The U.S. Air Force (USAF) wants to build on its current transformational period, catalyzed by the COVID-19 pandemic, to accelerate change and position the military to win, and the service branch’s CIO spoke on June 8 about tech strategies that the Air Force and the Defense Department are putting in place to get to that goal.

The USAF’s major strategy is to collaborate with the best in the industry to remain ahead of the game, especially in terms of job skills. Working with the private sector means that industry partners know the right job skills, and have already developed the desired services that USAF wants.

“But as we move forward being able to adopt some of these commercial best in class tools, the biggest challenge is making sure that we have money to invest upfront and a cohesive strategy,” said USAF CIO Lauren Knausenberger.

By dealing with this challenge, the USAF immediately can improve its user experience, and make its business environment more integrated and efficient. Additionally, Knausenberger said that less of the service branch’s personnel would end up dealing with manual processes, thus freeing their time to focus on the mission.

The Air Force also recently launched the Digital University program to help digital literacy by providing access to free courses from Udemy, Pluralsight, and Udacity to all Department of the Air Force airmen and space professionals. Air Combat Command is pushing to lead the way for the Air Force as a foundation for the force as we move forward into the future.

“We in the military do an incredible job of training our warfighters for the missions that we’ve done for a long time, but it takes us a while to pivot on those new skills,” Knausenberger said.

Digital University strives to fit the needs of all airmen by providing 100,000 licenses to access more than 12,000 courses, a foundation for the USAF as they move forward into the future.

“Some other government agencies in and out of the DoD [are] asking us about digital and are excited to participate,” she said. “The goal is to dramatically improve security while limiting any drops in user experience in the short term, and this is something that we’re heads down on really moving forward.”

Additionally, the Air Force deployed CDR teams across the entire DoD, allowing the department to get into commercial collaboration tools for the first time. Those in the tech sector and the innovation sector have noted the need for these tools pre-pandemic. But the pandemic has shown the entire DoD how incredibly critical these collaborations are, and they now equate these collaboration tools to ongoing command and control success.

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Lisbeth Perez
Lisbeth Perez
Lisbeth Perez is a MeriTalk Senior Technology Reporter covering the intersection of government and technology.