Air Force Global Strike Command’s new “STRIKEWERX” innovation center, slated to open on May 28, will engage with industry, academia, local citizenry, and Airmen to find solutions to some of the command’s most pressing problems.
The facility, located off the grounds of Barksdale Air Force Base, La., in nearby Bossier City, is in the local Cyber Innovation Center in the National Cyber Research Park. Its neighbors include General Dynamics, Louisiana Tech University, and Louisiana State University Shreveport.
“We’ll be open for business next week, but that doesn’t mean we haven’t been engaging already,” Anthony Carver, AFGSC deputy chief scientist, said in a May 20 interview. The choice of location is meant to help develop “an eco-system” with local academia and businesses for innovation, and builds on AFGSC commander Gen. Timothy Ray’s “emphasis on innovation in his strategic plan,” Donna Senft, AFGSC chief scientist, said in the interview.
“It became apparent that Global Strike Command needed a storefront to be able to reach out” to potential partners, “in the same way that AFWERX does,” she said. An off-base location is necessary because “it can be challenging to get people on base and spend time with them.” Senft said technology “is moving faster in the private sector than it is within our acquisition process,” and AFGSC aims to tap into it. “This is making us more agile, bringing in things we can use right now,” she added.
The facility will maintain “a list of things we’re interested in,” Senft noted. Topping that list are data-mining capabilities and software that will help AFGSC develop new data about what it does and wrangle the large amounts of data it already collects.
“We’re looking for more ways to get value out of our data,” Senft said, to make operations more affordable and efficient.
The typical STRIKEWERX solutions will be software-oriented, but there may be some virtual reality interests, and “things to help the health and wellness of our Airmen,” Carver noted. The center will not primarily be looking for new weapon ideas or other kinds of projects that flow from the standard requirements and acquisition system.
An idea with merit will be assigned a “project champion,” who will shepherd it through the system. STRIKEWERX will make use of small businesses and other streamlined authorities for putting companies on contract quickly.
“We’re looking for things we can bring in right away,” Senft said. Typically these won’t involve another major command like Air Force Materiel Command, but may involve some of USAF’s laboratories.
All of AFGSC’s wings will have a similar capability. F.E. Warren Air Force Base in Cheyenne, Wyo., opened “LaunchWERX” in January. STRIKEWERX, which was given the go-ahead last December, was meant to open in April, but the COVID-19 pandemic delayed it, Carver explained.
Ray is pushing a “culture change campaign,” Senft said, aimed at “grassroots innovation … at the wing and squadron level. Each wing has a spark cell.” The “pillars” of this campaign are “leadership, innovation, collaboration, and community,” Carver said. “STRIKEWERX is central to the innovation component.”
There will be office hours at regular times and Carver himself will be on hand for walk-ins, but most engagements will likely involve appointments.
The facility will also borrow a page from AFWERX and run “challenge events” and limited-time engagements on single topics, Carver said.
The May 28 ribbon-cutting will be attended by Ray; Sen. Bill Cassidy (R-La.); Rep. Mike Johnson (R-La.), and Louisiana Governor John Bel Edwards.