for the future.

  • Going Agile:Revolutionizing Federal Digital Services Delivery

    Here’s one indication that times have changed: Harriet Tubman is going to be the next face of the twenty dollar bill. Another sign of change? The way in which the federal government arrived at that decision.

  • Software-Defined Networking

    So many demands are being placed on federal information technology networks, which must handle vast amounts of data, accommodate voice and video, and cope with a multitude of highly connected devices while keeping government information secure from cyber threats. This issue brief discusses the state of SDN in the federal government and the path forward.

  • The New IP: Moving Government Agencies Toward the Network of The Future

    Federal IT managers are looking to modernize legacy network infrastructures that are taxed by growing demands from mobile devices, video, vast amounts of data, and more. This issue brief discusses the federal government network landscape, as well as market, financial force drivers for network modernization.


When you download a report, your information may be shared with the underwriters of that document.