Utah Defense


Research Symposium



WHAT: A free virtual event where current & upcoming defense programs were presented by DoD, AirForce Research Lab, AFWERX and more!

WHEN: March 24, 2021

WHERE: Virtual Event (See Replay Below)

The Defense Manufacturing Research Symposium, hosted by the Utah Advanced Mfg & Materials Initiative (UAMMI) along with the Utah Defense Mfg Community (UDMC), took place virtually on March 24, 2021 from 1:00-5:00 MT.

Tulinda Larsen, Executive Director of UAMMI, moderated the Symposium which featured presentations from seven high level officials at U.S. government organizations that purchase or support products from the U.S. defense industry.

Speakers represented Agility Prime (the innovation program of the U.S. Air Force), the Air Force Research Laboratory, the Air Force Nuclear Weapons Center, the Oak Ridge and Idaho National Labs of the Department of Energy, and the Logistics and Product Support Office of the U.S. Air Force.

The Symposium’s purpose was to provide an opportunity for Utah manufacturers to better familiarize themselves with the workings of these agencies and, moreover, to learn how they can work directly with these organizations in an effort to grow their businesses.

Key takeaways from the event were:

  • The Air Force is streamlining its acquisition program and facilitating supplier participation
  • AFWERX aims to translate more technologies into capabilities through acquisition changes
  • The research labs exist to help industry and foster innovation, but are not direct purchasers
  • Utah plays an especially important role in our nuclear deterrent

Below is a brief description of each speaker’s organization, key items from their presentation that is relevant to Utah’s defense manufacturers, and a video link to their full presentation including questions and answers.


Changes in US Air Force Acquisition and How You Can Participate

Presented by Angie L. Tymofichuk, SES, Deputy Assistant Secretary of the Air Force for Logistics and Product Support SAF/AQD (see bio)

Deputy Assistant Secretary Tymofichuk works in the main office overseeing acquisitions for the Air Force. Its mission is to cost effectively modernize to deliver capabilities to the warfighter when needed. Her presentation explained not only how the Air Force is changing its acquisition strategy, but how a new strategic mindset is driving this effort.

Key information for Utah manufacturers:

  • Innovation is the battlefield – the Air and Space Force understands that it cannot let other countries be superior in innovation
    • Time that it takes to field new capabilities is the greatest hindrance to maintaining dominance
  • Digitization is critical to cutting development time and acquiring new technology
  • E-Series is the next new wave, Next Generation Air Dominance is an example to follow
  • Whereas the military used to tell industry what it needed, Air Force now asks industry what technology it has and how it might apply to the Air Force’s needs
    • This is where AFWERX comes in, the subject of the second presentation
  • Rapid Sustainment Office (RSO) is the new program executive office (PEO) that is different from any other PEO within the Air Force
    • Different objective – increase readiness by identifying, applying, and scaling technology
    • Board of Directors is 3 and 4-star heads of all capability areas which the Air Force acquires or maintains
  • E-Programs are a new designation in which the planning is digital from the beginning
    • Also digitizing old programs
  • How to participate
    • Think from a standards-based approach – how this will morph the way acquisition works
    • Help the Air Force help you
    • Participate in webinars and challenges
    • Try again
Read more

AFWERX’s Agility Prime Paving The Way for Research into ORBS

Presented by Major John “WASP” Tekell, Agility Prime Deputy, U.S. Air Force (replacing Colonel Nathan Diller, Director of AFWERX)

Major Tekell provided a full overview of AFWERX including its genesis and its structure. He then discussed the Agility Prime program. This covered more areas than ORBS, as originally scheduled with Colonel Diller, but provides important information for Utah manufacturers.

Key takeaways include:

  • AFWERX has three major sectors:
    • AFWERX Spark – focuses on talent development
    • AFWERX Ventures -aims to expand technology
    • AFWERX Prime – accelerates the transition of the technology to usable capability
  • AFWERX started in June 2020 with a small budget, but it has proven its value and has scaled up and is now under Air Force Mobility Command
  • Air Force recognized a gap between the talent and R&D money that it had and the technology that industry had.
    • AFWERX aims to make the acquisition process take advantage of this to enhance military capability
  • AFVentures runs the supplemental funding pilot program and strategic investment
    • Make a lot of small bets with SBIRs ad STTRs
    • Medium bets with prototyping
    • Finally scaling with large programs that they wish to move forward with
  • AFWERX Prime seeks to co-invest with industry to field a capability in 2 to 4 years through diverse partnerships
  • Agility Prime is bringing together advances in electric, autonomy and manufacturing technology for the electrical Vertical Takeoff and Landing (eVTOL) market
  • The way ahead is a Funding Roadmap
  • Space Prime has been chosen as the next Prime activity

Read more

Key Research Areas for Air Force Research Laboratory

Presented by Dr. Tim Bunning, Ph.D., ST, Chief Technology Officer, Air Force Research Laboratory (see bio)

The AFRL is based at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base in Dayton, Ohio, leading the “discovery, development and delivery of warfighting technologies for our air, space and cyberspace forces”. It is the primary scientific research and development center for the Air Force.

