Arnold AFB powered by workforce, fueled by innovation

ARNOLD AIR FORCE BASE, TENN. -- The U.S. Air Force is focused on the importance of innovation in delivering war winning capabilities to the warfighter by inspiring and providing the necessary tools and support.

Being a major Air Force Vision, General Dave Goldfein, Air Force Chief of Staff, has noted the significance of innovation.

“We are the service you rely on to push the limits of innovation,” Gen. Goldfein said. “It’s in our bloodline. We’ve faced challenges before and overcome them with ideas.”

To keep innovation at the forefront, those heading up the Technology Innovations Branch at Arnold Air Force Base are committed to creating technical competencies and supporting its employees as the driving force behind these improvements.

“Our Technology Innovations branch is currently focused on cultivating the total portfolio of our innovation pursuits,” said David Miller, a group manager for Technology Innovations. “As part of leadership's commitment to cultivating new technical competencies, we are recognizing our best innovators in accomplishing our mission during our daily work. From the beginning of the Test Operations Sustainment (TOS) contract performance period until present, the Technology Innovations Branch has reached out to the other branches and documented over 70 specific technical innovations by team members.”

Miller mentioned that the advances haven’t been in only one AEDC mission area.

“Innovations have run the entire gamut of technical competencies and all have provided measureable and objective enhancements to mission accomplishment,” he said. “Innovative approaches to logistics, test support, manufacturing, engineering solutions and information technologies have dramatically enhanced test efficiency and decreased mission risks.”

One example of recent innovative efforts, of software engineer Scott Williams, was to retrieve information entered into a software application previously used at Arnold so that design engineers would have it for future reference.

Williams explained that the software application was purchased in 2010 to be used to document Information Technology Design details and interfaces for the Department of Defense Architecture Framework (DODAF).

“Several man-years were invested in creating the architectural models within the application,” he said.

But, in 2016, a decision was made to no longer use this software application and to remove its data from the server.
This, along with other software changes, rendered the diagrams previously entered in the application unusable. Therefore, Williams worked to ensure that the data was available through another platform and fixed links to enable additional data that had been entered in the application.

“All images were exported into a hierarchical directory structure to allow basic access and transition to alternate software systems as required,” Williams said. “Using a file editor, most links were able to be repaired, and a permanent backup of the database was made. A user’s manual and report manual were also found and stored for future use.”

Michael Glennon, technical director of Engineering and Technical Management at Arnold, has worked in tracking innovating as part of the Technical Excellence Board, and through this role has helped facilitate development in government and contractor innovation.
In regards to the work on the DODAF, Glennon mentioned it had also provided a structure focusing on Operational, System and Technical views of test systems that allowed data to be presented as information to the users.

“The DODAF allowed the understanding of what, where and how systems worked and the interrelationships of interfaces from systems of systems architecture,” he said. “With this software, models could be developed for as-built as well as what-if modeling allowing graphic and textual displays of changes to the model.”
Glennon added that “innovation is the lifeblood of change” and can take many forms.

“This could be a policy change, technical improvement, software modernization or a new innovative way of solving problems,” he said. “Transformation of what we deem information today came from data we already have. By simply exposing the existing data and having someone write an application to gather additional data turning what data we have into new understandings adds to the knowledge and information. DODAF is just one example where this is applied.”

Miller also noted that the efforts similar to Williams’, which can benefit AEDC for years to come, occur each day at Arnold.

“Usually people don’t see the big picture in what they do every day, but we know that our success is because of our great workforce,” he said.
Dr. Woodrow Whitlow, a technical director at Arnold AFB, agreed that “the innovations being pioneered in the Technology Innovations Branch are allowing us to accomplish the AEDC mission more efficiently.”

“In addition, innovations in our daily work are occurring in all areas across the Complex in areas, such as Human Resources, Security Procurement and others,” Whitlow continued. “All of our employees are using their ingenuity and creativity to make AEDC a better place to work.”

If you have an idea about how to do work more efficiently or how to reduce mission risk, the Technical Innovations Branch managers want to hear about it. Please contact the Technical Innovations Branch at 454-7491.