United States Air Force Academy

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Prepared to solve the unknown problems of tomorrow

The Academy acknowledges our nation is in an era of great power competition, where our freedom to operate in the air and in space cannot be taken for granted — We must accelerate change or lose. The Academy will do just that; develop innovative, creative, and bold thinkers and leaders, prepared to solve the unknown problems of tomorrow.

Unmanned Aerial System (UAS) Operations Program

Institute for Future Conflict

The new Institute for Future Conflict (IFC) will focus on research and education that examines the changing character and technologies of armed conflict while providing future officers with the skills to be agile and adaptive throughout their careers. Researchers and faculty will emphasize deterrence and competitive advantage when conflict becomes necessary.

The IFC will help bring about a convergence of the many efforts already going on at the Academy within its scholars program and more than 20 other institutes, centers, laboratories and programs, such that all of them can become aligned with the idea of producing leaders exceptionally well prepared to lead war fighters in the 21st century.

The Institute will build a foundation of excellence in thinking about how the United States can plan for and approach future conflicts, helping cadets research topics and themes from the National Defense Strategy, as well as the future aerospace domain, the future cyber domain and the study of information dominance.


“I believe it is the mission of all Service Academies to ensure their officers are prepared to excel and win in any future environment they may encounter throughout their career.” – Lt Gen (ret) Bradford Shwedo, Director, Institute of Future Conflict

Our intent is to lead initiatives in a collaborative way with the USAFA Mission Elements, Department heads and the CCLD that will develop leaders who recognize and understand that future conflict is inherently joint and multi-discipline. We are focused on leveraging partnerships and opportunities with other elements of government, academia and industry that will afford outstanding educational opportunities and potential solutions to some our country’s toughest problems.

All cadets will gain familiarity with emerging and disruptive technologies. Cadets will understand the impact these technologies will have on future conflict and they will explore the opportunities and challenges of the employment of these technologies by adversaries and allies. The IFC also expects the faculty to be exposed to these technologies, so they can adapt courses they are teaching to address the impacts that may be expected on society, and also the impact of society on the application of the technology on the character of warfare. In addition, through our interaction with government, academia and industry, these cadets and faculty should be a part of the solution to many of our country’s most pressing problems. By establishing IFC at USAFA, we are also empowered to leverage many of the facilities from within — The Center for Character and Leadership Development (CCLD), Wind Tunnels, AFCyberWORX, UAS Center, CyberCity, Multi-domain simulators, Cadet Space Operations, etc.– to enhanced all of the IFC goals.

Anyone who would not be overwhelmed by the all the tasks associated with this job would be either extremely naïve or ignorant. As with any large job, it is best to jump in and I’m lucky to have so many great teammates that have been willing to support the multiple lines of operations focused on solving this large task. I’m psyched to be part of a team that is focused on developing Airmen and Guardians capable of leadership across an increasingly broad spectrum of military domains.

To read more about the IFC and Lt Gen Shwedo, click here.

White Hulls in the North: The Case for Tapping Unused Federal Resources in the Arctic

Major Kristen Heiserman, IFC fellow, and Dr. Ryan Burke of the MSS department recently published an article for the Homeland Defense Institute focused on immediate actions to be taken in the Arctic in order to ensure homeland defense in the region. The main point of the article centers on the underutilization of federal assets such as NOAA vessels and how a change is needed to bridge the gap between current and future challenges. Click here to read the full article.

Maj Heiserman Appears on "For the Zoomies"

Major Kristen Heiserman, IFC fellow, recently appeared on the “For the Zoomies” podcast, a cadet-run podcast series designed to provide insights into officer life and answer any pressing questions for cadets or anyone thinking about coming to the academy. She shared her experiences as a U-28 pilot, her previous role as the speechwriter for the commander of NORAD and USNORTHCOM, information about the joint spouse program, and more! Click here to listen.

2022 Nuclear Posture Review Panel

Rossetti Fellow for Future Conflict, Dr. David Arceneaux, served as moderator for a virtual discussion on nuclear policy as part of the National Security Strategic Studies Partnership (N3SP). Panelists included Dr. Mark Bell, Dr. Rupal Mehta, and Dr. Daryl Press. U.S. nuclear strategy currently faces significant challenges, including Russia’s continued nuclear saber-rattling in its ongoing war in Ukraine, the expansion and modernization of nuclear arsenals in China, Russia, and North Korea, and persistent concerns of nuclear proliferation. This panel discusses the current state and future of U.S. nuclear strategy by evaluating the U.S. Department of Defense’s recently released 2022 Nuclear Posture Review. Topics include the role of nuclear weapons in U.S. foreign policy, changing perspectives on nuclear deterrence, the effects of emerging technologies on nuclear strategy, and regional security challenges to nuclear deterrence.

