Executive Mosaic is honored to announce Will Roper, an assistant secretary of the U.S. Air Force, as an inductee into the 2020 edition of the Wash100 for his efforts to drive acquisition as well as advance technology and logistics for the service branch.
This marks Roper’s third consecutive Wash100. Previously, he had earned a Wash100 Award for accelerating the development of hypersonic weapons and streamlining the contract award process for small businesses and technology startups across the U.S.
Roper has advanced efforts to accelerate the acquisition process and one of the initiatives he pushed last year was setting up contracts for startups within a day through credit-based awards.
He noted that the service branch was able to award 104 contracts within 40 hours to companies during a series of practice trials of its credit card-based transaction process.
“The resounding feedback we’ve gotten from the small companies is that it’s so much better for them to be able to tell investors and stakeholders that they’re going to have consistent cash flow over time,” he added.
Roper announced in March of last year that the Air Force plans to expand its “pitch day” concept across the country. “I [have] pushed this authority out to the field,” he said of the concept. Service officials are “going to be running events locally where we do acquisition and even in cities where we don’t have presence….We need to have presence if there is a technology innovation spark in that city.”
Roper added that he is excited to see technologies that will be showcased at the pitch day, particularly those involving artificial intelligence. “I am desperate for the Air Force to operationalize AI,” he said. “It is ironic that the first two letters in Air Force are A [and] I yet we have so little of it.”
In late September, the military branch announced plans to look at the cybersecurity posture of its aviation systems and Roper said he wants the service to take an urgent approach to finding potential weaknesses in aircraft.
“If we don’t probe first, our adversaries will,” Roper said in an interview. “We’ve been a little complacent in not trying to attack all of the parts of the airplane.”
In October, the Air Force Research Laboratory said it will launch the Agility Prime initiative for companies to demonstrate prototypes of a flying vehicle in military airspace without having to go through regulatory procedures mandated by the Federal Aviation Administration.
"I've been challenging our acquisition community to think about where our defense market has value," Roper said at an Air Force conference in September. "There's an area we're really excited to explore with commercial industry and that's in the self flying cars, technology boom, that we think will happen."
Roper also called on the U.S. military to encourage the country’s venture capitalists to invest in novel defense technologies in order to keep ahead of China and “win the innovation battle.”
“Again, this is about innovation as a battlefield. Capital is a part of it. Companies that can’t get capital from us fast enough will find foreign investments that they gotta take to keep from going under,” he told reporters in November at the Air Force Space Pitch Days in San Francisco. “It’s not enough to develop and procure systems anymore. We’ve got to get in the business of buying ideas and generating ideas.”
Executive Mosaic congratulates the Air Force and Will Roper for his 2020 Wash100 Award selection. His commitment to advancing technology and logistics and drive for acquisition has made Roper one of the greatest contributors to the GovCon sector.
The Wash100 Award, now in its seventh year, recognizes the most influential executives in the GovCon industry as selected by the Executive Mosaic team in tandem with online nominations from the GovCon community. Representing the best of the private and public sector, the winners demonstrate superior leadership, innovation, reliability, achievement and vision.
Visit the Wash100 site to learn about the other 99 winners of the 2020 Wash100 Award. On the site, you can submit your 10 votes for the GovCon executives of consequence that you believe will have the most significant impact in 2020.