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CyberWorx achieves initial operational capability

By John Van Winkle, U.S. Air Force Academy Public Affairs / Published March 06, 2017.  


Air Force CyberWorx achieved initial operational capability, Air Force officials announced last month.

CyberWorx is an Air Force-level entity focused on technological and human innovation in the cyber realm with emphasis on developing public-private partnerships.

As the Air Force’s cyber innovation center, CyberWorx is a new venture for the Air Force, designed to meld Air Force, academic and industry expertise to provide rapid, creative and agile solutions to maintain freedom of action in the evolving and contested cyber domain.

“CyberWorx is already helping us address our problems,” said Gen. Jay Raymond, the commander of Air Force Space Command.

The general, whose responsibilities include training and maintaining mission-ready cyberspace forces for combatant commands around the world, will showcase one of CyberWorx’ recent successes to other Air Force senior leaders this month.

“I’m going to present a new cyber training model, as a model for our Air Force to adopt, along with an Air Education Training Command partnership,” he said. “The seed corn of that initiative was formed by a CyberWorx design sprint. So not only is this model looking at things down the road, but it has clear application today.”

CyberWorx is based at the Air Force Academy to harness the ingenuity of 4,000 digital-native cadets and more than 100 Ph.D. faculty members, its vibrant research partnerships with industry, as well as the growth of the cyber business sector in Colorado Springs.

CyberWorx uses a methodology called Design Thinking to bring as much diversity and imagination as possible to bear on operational problems.

“Design thinking is a concept for problem solving that brings a diverse group people together to work quickly toward good answers,” said Col. Jeff Collins, director of CyberWorx. “Design thinking achieves success by putting empathy for the end user at the center of a design, rather putting a system or particular technology at the center of a design process. While designing, the team uses techniques of rapid, low-fidelity prototyping to find out what ideas work, don’t work, and can be made better to improve the end-user’s experience.“

Design thinking is new to the Air Force, but not to the private sector. Silicon Valley’s tech industry has used design thinking as a human-centric approach to stay on the cutting edge of technology advances and develop readily-adopted solutions –something CyberWorx seeks to do for the Air Force.

“I would encourage Cyberworx to take risks and be willing to fail,” Raymond said. “That’s not something the rest of the Air Force is comfortable with. But being risk adverse will crush the creativity necessary for this organization to succeed.”

CyberWorx addresses each project with either a full-semester course, or a full dedicated week of effort, known as a ‘design sprint.’  A goal of CyberWorx is for the results from each project to be further developed and potentially commercialized.

“By the end of our ‘design sprint,’ the team has looked at potentially hundreds of ideas, quickly tried many of them, and comes together toward a few innovative solutions or policy advancements that have a high probability of working for the warfighter user,” Collins said.

This semester at the Academy, CyberWorx is conducting three design sprints and one semester-long project, as it builds toward full operational capability. That eventual full operating capability will be running 10 cyber projects simultaneously.