CyberWorx Design Sprint Examines Multi-Domain Command and Control Challenges
COLORADO SPRINGS, Colorado, December 5, 2017 – C-TRAC, the Center for Technology, Research and Commercialization, today helped host the concluding out-brief for CyberWorx’ #AFMDC2 semester-long design project at the United States Air Force Academy.
CyberWorx partners with industry to solve cyber problems facing our Air Force and nation while simultaneously educating Air Force cadets and Airmen. Design thinking – a structured framework for understanding and pursuing innovation in ways that encourage outside-the-box thinking – figures prominently in the CyberWorx Sprint process. Industry experts and thought-leaders are recruited to participate in design Sprints, acting as mentors during semester-long projects and holding the cadets to a very high intellectual and technical standard for their proposed solutions.
#AFMDC2 is the acronym for Air Force Multi-Domain Command and Control, a priority capability currently being examined at several levels of the Air Force. It refers to the ongoing effort to make operational units more effective by improving the speed and quality of decisions by Air Force Commanders who are overseeing the command and control of multiple operational domains, such as Air, Space and Cyber. Automating decision support, ramping up human-computer teaming, and emphasizing mobility, technological simplicity, and highly-intuitive interfaces and processes are areas of particular focus for improvements. The goal of this CyberWorx project was to offer Air Force leadership viable options for simplifying the command and control of multiple domains while increasing their agility during integrated air, space, and cyber operations.
After a semester of working on these issues, two groups of cadets with their industry coaches provided an out-brief to present the innovative solutions they developed. To an audience of Air Force experts, USAFA instructors, and other interested industry partners, the teams of cadets cleanly broke down the complex web of related issues surrounding their specific challenge – or problem statement – using real-life use cases and mission threads as sample scenarios. They described the comprehensive, unifying solution each team developed.
One team sketched out a simple but multi-functional app to better manage equipment for Rescue Squadrons and similar units. Wiping away generations of bureaucratic tradition, the proposed app allows airmen to requisition equipment from a menu of items with a few clicks. The approval process would be drastically streamlined. Contractors would be able to bid on the equipment requests, including uploading proposal documents, and there would be more overall transparency to the process, including better oversight to prevent duplication of requests. The team postulated that the current multi-year turnaround on equipment requests would be shortened dramatically by the new app and simplified process, enabling warfighters to achieve multi-domain effects much more quickly.
The other team focused on a very ambitious project underpinned by AI – artificial intelligence. They proposed a software solution to the complicated process of creating a “strike package” for a mission. A process that normally takes many precious hours not always available in wartime, these cadets envision a future where an AI algorithm with current mission requirements, past mission histories, available assets and munitions – even weather reports—will aid commanders in decision-making. Crunching this data in a matter of moments, the “Strike Package Automator” will present a viable strike package to the planner, who then evaluates and tweaks it without the many hours of stressful work currently involved in creating a strike package one capability piece at a time.
When asked what surprised them most while researching this project, the cadets responded that there are a surprising number of antiquated, paper-based practices involved in strike planning, all of which have had technological solutions for years. The team expressed the conviction that their envisioned software package, when extended across all domains, would make a significant dent in many domain command and control issues currently clamoring for resolution.
Air Force Colonel Max Lantz, one of the officers to whom the outbrief was directed, was complimentary of both teams’ ideas. At the outset, Col. Lantz noted, “I’m very honored to be here; I look forward to hearing the bright ideas they have.” After each presentation, compliments such as “Phenomenal job” and “Awesome” were offered up by the colonel who serves on the Air Force Space Command staff and works closely with the Air Force’s overall MDC2 team.
The cadets presented themselves as mature and organized, producing some clearly actionable ideas that demonstrate the continuing advantages of using the CyberWorx program to help resolve the Air Force’s operational challenges, and fulfilling the CyberWorx vision to unlock the power of people to unleash the power of cyberspace for America’s Air Force. “These types of results are exactly what the Air Force was looking for when it stood up CyberWorx,” said Col Jeffrey Collins, CyberWorx Director. “The cadets have learned to tackle a tough problem by building diverse teams, talking to Airmen and thinking forward quickly.”
Said Col. Lantz, “I’m glad the cadets are beginning to think of the MDC2 problem set now. These are difficult issues they are helping us solve and they will have an operational advantage as they become new officers in the United States Air Force.” The #AFMDC2 cadet project results will be reviewed and a report available for public release in early 2018.