NATO Defense College Asia Pacific Seminar

The IFC sent Fox Fellow for Future Pacing Threats, retired Brig Gen Dave Stilwell, and three Asia-focused cadets to the NATO Defense College in Rome 14-20 Nov 2022 to support the NDC’s Asia Pacific Seminar. Stilwell is a regular contributor to this effort–the IFC took the opportunity to expose cadets to the unique perspective of NATO allies on the PRC, along the lines of Integrated Deterrence, recognizing the importance of integrating regional efforts to address the China Challenge. The cadets also took the opportunity to share their unique perspective on the Indo Pacific region and on the state of play in the technological competition, which was appreciated by the NDC students and staff.

Robot Moral Advice in a High Stakes Military Environment

IFC fellow, Major Melissa McLain, is facilitating a multi-department cadet capstone research project integrating a social robot, Furhat, into the Multi-domain lab (MDL), as a machine advisor. This experiment examines the question of whether a human would take advice from a machine agent giving ethical commands in a military scenario. This cross department effort includes faculty and cadets from Military & Strategic Studies (MSS), Computer Science (CS), and Behavioral Sciences & Leadership (BL). The true success in this project is leveraging skills from the various disciplines: CS cadets program and operate the robot, BL cadets designed the experiment understanding psychological implications of expertise, and MSS 251 (core class) cadets participate in the experiment. The abstract for this experiment was accepted into the Intelligent Human Systems Integration 2023 Conference and will be presented by cadets. 2nd Lt Jack Koch, IFC research assistant, is also involved in the experiment.

Air Force Global Strike Command TS/SCI VTC on 29 November

The IFC hosted the Director of the Institute of National Security Studies (INSS), Dr. Shane Smith, and Deputy Director, Lt Col Charlie Goetz, as well as the Strategic Programs Executive at Air Force Global Strike Command, Col William Hersch. The team discussed how the IFC and INSS could help solve the challenges and strategies in the pacific theater.

IFC Welcomes the Rossetti Fellow for Future Conflict

David Arceneaux will serve as the Rossetti Fellow for Future Conflict. He holds a Ph.D. and master’s in political science from Syracuse University, as well as a master’s in international affairs from the Bush School of Government and Public Service at Texas A&M University. As the Rossetti Fellow, David will integrate future conflict across the Dean’s curriculum and the cadet wing.

IFC Welcomes New Space Policy Post-Doc

The IFC is pleased to welcome Ms. Madison Walker. She received her J.D. from the University of Mississippi with a concentration in Air and Space Law. Since graduation, Ms. Walker has aided start-up space companies in navigating the regulations and policies of the U.S. Government. She will be working with both the Law and Political Science departments teaching and researching future space policy issues.

Three New IDE Scholars Join the IFC

This fall, the IFC welcomes three new Intermediate Developmental Education (IDE) fellows. Major Gary Davenport, Major Kristen Heiserman, and Major Melissa McLain will all be completing their IDE programs here at USAFA with the IFC while also serving as instructors in the political science, management, and military and strategic studies departments respectively.

The IFC Welcomes Two New Lieutenants

Lieutenants Jack Koch and Cole Resnik are 2022 graduates of the U.S. Air Force Academy and will be working for the IFC while awaiting Undergraduate Pilot Training. They will serve as research assistants and will conduct simulation experiments in USAFA’s Multi-Domain Laboratory.

Post-doc attends Uganda IED strategy meeting

One of the IFC post-doctoral fellows, Dr. Whitney Grespin, attended the Kampala-Uganda Intergovernmental Authority for Development (IGAD) Security Sector Program’s third Technical Committee Meeting as part of the development for the regional strategy on Countering Improvised Explosive Devices. The program is conducting a threat assessment in the IGAD region that leads to development of a comprehensive sub-regional C-IED strategy for IGAD and its Member States.

