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USAF Seeking Small Businesses to Support Major Reoptimization Effort

In February, the Department of the Air Force announced a massive reoptimization effort to prepare the Air Force and Space Force to navigate the increasingly complex landscape of great power competition.

This plan focuses on four main areas – developing people, generating readiness, projecting power and developing capabilities – and the DAF has turned to small businesses to gain new technologies and insights to advance its transformation goals.

Learn more about current U.S. Air Force initiatives at the Potomac Officers Club’s 2024 Air Force Summit on July 23, where key USAF officials and industry experts will come together to weigh in on the service branch’s top challenges and priorities. At the event, you will have the chance to uncover the ways in which you can get involved in important Air Force programs through keynote speeches, panel discussions and lively networking sessions.

To view the full agenda and register to attend, head over to the 2024 Air Force Summit event page on the Potomac Officers Club Website.

One USAF unit reaching out to nontraditional contractors is AFWERX, the service branch’s innovation arm. In March, the unit held a three-day gathering in which AFWERX leaders convened with technologists, startups and venture capitalists to consider today’s national and global security issues.

Col. Elliott Leigh, director of AFWERX and chief commercialization officer for the DAF, said in a keynote address at the event that while people are an important part of staying competitive, it is also crucial to outpace adversaries in technology development and deployment.

“We need to quickly move those and get them into the hands of somebody who can do something with them,” Leigh said. “That gives [warfighters] an advantage—what I like to think of as an unfair advantage—over their adversaries in a wartime environment.”

The Air Force Materiel Command recently hosted its own event – an Air Force Operational Imperatives and Reoptimizing for the Great Power Competition small business collider – to educate small businesses on the reoptimization effort.

Understanding the initiative, said AFMC Small Business Programs Director Jeff Mellott, “is foundational for any small business that wants to work with us.”

He noted the responsiveness of small businesses, which “provide the innovation and speed necessary to respond to current and emerging mission needs quickly.”

These engagements are a continuation of the USAF’s work to connect with new providers. In fiscal year 2023, the Air Force Research laboratory issued a record-breaking $2.12 billion in contracts to small businesses.

“There is a future game-changing, major industrial base competitor out there today that looks like a small business,” said Timothy Sakulich, executive director of AFRL and a member of the Senior Executive Service. “We are part of the ability to find that and connect the dots to where that can make a difference.”

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