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AF assigns new chief scientist

WASHINGTON (AFNS) -- The Air Force announced the service’s new chief scientist to serve as a science and technology advisor to the secretary of the Air Force and the chief of staff of the Air Force, May 21.

Dr. Greg Zacharias will be the 35th chief scientist and is ready to “dive in” to his new role.

“I am deeply honored to even be considered, let alone selected (for this position),” Zacharias said. “It was an offer I couldn’t refuse and an opportunity to try and return something to the Air Force for all the opportunities it’s given me since I was a second lieutenant assigned to Johnson Space Center back in the ‘70s.”

Given the demands of the Air Force and the acceleration of technology, Zacharias is ready for the task at hand.

“I’m looking forward to it,” Zacharias said. “Especially learning about what the Air Force does on a day-to-day basis, what the science and technology community has to offer to maintain the Air Force’s technological edge, and how I can help make more connections between the two communities.”

Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. Mark A. Welsh III underlined the vital role he will play in the Air Force’s science and technology community.

"Science and technology are critical to the Air Force and having an independent voice with fresh ideas and approaches can make a tremendous difference,” Welsh said. “I know Dr. Zacharias will bring us novel and creative ideas to current and future challenges."

Along with being the science and technology advisor to the CSAF and SecAF, Zacharias will also be responsible for keeping them aware of science and technology developments in the Defense Department and other areas of interest.

“(I will show them) how we can improve current operations in an evolutionary sense and maybe even how we can make some ‘leaps’ by embracing revolutionary technologies,” Zacharias said. “I also hope to reach out to different communities to encourage (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) education.”

Working outside the Air Force and running a small business, Zacharias feels he will bring a new outlook to the table.

“My work with larger research organizations taught me the importance of collaboration across government, industry, and academia, and how each organization has something unique to offer,” Zacharias said. “My recent experience with running a small business (showed me) even though different organizations can put up barriers that optimize their own local objectives, those barriers can be overcome when everyone realizes we’re all in this together to get technology to the warfighter better and faster than anyone else.”

Being an Air Force with Airmen powered by innovation, Zacharias said it plays a key role in the science and technology field.

“I hope to be able to help the chief and secretary recognize the potential of, not only new technology, but how it can be used in novel ways operationally, and maybe change the way we do business,” Zacharias said. “Certainly the introduction of autonomous systems, as one example, can provide great leverage but it also comes with challenges in terms of command and control as well as potential cyber and (communications) vulnerabilities. How to manage all that to our advantage is the challenge facing us, but the payoff could be huge.”

With June’s schedule already three-quarters booked, Zacharias is energized to get started with an immediate goal of ‘not getting too lost trying to navigate the building.'

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