By Susan A. Romano, AFTAC Public Affairs
PATRICK AIR FORCE BASE, Fla. —
Air Force Vice Chief of Staff Gen. Stephen W. “Seve” Wilson paid a visit to the Air Force Technical Applications Center here Dec. 4 to meet with nuclear scientists and engineers about their role in global nuclear deterrence and nonproliferation.
Wilson was accompanied by Lt. Gen. Richard Clark, Air Force Deputy Chief of Staff for Strategic Deterrence and Nuclear Integration and escorted by Col. Brande H. Walton, Vice Commander of the 45th Space Wing.
The purpose of the visit was to give the visiting Air Force senior leaders an opportunity to discuss future operations and algorithmic warfare – the method by which battles are fought using artificial intelligence and machine learning as a weapon system – with members of the Department of Defense’s sole nuclear treaty monitoring center and the U.S.’s technical surveillance center of excellence.
During an in-depth classified mission briefing, the generals sat down to hear from AFTAC experts who discussed their advanced modeling capability and how environmental modeling and simulation plays a critical role in how the center provides direct technical, analytical and evaluative scientific data to national decision makers.
The briefers talked how they are taking steps to master the digital environment through what AFTAC calls its “Algorithm Factory.”
“AFTAC is making every effort to modernize and improve our capabilities,” said Col. Chad Hartman, AFTAC commander. “Whether it’s through strategic integration, development ops or cloud architecture, we are setting the pace and leading the way. To accomplish that, we let machines do what machines do best so we can free up our Airmen to do what they do best – innovate, think critically and effectively, and address our nation’s wicked problems.”
Wilson was impressed with what he heard and saw from the center’s top scientists.
“AFTAC has some really smart people here who have come up with solutions to some very hard problems,” Wilson said. “You think differently. You’re driven. You develop novel ways to get after the tough challenges we face, and I am really impressed with your innovative spirit. AFTAC is on the cutting edge of all things nuclear and my words of wisdom to you are simple: push it up!”
At the conclusion of the briefing, the general recognized two members of the AFTAC team as outstanding performers and coined each of them for their work: Master Sgt. Ryan Doss and Tech. Sgt. Alissa Garnett.
Wilson also held a “State of the Force” Town Hall meeting for all base personnel and took questions from Airmen. Much of his briefing focused on who senior defense officials believe is the United States’ biggest foe: China.
“We have never faced an adversary like China,” Wilson said. “We must continue to deter and compete against this near-peer adversary, whether that be economically, academically or militarily.”
An Airman asked the general for an update on “The Air Force We Need” initiative, and the vice chief spoke about how the Air Force is executing the initiative. “One of the ways we’re addressing our challenges,” he said, “is how we recruit, retain and encourage our single most important weapon system, our people.”
Wilson continued, “When Congressional leaders ask me what we need as a force, I never hesitate with my response. I tell them we need more people – bright, innovative young minds willing to carry us well into the 21st century. We’ll always need more ‘stuff’ – aircraft, equipment, materiel, etc. – but it’s the people who are our number one priority.”
As he closed out the Town Hall, Wilson said, “What you’re doing here is incredibly important and I want you to know that your dedication is recognized and appreciated by Secretary (Barbara) Barrett and (Air Force Chief of Staff) General (David) Goldfein. You’re all doing a fantastic job for our Air Force and our nation, so go out there knowing that we’ve got your back.”