Attributable to Pentagon Spokesman Eric Pahon:
Deputy Secretary Hicks visited Wright-Patterson Air Force Base in Ohio to gain insight into Counter-Directed Energy Weapons (CDEW) development, opportunities, and challenges at the Air Force Research Laboratory (AFRL). Left unchecked, laser threats and high power electro-magnetic (HPEM) emitters can permanently blind U.S. personnel and damage sensitive equipment.
AFRL is working toward rapid innovation to mitigate CDEW threats through a balanced approach of in-house, industrial base, and academic development programs and partnerships.
Deputy Secretary Hicks also visited AFRL’s Laser-Hardened Materials Evaluation Laboratory (LHMEL) to learn more about LHMEL’s contributions as a comprehensive source for high temperature characterization of current and emerging materials using a variety of infrared laser sources and environmental simulation capabilities.
The deputy met with AFRL Commander Air Force Maj. Gen. Heather Pringle to discuss AFRL priorities and other AFRL leadership to discuss workforce enhancement efforts to create enduring advantages. AFRL employs around 6,000 military and government civilians and has facilities in 10 states. They support science and technology efforts for both U.S. Space Force and the U.S. Air Force.
AFRL is designated as a DoD Science and Technology Reinvention Laboratory (STRL). Through the STRL authority, AFRL continues to pursue new flexibilities to attract, hire, compensate and retain talent in an increasingly dynamic and competitive talent market. This includes giving hiring managers the authority to set pay rates to make competitive job offers, a contribution-based compensation system, and special authorities for hiring senior scientific technical managers.
Dr. Hicks also received a briefing on the AFRL Regional Research Hub Network- a new science and technology ecosystem with universities, large and small businesses, other government agencies, and venture capitalists. With regional hubs located at Cornell University and Purdue University, AFRL will leverage research, translation, and workforce development successes across the country integrating stakeholders to encourage science and technology exchanges and drive innovation.
She also met with Air Force Materiel Command (AFMC) Commander Air Force Gen. Duke Richardson to discuss sustainment challenges and opportunities as they relate to topics like aircraft fleets, organic industrial base health and supply support.
The deputy secretary is on a two-day, four-state tour of the Midwest. Throughout her travel, Deputy Secretary Hicks will focus on linking the department’s resources to our strategic competition priorities, including the pacing threat of China, and ensuring DoD remains the world leader in cutting-edge innovation.