AFIMSC spearheads AI innovation at industry forum

  • Published
  • By Shannon Carabajal
  • AFIMSC Public Affairs

SAN ANTONIO, Texas – More than 120 industry, academic and government officials gathered Feb. 20-21 at the University of Texas at San Antonio Downtown Campus for the Air Force Installation and Mission Support Center Artificial Intelligence Industry Forum. 

The event, hosted by AFIMSC and AFWERX, aimed to foster collaboration and find AI and machine learning solutions to challenges facing the Air Force installation and mission support community.

“AI is one of the areas where I’ve started to really challenge the team,” said Maj. Gen. John Allen, AFIMSC commander during his opening remarks to attendees. “This is an area we’re serious about being a part of so we’re thankful you took the time to be here and help us think through it.”

During the first day, subject matter experts from across AFIMSC presented some of the challenges they’re facing and outlined plans for integrating AI and associated technologies into several mission areas including architecture, engineering and construction; command and control for integrated base response and recovery; and security forces operations. 

“I’m hoping AI can provide a toolkit and help Airmen do their jobs faster, better and cheaper,” said Gerald O’Brien, Air Force Civil Engineer Center facilities engineering directorate’s requirements development chief. 

“New AI technology offers potential for the Air Force’s existing infrastructure to become smarter and work as an optimized system,” he said.

Subsequent one-on-one meetings the second day offered industry representatives a chance to delve deeper into those mission areas and learn more about specific problems and requirements. Organizers are optimistic the event helped identify viable solutions to AFIMSC challenges and put projects on the pathway to execution.

“We’re hoping industry may have either solved or can rapidly help solve some of our identified problem sets,” said Dustin Dickens, AFIMSC principal innovation program manager. 

AI and machine learning can be useful in many areas of installation and mission support, Dickens said. That support could include easing burdensome or repetitive tasks, aiding decisions and introducing innovative approaches not yet considered. 

“AI and machine learning has the potential to change every aspect of the way we operate,” he said, but harnessing that potential isn’t possible without help from industry and academia.

“Collaboration is key. We can’t solve our problems in our own box. We need teams with diverse backgrounds and thoughts to help us achieve our greatest potential,” he said. “Many of our problem sets within installation and mission support are not much different than those that may already have solutions. Sometimes benchmarking best practices also helps.”

During the forum, attendees also had an opportunity to learn about the overarching AFIMSC mission and gain insights into AI technology and perspectives from experts at UTSA and AFWERX. 

"It was superb," said Tom George, CEO of SaraniaSat Inc. "Nice to see the whole lay of the land about what is happening with AI in the Air Force."

Industry Day is one of many innovation events AFIMSC regularly hosts and participates in throughout the year, facilitating collaboration between Airmen, Guardians, industry and academia innovators to develop ideas and connect with decision-makers. 

“The biggest benefit of working with AFIMSC is the engagement. They’re able to bring the right people into the right room to talk to industry to solve these types of problems,” said James Foutz, AFWERX Colliders program manager. “They not only learn what the industry solutions are, but they’re very generous with their time to help industry understand the problems facing the installation and mission support community.”