Chief scientist advises senior leaders

  • Published
  • By Staff Sgt. A.J. Bosker
  • Air Force Print News
Dr. Alexander H. Levis describes his job as the Air Force's chief scientist as "the best in the world." He even has the scientific data to back it up.

As chief scientist, Levis advises the Air Force secretary and chief of staff on scientific and technological issues, and works in coordination with the Air Force laboratories, their chief scientists, universities and industrial research communities. It is a job with many rewards, he said.

"I am a member of the executive committee of the Scientific Advisory Board and get to make recommendations regarding new members to the secretary and chief," he said. "I also co-chair the annual review of Air Force laboratories. This review focuses not on the management of the labs but on their research agendas and what they are doing."

However, what makes this "the greatest job in the world" is the chance to see the operational Air Force in action, he said.

"Not too many researchers or engineers ever get that chance," Levis said. "For me to be able to go across the Air Force and see all the incredible technology, not only how it's created in the laboratories but also to see its application, is an incredible experience.

"My position as chief scientist is such that it allows me to pick up the phone and talk to people and try to bring them together. Sometimes the operators are not aware that a certain problem has been solved and the solution is sitting on a shelf in a laboratory," Levis said.

The work Levis does depends very much on what the secretary and the chief want done and the problems facing the service during a particular period, he said. One of Levis' tasks is to help the Air Force apply technology smartly in its transformation.

"We are undergoing a transformation based on technology," Levis said. "But this transformation is more than just acquiring new systems. It's about transforming the way we think and the way we fight."

According to Levis, one example of this transformation is the ongoing effort to make the air and space operations center into a complete weapons system.

"To do this, we must make the AOC leaner and meaner," he said. "We need to reduce the number of people required to run the AOC. With my background as an educator, the question that comes to my mind is, how do we train these people and what should they know, both operationally and technologically, before they walk into an AOC?"

These are very complex, large-scale systems, he said. As more systems are horizontally integrated, it becomes more important for people to know more than just the operational picture. They need to know how the different systems work together and support the operations.

"We are also trying to determine what fields we want people to pursue," he explained. "However, that will take time so we must determine what we are going to do with the current force and whether or not there are any opportunities to update or redirect their professional interests."

There are many challenges on the road ahead, Levis said.

"Knowing where you are and where you want to go is easy," Levis said. "It's the journey in between that is hard. But I am confident that we can get there with everyone's participation and collaboration."