AF to fund squadron innovation that improves mission effectiveness


ORLANDO, Fla. — Chief of Staff of the Air Force Gen. David L. Goldfein announced that Air Force squadrons will receive a new funding authority to accelerate implementation of the National Defense Strategy Feb. 23. The funds will be used for Airmen-led innovations that increase readiness, reduce cost, return time back to Airmen or enhance lethality of the force.

The Air Force will distribute the $64 million “Squadron Innovation Fund” across all total force squadrons to reduce resource barriers that are preventing ingenuity.

“We need our squadrons to be aggressively persistent and take risks in the pursuit of new ideas and solutions,” Goldfein said. “No one knows the problems we face day-to-day more than the Airmen in our squadrons.”

The goal, according to Goldfein, is for squadrons to think and act like start-ups. The infusion of funds will serve as “seed money” for squadron-level innovation initiatives that deliver bottom-up solutions.

“Our roots are in a bicycle shop in Dayton, Ohio. We tinker. This fund will support the bicycle mechanics in our squadrons,” said Secretary of the Air Force Heather Wilson. “As I travel around our bases and visit flight lines and shops, I find Airmen building better tools and trying out new ideas. This fund will enable more innovation from the squadron up, not the top down.”

The concept for the initiative was inspired by the success of the 99th Reconnaissance Squadron at Beale Air Force Base, California, in procuring solutions to their mission needs independent of Pentagon oversight.

“Part of the job of leaders is to unleash that brilliance and to create an environment where young folks with good ideas actually can get a hearing,” Goldfein said. “And we can give them some resources and time and energy to allow them to pursue those ideas and see where it goes.”

Central to the Air Force leadership’s vision for squadron innovation is the value of learning from failure.

“We know not every idea is a homerun,” said Goldfein. “If an idea fails, we want it to fail fast and our Airmen to learn even faster. And because we’ve shown them we believe in their ideas, I want them to keep swinging until we find the answer.”

The Air Force will leverage AFwerX and its innovation network to assist squadrons and wings in connecting, sharing and learning from one another.

“Innovative Airmen find better ways of doing the mission,” Goldfein said. “Their intrapreneurship makes us more lethal, more efficient — they must be supported by leaders who not only remove unnecessary barriers to success, but who also lift up and champion their ideas.”