AF CYBERWORX: A HISTORY
AF CyberWorx’s history traces back to the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Center of Innovation (CoI). Started by Dr. Terry Pierce in 2008, the CoI began as an interagency collaboration between DHS and DoD. At that time, the Center focused on relationships with market-shaping companies such as IBM, Cisco, and Intel Corporation. The intent was to provide the government insight into industry technology road maps and timelines. The Center collaborated on early-stage research in secure chip technology, anti-malware, and collaboration tools. Furthermore, the CoI also conducted proofs of concept with DHS and US Cyber Command to inform government acquisition decisions.
The DHS CoI played a significant role in cadet summer research program (CSRP) opportunities. The Center sent cadets to work with industry during CSRP to gain insight into emerging technology. Additionally, cadets learned about DHS components such as Science and Technology, Customs and Border, and Intelligence and Analysis. Cadets provided industry and other government organizations with unique insights into technology use. They also returned with best practices from industry and ways government organizations could collaborate more effectively. As a result, cadets returned from these opportunities with new perspectives and were highly motivated. This translated into IEEE articles, anti-malware research, industry collaboration, and higher performance in the cadet wing.
The DHS CoI whet USAFA’s appetite for innovation and prompted a few faculty “intrapreneurs.” These first visionaries imagined an innovation organization housed at the Academy where cadets and industry would work on the Air Force’s most challenging problems using industry best practices. The concept was to harness the intellect of government, industry, and academia to ideate and solve the Air Force’s hardest challenges in an academic environment. Early-stage concepts developed from this engagement would accelerate technology development and adoption. Additionally, it would enhance USAFA’s T2 mission, and expose cadets to industry innovation practices and human-centered design methodologies with a longer-term goal of creating culture change.
AF CyberWorx Visionaries
This concept was briefed to a few visionaries: Gen John Hyten, then Air Force Space Command CC, the AF CIO, Lt Gen William Bender, and Mr. Richard McConn, USAFA ’66, USAFA distinguished graduate, accomplished business leader, and senior mentor to the DHS CoI. These three championed this initiative with AF senior leadership and the Academy Foundation. Subsequently, founding documents were drafted and staffed between the Academy and AFSPC. Manpower was allocated and space was identified in the academic building for the new organization.
AF CyberWorx: the Air Force’s FIRST Innovation Hub
AF CyberWorx officially stood up in 2016. An initial cadre of active duty, reserve, and USAFA staff began defining the future organization, tackling difficult problems, and teaching classes to introduce human-centered design to cadets.
AF CyberWorx served as an early beacon and exemplar for the Air Force. As a result, public-private partnership and a focus on the human side of requirements guided the fledgling organization. An army of alumni, retired senior officers, and entrepreneurs massed to support AF CyberWorx. The Air Force Academy Foundation contributed to AF CyberWorx in very significant ways. Mr. McConn assembled a Cyber Committee to raise funds for a new facility. His co-chair Mr. Paul Madera, former F-16 pilot and venture capitalist, made a significant donation that solidified the construction of the Madera Cyber Innovation Center. Maj Gen Gene Lupia provided sage counsel for the military construction process, and Mr. Brad Feldmann donated the services of an industry expert in innovation and human-centered design to advise the organization’s innovation practice through Cubic Corporation.
AF CyberWorx truly stood on the backs of giants as it matured from a napkin sketch to a major contributor in the innovation ecosystem.
Meet the Team!
Learn more about our valuable team members who are continuing the mission set forth by the original AF CyberWorx visionaries.