Workshop Lays Groundwork for AFWERX Multi-Domain Operations (MDO) Challenge & July 2019 Fusion Xperience
More than 130 technologists, military personnel, business representatives, and other innovators gathered at a 2-day facilitated collaborative-design workshop on Multi-Domain Operations (MDO)—part of an effort to deliver to the U.S. Air Force prototypes and business partners by leveraging Commercial Off-the-Shelf (COTS) products for evaluation and use by the military within a 6- to 18-month window.
Multi-Domain Operations (MDO) is part of an Air Force and Department of Defense priority to optimize command and control across Air, Space, Cyber, Land, and Sea, as well as the electromagnetic spectrum.
The collaborative-design event took place at Enclave event center, Las Vegas, and was hosted by the AFWERX Vegas Innovation Hub. The AFWERX Vegas Innovation Hub was started in 2017, and is funded by the U.S. Air Force to support outreach to the business and academic communities. The location is one of three AFWERX hubs—the others are in Austin, Texas and the District of Columbia. Each serves as a nexus for generating and hosting activities—whether on-site, online, or on-base—focused on delivering design solutions to Air Force problems faster, more effectively, and more efficiently than in the past.
Throughout the 2-day workshop, facilitators coached participants in the collaborative problem-definition process. At times, they realized, the exercises required leaps of creative faith. The results, facilitators promised, would be worth it.
“In an earlier AFWERX Challenge, we focused on helping the Air Force find new solutions for a helmet designed for their fixed-wing aircrews,” AFWERX Vegas Innovation Actualizer Mark Rowland assured the MDO workshop crowd. “It had taken the Air Force years to fully articulate a requirement and launch an RFP [Request-for-Proposal]. It took us just a few weeks.”
“And, previously, they’d only gotten one product submission from industry,” he continued. “Through the AFWERX Challenge process, however, they generated more than 100 new ideas and sources. We want to use this same process to find non-traditional solutions to support MDO.”
The results of the MDO workshop will be reflected in the criteria and language of a forthcoming AFWERX Challenge, a 6-week, open-invitation online crowd-sourcing event soliciting specific ideas, concepts, and products. Via AFWERX Challenge, participants will be able to up-vote proposals, and collaborate with potential business and military partners who are working on the same problems.
To learn more about the AFWERX Challenge regarding Multi-Domain Operations, visit: www.AFWERXchallenge.com/mdo. The challenge reads, in part:
We are looking for your solutions to a completely integrated MDO system, specific components of an integrated platform, or an integration layer that will create the basis for multi-domain operations designed for :
• Real-time data collection, validation, and analysis
• AI-based human augmented decision making
• Data security, identity, and trusted access
• Real-time communication to multiple players via a decentralized network
• Automation is an important consideration as we seek to speed up decision support, decision making and communication.
The successful participants from the challenge will be invited to an MDO Showcase event in Las Vegas. The showcase will also coincide with the 2019 AFWERX Fusion Xperience, an event that brings together amazing keynote speakers, panelists, industry, academia and the military. This year, the vice chief of the U.S. Air Force will be speaking at the event, as well as other prominent business and governmental leaders.
Last year’s Fusion Xperience event focused on security technologies and trends. This year’s focus is Multi-Domain Operations (MDO). The event will be held July 23-24 in Las Vegas. Through various funding streams, including the Small Business Administration’s Small Business Innovation Research (SIBR) program, the MDO Showcase participants will potentially lock-in money toward prototyping, as well as expanding a product toward enterprise-wide implementation across the Air Force.
To learn more about the 2019 Fusion Xperience, visit: www.afwerxfusion.com
At the start of the recent MDO workshop, many participants didn’t know each other. Some brought knowledge of existing products. Others, day-to-day experience in what today’s Airmen need to fight and win the nation’s wars. The atmosphere was informal and free-flowing. The schedule of events was depicted in cartoon form, a timetable-less “journey” drawn on one of the event’s ubiquitous mobile white boards. Groups worked on each exercise until reasonably complete, then moved onto the next activity.
“People support what they help build,” says Elise Hufano, workshop facilitator and executive director of theDifference, a design-process firm headquartered in Marietta, Ga. “Our focus is as much on creating relationships and possibilities for collaboration, as it is on identifying the tangible, technical side of finding solutions.”
Objectives for the MDO workshop included:
Create an approach for engaging non-traditional Department of Defense (DoD) vendors to produce the best solutions.
Develop the challenge statement, and the expected outcome
Create a plan for connecting networking and socializing to enable cross-industry support.
Craft the evaluation criteria for submissions.
Design the path to funding, both short-term (6-18 months) and long-term (sustainable implementation within Air Force).
Rather than focus on writing requirements full of military jargon, participants were encouraged to identify problems in plain language, in order for the challenge to be more accessible to businesses.
“The military does a really good job at defining requirements, and some businesses get really good at meeting just those requirements,” says Air Force Col. Randy “Laz” Gordon, test and evaluation lead for AFWERX Vegas. “When we do that, we collectively lose sight of all the other things that might be possible, using today’s technologies—especially those that might be out there right now, sitting in someone’s garage start-up, or on someone’s laptop.”
As envisioned by U.S. Secretary of the Air Force Heather Wilson in 2017, AFWERX is intended to solve some of the toughest challenges that the Air Force faces in an “outside the fence” environment, through innovation and collaboration amongst our nation’s top subject-matter experts. The world is changing quickly—new technologies, new threats, and new opportunities.
To learn more about AFWERX, visit: www.afwerx.af.mil
Follow the organization and challenge on Twitter: @AFWERX #MDOchallenge
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AFWERX taps into the power of creativity and empowers intentional innovation that unleashes emergent approaches for the warfighter through a community of intrapreneurs, industry, academia, and non-traditional contributors. AFWERX has the ability "to bring together our nation’s best and brightest to collaborate, innovate, fabricate, and present accelerated results to the United States Air Force to better serve our No. 1 customer: the warfighter and operators in the Air Force."