AF chief scientist visits Hanscom AFB, shares direction with workforce

  • Published
  • By Patty Welsh
  • 66th Air Base Group Public Affairs
The Air Force's chief scientist talked about the unique technological challenges and value of work completed by specialists here, during her visit to the base and neighboring MIT Lincoln Laboratory Jan. 23 and 24.

Dr. Mica Endsley said she was impressed with the work done locally and how its impact on the Air Force at large. She emphasized that planes and satellites are tangible capabilities, but that integration work done at Hanscom AFB is vitally important.

"Aircraft and satellites produce information, but being able to move and integrate that information to be understandable is an incredible force multiplier," she said. "How we integrate across space, cyber and air is where the future is and you at Hanscom AFB are right in the middle of it."

Endsley highlighted a paradigm shift to the concept of cyber in warfare, now a known tactic used by adversaries.

While people may often think of cyber as what happens at their desks, Endsley noted that cyber is in the Air Force's satellites, command and control systems, and just about everywhere -- making cyber defense her No. 1 priority in science and technology.

"We need to ensure the systems we field are cyber resilient, and that (resiliency) is built into every one of the systems we procure."

Endsley encouraged the use of the science base in the acquisition process, especially regarding human systems integration and the way users interact with new technologies. Over the past few decades the Air Force has gotten away from this, she said, highlighting the need for science-based acquisition.

"HSI can affect the number of errors, the time it takes to do tasks and how good your situation awareness is in order to make decisions," Endsley said. "It's a critical capability that needs to be built into system design and incorporated into the procurement process."

She said she knows that can be challenging when working with the customer.

"The user frequently either wants a Band-Aid for what they already have or something from a sci-fi movie," she said. "We need to do cognitive task analyses and software prototyping and provide a visualization of what it realistically can be."

Endsley said the Air Force is looking at smart modernization -- where projects are more agile to enable them to transfer from the research and development side into the acquisition process more quickly. This includes modular open system architectures allowing new technologies to rapidly be added or changed out. She also mentioned total life cycle costs are being looked at right from the start of a project.

Further, Endsley discussed the development of test platforms for experimentation on programs at low technology readiness levels, so the research and development side can involve the users to come and "kick the tires."

The chief scientist of the Air Force said she sees this as an area where the Life Cycle Management Center can make an impact.

"You can help translate operational requirements into effective detailed technical requirements."

Regarding the workforce, Endsley lauded their professionalism and dedication in dealing with the challenging limited fiscal environment, sequester and the government shutdown. Now that the Defense Department finally has a budget, she said, there is hope for reduced burden on employees, allowing for improved personal planning.

During her visit, Endsley also took the opportunity to see Hanscom AFB's STARBASE program, a DOD-initiative to involve youth in the areas of science, technology, engineering and math. She said she had a great time interacting with the kids and seeing what they were working on.

"STEM is critically important, so I was glad I got the opportunity to visit STARBASE," Endsley said. "We're not only making sure we support the workforce of today, but we're encouraging the workforce of the next generation."