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AF announces Defense Digital Service partnership

WASHINGTON (AFNS) -- Air Force Secretary Deborah Lee James announced the launch of a new partnership between the Air Force and the Defense Digital Service Jan. 6 at an Air Force Association breakfast.

“We’re bringing the best innovators, thinkers and problem-solvers from across the country and presenting them with both technology and organizational challenges they’ve never seen before,” James said. “The impact of their solutions are both immediate and far-reaching.”

The competition for technical talent across both the public and private sectors is fiercer than it has ever been. The Air Force must compete with companies like Facebook and Google for the best and brightest, particularly in the science, technology, engineering and math fields.

The Air Force Digital Service team, partnered with the DDS at the Pentagon, affords a creative solution that turns that competition for talent into a partnership. The AFDS is focused on driving a leap forward in the way the DOD builds and deploys technology and digital services.

“National problems require us to partner with our national experts – in both the public and private sectors – to find solutions that have a national impact now,” said Michelle LoweSolis, the assistant deputy under secretary for management. “AFDS affords an opportunity for talented individuals to support national defense projects and challenges, to access technologies and issues they will never see in the private sector, and then return to their careers.”

The AFDS, like the DDS, is a unique team of industry experts – a “SWAT team of nerds” according to Chris Lynch, the DDS team lead – who have signed up for brief “tours of duty” lasting six to 12 months. The diverse pool of professionals apply their industry experiences to improve in-progress strategic or challenged projects. Members currently supporting DDS previously worked for a variety of technology-driven organizations, including Google, Shopify, Capital One and Amazon.

The team has already partnered with the Air Force in reviewing several programs. The group launched the “Hack the Pentagon” bug-bounty program, the first in the history of the federal government. The team also modernized the pipeline to process service treatment records for veterans to ensure they receive benefits timely and correctly.

The team’s agenda will be established over the next several months. Additionally, the team is actively filling its roster through the U.S. Digital Service hiring process. The USDS and its more than 200 members serve across the Departments of Homeland Security, Veterans Affairs, Defense, Education, State and Treasury, Health and Human Services, and the Small Business Administration.

“Being efficient is not just about making every dollar count or finding the best price tag for the taxpayer; it also means leveraging new ideas to be more effective, minimize redundancy, and protect our limited resources,” James said. “Our partners at the DDS have already proved indispensable in this effort, and I can’t wait to see the difference they will make in their expanded role as full mission partners.”

Visit dds.mil for more information or to apply to the Air Force Digital Service program.