Dr. Bunning specifically told the audience he would not speak about key research areas per se, but the areas that the Air Force is pivoting to and the macro changes ongoing in AFRL.

Main points for Utah’s defense manufacturers are:

  • Responding to rapid geopolitical and technological change
  • The AFRL has $2.5 billion in core funding, $2.5 billion from research partners
  • AFRL is not a funding source, but it helps enable funding
    • Role is to work with industry to analyze and reduce risk
  • There are five portfolios within AFRL:
    • 1 Basic Research
    • 2 Applied Research
    • 3 Advanced Technology Development
    • 4 Operations, Experimentation and Prototyping
    • 5 Non-Science and Technology
  • There is essentially a pivot based on a panic within the Pentagon about what the U.S. has in terms of its ability to go to war within the next five years
  • AFWERX has led to macro shifts in the portfolio
  • Related interests now are
    • Left of launch missile strategies
    • Attritable technologies

Read more

Democratizing Advanced Manufacturing – Ensuring Prosperity and Security

Presented by Thomas R. Kurfess, Ph.D., P.E., Chief Manufacturing Officer, Oakridge National Labs (see bio)

The Oak Ridge National Laboratory in Oak Ridge, Tennessee is the largest of the U.S Department of Energy’s science and energy laboratories. Its research is designed to help speed the delivery of energy and other solution to the marketplace.

Dr, Kurfess provided an overview of the lab along with specific examples of technology and machines currently at the facility that are moving into commercial deployment.

Important elements of Dr. Kurfess’s presentation for Utah manufacturers were:

  • The importance of innovation. We must innovate faster than the competitor can and the ORNL helps make this happen.
  • Areas of interest are:
    • Next generation architecture
    • Hybrid manufacturing
    • Additive manufacturing with digital passports
    • The importance of data generation in all processes
  • Companies work with ORNL by contacting them directly
  • Industry puts in funds and the Lab provides matching funds
    • Capabilities are partially covered using Department of Energy funds
  • Utah firms are encouraged to look at the ORNL web site and to determine which part of the portfolio is the best fit and can inquire further
Read more

INL Defense Manufacturing Research Programs

Presented by Dr. Robert O’Brien, Director, Advanced Design and Manufacturing, Idaho National Laboratory (see bio)

The Idaho National Laboratory in Idaho Falls is the nation’s leading research and development center for nuclear energy, covering all aspects of the technology including energy needs and defense.

Key takeaways from Dr. O’Brien were:

  • INL’s location is a benefit to Utah defense manufacturers
  • Cyber-engineering and secure manufacturing are a major focus
  • Has unique capabilities touching a number of areas in applied materials
  • Advance Manufacturing research is at the INL’s Research & Education campus
  • Opportunities to partner with the INL are best made via the Department of Energy Exchange website
Read more

Digital Research Innovations to Support Utah’s Air and Space Force

Presented by Tom Lockhart, Director of Engineering, Air Force Nuclear Weapons Center (see bio)

The Nuclear Weapons Center is headquartered at Kirtland Air Force Base in New Mexico.  Hill Air Force Base is the principal location of the Minuteman III Systems Directorate and is part of the Nuclear Command, Control and Communications Integration Directorate. Its role is to synchronize all aspects of nuclear materiel management on behalf of the commander of the Air Force Materiel Command.

Mr. Lockhart’s presentation segued nicely from Dr. O’Brien’s, where the former discussed research capabilities and the latter emphasized the deployment of actual solutions, although research is also one of the NWC’s responsibilities along with acquisition.

Highlights of Mr. Lockhart’s presentation were:

  • Innovative research is happening with NWC throughout Utah
  • The business infrastructure and digital network facilitate the attractiveness of Utah companies for acquisition purposes
  • Two thirds of the nuclear triad is managed in Utah
    • In the ICBM itself (Minuteman III)
    • With weapon/aircraft integration
  • Eight areas of importance for NWC that link with Utah companies
    • Key among these are Additive Manufacturing and Digital Engineering
  • Acquisition significantly changed in the last two years because of cloud computing facilities
    • Think in terms of three milestones
  • Looking at shorter life-cycle systems than in the past
    • This drives a need for quicker development and acquisition
Read more

Making Sense of Acronym Soup: The Language of DoD and What It Means for Science and Technology

Presented by John D. Russell, D.Sc., Chief, Structures Technology Branch, Air Force Research Laboratory (see bio)

Mr. Russell relieves the anxiety about all the acronyms firms encounter as they begin exploring government procurement and acquisition. In addition, he moves beyond the alphabet soup to explain certain terminology that’s common in government acquisition and how these related to budget categories.

The Utah defense manufacturer will learn about:

  • The color of money
  • Why PE isn’t something that takes place in a gym
  • How a TRL relates to a 6.1
  • Why an SES can be involved with a CII
Read more

Join the conversation on the UAMMI LinkedIn page.