AF CyberWorx is a new venture for the Air Force, a public-private design center focused on cyber capability that melds AF, academic and industry expertise with state of the art technology and innovative thinking to solve wicked operational problems.
AF CyberWorx stood up in the fall of 2016 and in the first year we’ve tackled several AF problems using “design thinking” as our methodology. This approach focuses on rapid prototyping and teaches a willingness to take risks. We try to fail fast so that we can succeed sooner.
We are growing. We currently have the capacity to have 2-3 simultaneous design efforts underway, but we’ve been directed to expand that up to 10 simultaneous projects in campus studios and maker spaces. To support that, we have plans to build a 33,000 square foot facility as a public-private partnership.
Behind the Scenes at CyberWorx
We’re celebrating the anniversary of Air Force CyberWorx. In a year we’ve completed 10 design sprints; worked with over 100 Air Force and DoD operators on wicked problems; taught nearly 75 cadets “design thinking” methods; sent cadets for internships and brought almost 50 industry and academic partners into our studios to help us solve AF problems by pioneering new contracting mechanisms with the help of USAFA’s legal, contracting, security, and communications squadrons.
These programs affect a lot of people and organizations, but we need more. The Air Force has directed expanded capacity: up to 10 simultaneous projects in campus studios and maker spaces. That means more work for USAFA’s facilities, personnel, planning, finance, and donor support teams as we press forward.
Why this big push? Why is it worth it? To overcome risk aversion. Risk aversion has always existed, but for many reasons and over many years some in government have let themselves succumb to the notion that we learn more from timid successes than bold failures. In the cyber age this is a deadly affliction.
For the U.S. to be competitive in a digital-age war, we must build warriors who bring creativity to bear and processes to support ideas agilely. General John Hyten, one of the instigators of CyberWorx and now commander of U.S. Strategic Command, argues for a culture in which we can try things out and fail so we can learn and move forward. “We have got to get back to where we allow people to take risk,” he says.
It’s why we use “design thinking” as methodology: The rapid-prototyping and “fail fast to succeed sooner” stance teaches a willingness to take risks and delivers capability faster to move forward while engendering a healthier risk appetite in the Air Force.
The results of our design work this first year have shortened the training time for active duty cyber operators – saving money while accelerating how we build up the cyber force – and changed the way cyber operators assess risks to core AF missions at bases. We’ve seen a new commercial capability for crowd-sourcing cyber training materials; seen three of our industry partners team up to pool their intellectual property to propose a new way of presenting cyber risks to mission commanders, designed the data architecture of the smart base of the future, and had cadets make changes to the Air Force level policies governing how we operate in cyber, based on what they learned during trips to other bases.
The best is ahead for Air Force CyberWorx. Thank you for helping us along this journey as we ignite innovation and unlock the power of cyber for America’s Air Force right here at USAFA!
Col Jeffrey Collins, Director of AF CyberWorx