Given the varied, complex, and growing USAF mission, its need for experimentation and innovation has never been greater. And, when the committee looked at critical best practices consistently found in the most innovative firms, it found them also being used successfully in isolated pockets of the USAF. Unfortunately, these isolated pockets lack the scale and scope of innovation needed by the Air Force.
So, the good news is that the Air Force, true to its history as a global leader in military technology innovation, clearly knows how to drive innovation through experimentation. What is missing is not the knowledge of what needs to be done. What is missing is the leadership, organization, supportive systems, and a culture that will allow, if not push, the right things to be done.
The committee is convinced that if the senior leadership of the USAF truly commits to innovation as a top priority, and carefully targets the blockers to innovation holding the organization back, the Air Force can return to its former role as a technology leader. The path toward that goal is clear, but it will not be easy. It will require overcoming many obstacles, not the least of which is the Air Force itself and its many leaders, processes, and organizational units that must, of necessity, be focused on what the committee has termed normal production. It has not advocated against the Normal Production organization at all, but it has come to recognize that in today’s Air Force, the focus on meeting today’s output is much stronger than the focus on building tomorrow’s capability. Without addressing this imbalance and successfully overcoming these obstacles constraining innovation to isolated pockets, the Air Force will find itself less and less relevant. The nation and the world cannot afford that, and the committee hopes its study and this report is some small step in moving the organization in the right direction.