Air Force Announces Funding for Wings to Innovate New Ways to Address Immediate Needs

CSAF Gen. David Goldfein speaks during AWS18 Feb. 23, 2018, in Orlando, Fla. Air Force Magazine photo by Mike Tsukamoto.

Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. David Goldfein wants to see wings across the service innovate, addressing pressing needs impacting readiness, and he is putting money behind this effort.

Goldfein, during his keynote speech at AWS18 Friday, announced a $64 million “Squadron Innovation Fund” for units in the Active Duty, Guard, and reserve to find “resource barriers” holding them back from making changes to increase their readiness. The funding begins next week.

Goldfein emailed wing commanders announcing the fund right before taking the stage in Orlando, where he said he wants to “kick start squadron-level innovation at the tactical edge.” Squadrons need to think like startups, and this is the seed money to get them started on finding new ways to do things.

“This money is designed to get commanders on point, know what their units need best,” Goldfein said. “To test, to experiment, to refine the best tactical ideas. This is about trusting and empowering commanders and your airmen because the nation relies on us to be incredibly innovative as we look to increase our lethality and our readiness in this increasingly contested world.”

The Air Force’s Spark Tank competition wrapped up Thursday, with the winning idea coming from an airman at McConnell AFB, Kan., who devised a new platform for KC-135 instructors in the back of the aircraft as a way to avoid injuries. Ideas like this are what Goldfein said he wants to see coming out of this fund.

“Fight’s on,” Goldfein said. “We’re going to learn together through each iteration, (which) moves us a step closer to the answers that our nation needs.”

The idea combines the Spark Tank focus on innovation, with Goldfein’s ongoing push to revitalize squadrons across the Air Force. With money up for grabs, he wants to see these squadrons finding ways to change how they operate quickly.

“We cannot afford to go slow. I?t’s time to push up the throttles,” he said.