With 2020 in full swing, the Air Force’s cross-sector outreach program—AFWERX—announced this year’s innovation focus: the base of the future.
After Hurricane Michael decimated Tyndall Air Force Base in Florida in 2018, Air Force leadership saw an opportunity to rebuild with the future in mind.
“With the rebuild of Tyndall Air Force Base, the Air Force has an opportunity to create from scratch an installation that will be recognized as a center of excellence for innovation,” according to a notice posted to the beta.SAM.gov Contracting Opportunities site.
As the service looks to revamp a key base, AFWERX will be hosting a series of workshops across the country to get feedback on emerging technologies in a number of fields. As part of its mission, AFWERX brings military leaders together with innovators from across the private sector, including industry, academia and “non-traditional contributors” through challenge workshops focused on specific needs.
“AFWERX enables thoughtful, deliberate, ground-up innovation across the Air Force,” the notice explains. “This is accomplished through an innovative approach that combines startup urgency with the largest pool of motivated talent in the world to uncover opportunities to improve Air Force capabilities, connect and engage the right stakeholders, and facilitate outcomes.”
For the Base of the Future challenge, AFWERX plans to hold workshops focused on six areas. From the notice:
- Installation Security: Examine and improve the existing security and defense systems that protect the people and critical resources they house.
- Installation Resiliency: Energy and utility systems issues need to be addressed to support the various missions carried out by Air Force bases.
- Leveraging Operational Technology: Tyndall AFB has the potential to be a model for Air Force bases of the future by becoming a leader in operational technology, automation, artificial intelligence, digital integration and cybersecurity.
- Culture of Innovation: From bad Wi-Fi to old or inadequate hardware, airmen aren’t receiving the best, existing tools to succeed in their missions.
- Additive Manufacturing: Leveraging additive manufacturing techniques—3D printing—for on-demand manufacturing of critical aircraft components, rapid and repeatable deployment of structures, etc.
- Construction Logistics: The Air Force is expected to face logistical challenges surrounding housing and feeding the contractor workforce in the rebuild of the Tyndall Air Force Base. With large volumes of people and materials entering the base, it will be challenging to manage workers and deliveries to construction sites safely and efficiently to mitigate security risks, maximize work productivity and minimize negative economic impacts on the local community. Ideally, the service is exploring the possibilities to scale up and scale down various logistics based on the overall construction schedule.
The notice stresses the workshops are not contracting opportunities. However, the events are used as a basis for future solicitations and contracts, as Air Force officials get a sense of what is possible.