Buy Ideas, Too, Not Just Stuff

Not surprisingly, much of the discussion at AFA’s Global Warfare Symposium in Los Angeles has revolved around the tightening budget environment and figuring out ways to do more with less. But at least one member of Thursday’s industry panel on space and cyberspace issues cautioned Air Force leaders about taking those efforts too far. Indeed, Bran Ferren, co-chair of Applied Minds Inc. of Glendale, Calif., said it’s critical that USAF reinvest in innovation and encourage the next generation of airmen to become passionate about science and technology. “The system is broken,” said Ferren. He continued, “The acquisition system does not know how to buy ideas. It just knows how to buy stuff. If you only know how to buy stuff, you put yourself at a staggering disadvantage to the rest of the world.” Ferren suggested taking a small percentage of the Air Force budget and applying it toward high-risk programs and then taking an even smaller portion to inspire the next generation to come up with the next big idea. “We are at risk of becoming obsolete in the industry of space in the face of the asymmetrically evolving world. We need big, bold ideas,” he said.