Two new PhDs join IFC

The IFC recently hired two new additions. Kyleanne Hunter, PhD, will serve as the IFC’s Associate Director. Ky is a Marine Corps combat veteran with multiple combat deployments as an AH-1W “Super Cobra” attack pilot. Recently she was an Assistant Professor of Military and Strategic Studies at the U.S. Air Force Academy. Anthony Tingle, PhD, will serve as the IFC’s Program Director. Tony recently retired from the Army as a space operations officer, and writes on DoD science and technology policy.

USAFA conducts curriculum review with eye to the future

Faculty conducted a comprehensive curriculum review focused on the application of future conflict throughout the USAFA spectrum of learning. This review was briefed to senior Academy advisors. Additionally, the IFC Director briefed MSS department students on events in Ukraine and Taiwan, and how these events relate to future conflict.

Innovation expert visits USAFA

Katherine Tobin, Head of Workspace Innovation at Google, visited USAFA in early December to share her insights about innovation with the Department of Military & Strategic Studies, as well as meeting with leadership from the Institute for Future Conflict, CyberWorx, and the Center for Character and Leadership Development.

Institute for Future Conflict Discusses China's Military Threat

The National Character and Leadership Symposium in partnership with the Institute for Future Conflict explored the strategic, tactical and ethical implications of warfare with a focus on the challenges presented by China. To read more, click here, and to watch, click here.

Two post-doctoral fellows join IFC

In August 2021, the Institute for Future Conflict hired two of what will eventually be four post-doctoral fellows. Dr Whitney Grespin and Dr Rob Wolverton will be assigned to various academic departments but will research topics in support of IFC objectives. Specifically, Dr Grespin will be investigating topics as they relate to the human domain and how that impacts future conflict. While Dr Wolverton will be investigating subject areas that related to how data science and information have to play in future conflict. The IFC has been deliberate about coordinating with organizations across the DoD and academia to identify emerging areas of concern with respect to national security.

Strategy and Warfare Center introduces new lab

In April 2020, senior leaders from the U.S. Air Force Academy walked through the Academy’s Strategy and Warfare Center’s future location of the Multi-Domain Lab. The lab is set to be completed in Fall 2021 and consists of two scalable suites, each with a fully integrated Joint All-Domain Operations Center, a flight bay, and Remotely Piloted Aircraft stations. The Strategy and Warfare Center and IFC partner to provide cadets the skills necessary to lead warfighting elements in the 21st century. To learn more, click here.

Homeland Defense Institute established to protect North America

The Institute for Future Conflict and U.S. Northern Command/NORAD have partnered to establish the Homeland Defense Institute (HDI). Much like the IFC, the HDI will focus USAFA’s talented cadets and faculty towards researching and solving conflicts and threats to the North American homeland. The HDI is expected to be up and running by June 2021. To read more about what the HDI is doing, click here.

IFC announces 4 post-doctoral fellowships

As the IFC stands up, one of the primary objectives is to bring new research opportunities to USAFA cadets and faculty concerning future conflict. As part of that effort, the IFC will be announcing the award of 4 post-doctoral fellowships to various academic departments for the 2021-2022 Academic Year. The fellows will spend a year researching future conflict topics, providing academic instruction, and overseeing cadet research. The topics cover everything from war gaming and behavioral science to AI and space operations.

Summer Innovation Course introduces cadets to future conflict

The IFC is focused on imparting upon cadets the skills necessary to lead warfighting elements in the 21st century. As a result, starting in the summer of 2021, rising three-degrees (sophomores) will spend two days learning about future conflict, emerging challenges, and how to apply the skills taught at USAFA to future conflict problem sets. To learn more, click here.

Platform One offers cadets exposure to real-world cyber threats

The IFC has partnered with the DoD’s Platform One organization to develop a cadet summer research opportunity where cadets can learn about agile cyber solution development while tackling real-world problems presented to the DoD cyber community. This experience is provided virtually and sponsored by IFC.

IFC Director to speak at School of Advanced Air and Space Studies

To continue to raise awareness and showcase the benefits the IFC and USAFA bring to the Department of Defense, the IFC recently briefed the Chief of Staff of the Air Force on how USAFA is “Educating for the Future Fight.” Additionally, Lt Gen (ret) Shwedo, the IFC Director, has been invited to speak to the graduating class of the School of Advanced Air and Space Studies at Maxwell AFB, AL on 9 June 2021 about the role the leaders of today have regarding preparing our military for future conflict.


Lt Gen (ret) BJ Shwedo