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U.S. Air Force Research Laboratory Partners for Cloud Platform

The U.S. Air Force Research Laboratory has chosen to deploy a collection of cloud computing, productivity and collaboration tools, software and products developed and marketed by a giant cloud platform as a pilot program among a segment of its workforce of scientists and engineers. The initial deployment has dramatically enhanced engagement with its worldwide network of external research partners.

AFRL is a global research enterprise supporting two services, the U.S. Air Force and the U.S. Space Force. From laser-guided optics enabling telescopes to see deeper into the universe than ever before, to fundamental science that has spawned innovations in quantum computing and artificial intelligence, AFRL rapidly scales discovery to deliver leading-edge technologies for the military. Core to the success of AFRL’s mission is engaging with world-leading scientists, small businesses, large industries, and other government agencies to build communities that drive innovation.

AFRL teams are using integrated cloud-based tools to simultaneously share, discuss, and chat about critical information—eliminating the toil of email chains and hours-long data file exchanges. Through the video conferencing service, AFRL research teams are hosting flexible, virtual meetings to exchange ideas anywhere, anytime.

The recent collaboration, combined with the company’s Zero Trust security philosophy, provide AFRL with additional safeguards while keeping security measures invisible to end-users. Those AFRL scientists using cloud technology can collaborate and innovate safely and securely under the standards defined by the U.S. Defence Information Systems Agency (DISA).

COVID-19 significantly limited the physical presence of researchers in the lab. The cloud-based tools eliminated what would have otherwise been almost a total work stoppage. In fact, new insights into 2D nanomaterials, critical to future Department of the Air Force capabilities, were discovered using Workspace that would have otherwise been impossible.

– Dr Joshua Kennedy, research physicist, Materials and Manufacturing Directorate at AFRL

A recent survey of 240 researchers involved in the preliminary deployment revealed an average time savings of three hours per week. For AFRL’s highly trained workforce of PhDs, this means more time to dedicate to the mission. The U.S. Air Force places a strong emphasis on modernisation and innovation, and this is apparent in the groundbreaking work of AFRL researchers. Members of AFRL rely on cloud-based tools not only to securely and successfully achieve their mission but also to power new discoveries.

In fact, early in the fiscal year 2021, Air Force Research Laboratory commander, Maj. Gen. Heather Pringle directed AFRL to prioritise ongoing efforts of digitally transforming AFRL and issued a charter establishing the AFRL Digital Transformation Team. The team’s mission centres on the creation of “One AFRL,” a flexible enterprise that capitalises on the seamless integration of data and information through the use of modern methods, digital processes and tools and IT infrastructure.

As reported by OpenGov Asia, The U.S. Department of Defence (DOD) outlined its goals that would help support service members outside of the U.S. by way of cloud computing. The agency establishes the vision and goals for enabling a dominant all-domain advantage through cloud innovation at the tactical edge. It identifies areas requiring modernisation to realise the potential of cloud computing, specifically: security, redundancy, reliability and availability.

The strategy is broken down into three parts: resilient connectivity, providing the right computing power, and training members to utilise the technology. All the goals can be achieved, but some will take much longer than others, and accomplishing all three will require more than just the efforts of the Defence Department. The approach needs to be holistic that involves a whole government, members of Congressfederal partners, internal to DOD, also with the cloud service providers and developing a cohesive strategy that works for the department to be able to deliver these much-needed services, to where they are needed.

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