The Air Force chief scientist addressed members of the Air Force Association about the Global Horizons study, which looks into the near and long-term application of science and technology in the force.
Dr. Mica Endsley, who was recently appointed as the 34th Air Force chief scientist, focused her talk around the future of air, space, cyber, and command and control.
“If we presume the future is going to look like today, I think we’re going to be sorely mistaken,” Endsley said. “The future environment in the next decade has some really significant potential threats that we need to be aware of and thinking of.”
In the space environment, Endsley emphasized, the Air Force is not going to be the only player in the future.
“In space, we’re not going to be operating with impunity,” Endsley said. “It’s going to be a much more congested, competitive and contested environment.”
Speaking about air operations, Endsley noted that though the Air Force has enjoyed air superiority in recent operations, this may not always be the case as other nations use science and technology to continually develop their air forces.
“In air operations, I think over the past few decades, we’ve enjoyed pretty good air superiority in a lot of the theaters we operated in — that’s not necessarily going to be the case in the future,” she said.
Endsley also suggested the potential for an attack on command and control capabilities.
“We believe our command and control and (intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance) operations are going to be targeted,” she said. “That’s something we’re going to need to protect against very significantly.”
Endsley emphasized the importance of protecting cyberspace and Air Force cyber capabilities from threats.
Cyber “is the thing that underlines everything that we’re doing,” Endsley said. “It’s a very significant source of concern in terms of potential vulnerabilities.”
As Endsley spoke, she stressed the importance of the ever-changing environment in which the Air Force operates in, and how the global horizons study identifies these future changes.
Endsley also made note that a key component of of Air Force efforts is to use science and technology to enable Airmen to carry out their duties more efficiently.
“One of our goals here is to develop technology that enhances the capability of our Airmen,” she said. “My job is to enable our people to do their job effectively.”
As Endsley concluded, a question from the audience brought up the impacts of sequestration, and how it is impacting in the Air Force.
In a field that is primarily comprised of civilian Airmen, Endsley said that with furloughs starting, a large part of her workforce will be out of the office, missing technical meetings that are vital to her researchers.
Furlough is “having chilling effects,” she said. “If you look at who the researchers are in the Air Force, they are disproportionally civilians.”