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Inaugural Vice Chief’s Challenge seeks game-changing innovations

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WASHINGTON (AFNS) -- The Air Force is continuing to look to its Airmen to create innovative solutions to the service’s trickiest challenges, this time specifically seeking their help to improve multi-domain operations.

At the Air Force Association convention late last year, Air Force senior leaders announced the creation of the Vice Chief’s Challenge, a Total Force-wide competition created to solicit innovative ideas to solve Air Force-level problems.

Unlike other Air Force innovation programs, in which Airmen are asked to share their ideas to fix problems in any aspect of the Air Force, the VCC series will identify a specific topic area that is a priority for the service. The inaugural VCC is focused on MDO and challenges participants to develop innovations that will allow warfighters to see their operating environment more clearly.

“We want to harness the human-machine teaming technology found in the myriad of apps on portable devices and deliver a similar situational awareness capability for the Joint Force,” said Air Force Vice Chief of Staff Gen. Stephen W. Wilson. “The goal is to see our operating environment more clearly, at speed, and use that to save a life, find a threat or influence a decision.”

The 2019 VCC asks Airmen, “What can you design or develop to bring together information you, your squadron, or your joint teammates need to accomplish the mission? How do we connect sensors, platforms, and nodes to share information with those who need it?”

Submissions might include a design for an app, an algorithm or a new approach to integrating and displaying data. They could be original ideas or adaptations of commercially-available technology that can be applied to MDO.

“This challenge spans all career fields, functional areas, business processes and environments,” Wilson said. “It will execute in three phases including crowd-sourced reviews of submitted ideas, down-selection from the initial submissions to a smaller group of finalists, and finally, hands-on support from the Air Force Research Laboratory and AFWERX, among other experts, for those selected finalists.”

Idea selections at the conclusion of each phase will be based on which projects have the highest probability of delivering game-changing impact to MDO within six months to two years. Individuals, teams, squadrons or major commands should submit their ideas to the Air Force Ideation Platform, where peers can provide live input and vote for their favorite proposals. Submissions are due by Feb. 28, 2019.

The challenge will culminate at the Air Force Association’s next Air, Space and Cyber Conference in September 2019, where Air Force senior leaders will recognize top contributors and selected finalists will receive resources to turn their ideas into reality.

“Innovation is so important to our service because the world is changing at a pace and scale – and our adversaries are competing in ways – that we haven’t seen before. We have to change,” Wilson said. “We need Airmen to help move our Air Force forward, because the status quo just doesn’t suffice in today’s world.”

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