These strategic priorities for embracing digital transformation will help the Department of the Air Force (DAF) maintain dominance
-Currently, it takes the DAF longer than our near-peer adversaries to develop major, complex weapons systems.
-The Digital Transformation Office (DTO) is charged with addressing the digital needs of the entire acquisition and sustainment enterprise from a short- and long-term perspective.
-Our five strategic priorities are culture, tools, training, architecture, and standards.
Backed by leading-edge technologies and capabilities, the DAF is a dominant presence in the world. But to maintain this status, we have to further modernize, and do so with urgency. Compared to our counterparts, we’re fielding capabilities slowly. It takes us decades to develop major, complex weapons systems—twice as long as our adversaries. The DAF can’t afford to show up to tomorrow’s conflict with yesterday’s technology.
Staying competitive means fully embracing digital-first strategies across the organization. The DTO is here to help make it happen by connecting Airmen and Guardians with the information, resources, and support needed to outpace our adversaries. “Our leadership has said repeatedly – if we don’t do this, we’re going to lose the next high-end fight,” emphasized DTO Chief Kyle Hurst.
Below, we’ll dive deeper into the role of the DTO, the meaning of digital transformation, and our team’s top priorities.
What is the DTO?
The DTO was established by the Air Force Materiel Command in 2021 as the first organization to lead a unified digital transformation across the Air Force and Space Force. Carrying forward the work of the Digital Campaign, which set out to give Air Force warfighters access to the data they need to create, test, field, and maintain complex weapon systems, the DTO was expanded to include engagement with the broader Air Force and Space Force acquisition and sustainment communities, other internal government stakeholders, and external partners.
The DTO aims to cultivate a digitally-empowered Air Force and Space Force with seamless collaboration across Program Management, Engineering, Logistics, Contracting, Finance, and other core functions. Our approach is to combine enhanced fundamentals—an agile workforce, state-of-the-art technologies, and intuitive processes—with digital-first strategies. These strategies could include, for example, model-based enterprise decision making, automation, open architectures, and authoritative models and data.
We strive to ensure digital is part of every new initiative and stage of the acquisition lifecycle, from cradle to grave. Our strength is in facilitating collaboration across AFWERX, DAF Software Factories, and other DAF innovators while maintaining a distinct focus on leveraging modern digital technologies and tools to enable better, faster decisions.
Before we get to the DTO’s priorities, let’s define digital transformation.
What is digital transformation?
“Digital transformation,” broadly speaking, is the practice of using digital tools and technologies to bring about positive change in a specific environment to meet new challenges, be it in a Fortune 500 company or the Armed Forces.
For the DAF, digital tools and technologies have the power to dramatically shorten the time needed for a weapon system to go from a scribble on a napkin to a fully-fledged program in the hands of a warfighter. They also allow Airmen and Guardians to adapt capabilities quickly as the needs of today’s dynamic warfighting domain grow and change.
Currently, there are a vast number of digital programs operating across the DAF, and they span the full spectrum of innovation. Some teams are leveraging digital tools and technology on legacy systems; others are designing, prototyping, and testing solutions in an entirely digital world. All are doing their part to drive change, but how much greater could this impact be with a unified approach?
When the DAF has transformed and embraced a truly digital culture, we’ll all be equipped with the best technologies, tools, and processes. We’ll operate in integrated environments with authoritative data sources, collaborating to tackle common problems at scale. And we’ll ultimately have a more engaged and effective workforce.
The DTO’s five strategic priorities
So how do we get there? We’ll start by focusing on the following digital transformation components.
- Culture. For digital solutions to be adopted, we need to first create a culture that embraces them. “Our office is driving some of that culture change,” says Hurst. Everyone can help make this a reality. The DTO introduces the organization to digital’s real potential, leaders vocally support digital initiatives and set a positive tone, and Airmen and Guardians bring their digital experience to the table.
- Training. You can have the best tools in the world, but without proper training, they’ll be next to worthless. One of the DTO’s priorities is to provide expert-level training so that our workforce can take full advantage of the digital tools at their fingertips. Input from teams within the DAF will be an important aspect of these trainings, ensuring content stays relevant.
- Tools. Right now, there’s a large gap between those in the DAF with top-of-the-line tools and those without. The DTO will eliminate this gap by taking inventory of what’s out there, scaling best practices, sharing knowledge, and creating business models that allow the latest tools to be quickly distributed to anyone who needs them.
- Architecture. For our sustainment and acquisition enterprise to be thoroughly transformed, our weapon system designs and models need flexibility and agility. This includes using decomposable models of our weapon systems, use cases, and requirements, as well as adopting Government Reference Architectures (GRAs). This will improve collaboration and allow systems and subsystems to be more quickly integrated.
- Standards. We all need to work from the same basic framework, and to do that, we must consistently communicate and share data. This will allow our workforce to break out of silos, exchange knowledge freely, and integrate programs. The teams who use data the most—including engineering, program management, contracting, logistics, and finance—need consistent standards on how they purchase, visualize, tag, share, and leverage it.
We regularly collaborate with the DAF’s extended digital transformation community to advance and execute on these priorities.
Join us in accelerating change
Our nation needs a DAF that’s flexible and adaptable. It needs Airmen and Guardians who feel empowered to make sound decisions quickly and tackle problems at scale. It needs war-winning capabilities that match the speed and efficiency of our adversaries.
We can build the DAF of tomorrow together. Have you or your colleagues been working to advance the DAF’s digital transformation? We want to hear from you! Please take a few minutes to fill out our Digital Agents of Change form so we can elevate your efforts and provide support.