AFWERX is the US Department of the Air Force’s answer to bringing next-generation technologies that derisk warfighters and propel mission success. The department’s well-oiled-machine status is due to its exemplary leaders and executives.
AFWERX’s Leaders, Founders, Execs: Who are They?
Here are AFWERX’s leaders, founders, and executives: who are they? We will provide you with some helpful information to know them better and why they deserve their roles in this organization.
Colonel Elliott J. Leigh, Director
Colonel Elliott J. Leigh assumed the role of Director of AFWERX in December 2022, a role similar to a company’s Chief Executive Officer. Concurrent with his directorship role, Leigh is also the Commercialization Officer for the US Air Force.
As Director of AFWERX, Colonel Leigh oversees the strategy and deployment of over $1 billion worth of annual funds across the Air Force and Space Force divisions. These funds are distributed across AFWERX’s divisions, as well as the Small Business Technology Transfer and Small Business Innovation Research programs.
On May 18, 2023, Colonel Leigh announced that AFWERX is embarking on a new mantra, mission, and vision statement. He highlighted that AFWERX focuses on innovation and accelerating agile and affordable capability transitions that align with Airmen and Guardian talents.
Colonel Leigh graduated from the US Air Force Test Pilot School and the Army Command and General Staff College. He has been in active service for more than 20 years now, with his first promotion as Second Lieutenant in May 2002.
Want to know more about the efforts of the US Air Force in enhancing aerospace defense and offense? Click here to register for the Potomac Officer Club’s upcoming 2024 Air Force Summit.
Timothy Sakulich, Executive Director
Timothy Sakulich is a member of the US Air Force’s Senior Executive Service and is the current Executive Director of the Air Force Research Laboratory (AFRL). His responsibilities also include serving a government workforce of over 6,000 people comprising AFWERX, the 711th Human Performance Wing, and the AFRL’s nine component technology directorates.
Mr. Sakulich’s role at the US Air Force encompasses being the Principal Assistant to the Commander and Senior Civilian Executive. In the latter, he leads critical Air Force programs, such as the science and technology program worth $3 billion and the additional $3 billion of externally bankrolled research and development.
Sakulich earned the Distinguished Graduate Award from the US Air Force Academy in 1984, an accolade that paved the way for him to begin his career in the Air Force. During his active career, he served in various assignments at different divisions, such as the research laboratory, air logistics center, the Joint Staff, a combatant command headquarters, and two major command headquarters.
Alexis Bonnell, Chief Information Officer and Director of the Digital Capabilities Directorate
Alexis Bonnell assumed the roles of Chief Information Officer and Director of the Digital Capabilities Directorate in July 2023. She oversees the strategic development of highly advanced innovative technologies and platforms for the AFRL and the execution of the AFRL Information Technology strategy.
Her appointment at the US Air Force has been seminal to deploying faster technology transition and innovation culture across the DoD, most notably for AFWERX, the Air Force Research Laboratory, NavalX, Kessel Run, the Marine Innovation Unit, and many more. In addition, Ms. Bonnell actively supported critical DoD missions in Iraq, Afghanistan, and many other operational theaters.
Chief Master Sergeant of the Space Force Carlos E. Labrador, Command Chief
Carlos E. Labrador is the current Chief Master Sergeant of the US Space Force and the Command Chief of the Air Force Research Laboratory at the Wright-Patterson Air Force Base in Ohio. He is part of the executive leadership team of AFWERX, with his duties covering the $3 billion science, technology, and innovation enterprise and the $3 billion externally funded research and development program.
In his current role, CMSgt. Labrador serves as the senior enlisted leader and primary adviser to the commander regarding all aspects of training, readiness, and development. Added to that, he provides insight into the effective utilization of a 6,500-strong workforce spanning AFWERX, the 711th Human Performance Wing, and AFRL’s technology and functional directorates.
CMSgt. Labrador began his career in the Air Force in 1996. He has proven to be an exemplary leader, having held roles such as Senior Enlisted Leader for the Medical and Air Expeditionary Groups, Additional Duty First Sergeant, and many more. Before his current position, he served as the Command Chief of the National Air and Space Intelligence Center at the Wright-Patterson Air Base, Ohio.
Colonel Michael T. McGinley, Mobilization Assistant to the Commander of AFRL
Colonel Michael T. McGinley is the current Mobilization assistant to the Commander of the AFRL. Like Director Sakulich and CMSgt. Labrador, he plays an active role in directing the USAF’s critical billion-dollar science, technology, research, and development programs.
In his current position, Col. McGinley assists the commander in fulfilling the AFRL’s mission of leading the discovery, deployment, and integration of warfighting capabilities for the air, space, and cyberspace forces. Added to that, he leads over 100 reservists to bolster a 6,000-strong workforce across various divisions of the Air Force.
Before taking on his current role, the Colonel previously established and spearheaded the Department of Defense’s (DoD) Gig Eagle talent marketplace, led as the Innovation Adviser at SAF/AQ, and ran the Boston operations of the Defense Innovation Unit.
(Above executive photos from the official Air Force Research Laboratory website)
AFWERX is the innovation division of the US Department of the Air Force focused on unleashing American ingenuity to address tough challenges across the academia, industry, and government spaces.
What does AFWERX mean?
The acronym AFWERX comes from AF, the abbreviation of Air Force, and WERX, the shorthand for “work project.” Put together, AFWERX represents the Air Force’s initiative to foster a culture of innovation and fulfill its vision to deliver cutting-edge and disruptive aerospace capabilities.
Where is AFWERX’s headquarters?
AFWERX is headquartered within The Pentagon in Washington DC. According to its LinkedIn profile, AFWERX employs more than 500 employees with domain expertise in recruitment, innovation, collaboration, technology, and military solutions.
What are the divisions of AFWERX?
AFWERX currently operates four divisions, namely:
- AFVentures – the branch that primarily invests in emerging technologies designed to enhance the Air Force’s capabilities and US industry base by incorporating new commercial solutions with defense problem sets. Through this connection, AFWERX enables initiatives to complete capability gaps and transition technologies.
- Spark – operates three sub-branches–Network Branch, Development Branch, and Catalyst Branch–to connect Airmen and Guardians with commercial innovators through virtual collaboration, networking opportunities, and immersive training.
- Prime – the division that’s laser-focused on expanding technology transition paths to accelerate nascent technology markets by maximizing various government resources. Added to that, AFWERX Prime utilizes other department resources to poise the Air Force as an early adopter of de-risking emerging markets.
AFWERX: Accelerating Capability through Innovation and Talent
Since 2017, AFWERX has been committed to harnessing innovative technologies to propel the Air Force and its warfighters to tackle the most pressing challenges faced by the US Air Force.
With its mission to “accelerate agile and affordable capability transitions by teaming leaders in innovative technology,” AFWERX continues to unleash American ingenuity to deliver innovative solutions befitting present and future missions.
Learn more about the top government contract awards won by AFWERX and their impact on defense, aerospace, and homeland security efforts.