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Home : News : News
NEWS | April 27, 2017

Scientists converge on San Antonio for week of collaboration

By Lori A. Bultman 25th Air Force

Every spring, scientists from across the country pop up on a different Air Force base, looking for a specific shade of blue. This year, the Air Force Scientific Advisory Board found their ‘Air Force blue’ while meeting April 10-13 at 25th Air Force Headquarters. The group of 50 board members, and about 50 associated personnel, held mostly classified discussions on the wide variety of impacts science can have on global Air Force and Department of Defense missions.


“It has been a great week here,” said Werner J.A. Dahm, Ph.D., chair of the U.S. Air Force Scientific Advisory Board. “Board members gained first-hand exposure to the challenges of cyber operations and how 24th Air Force is ensuring that warfighters can maintain the information advantage, and how 25th Air Force provides multisource intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance products, applications, capabilities and resources, to include cyber and geospatial forces and expertise.”


“Every spring, we go to an operational base because we think it is critical for board members to receive Air Force ‘bluing’,” Dahm said. “It helps the SAB members get a deeper understanding, from the mission level to the individual Airmen, how they see the mission and how it effects their personal lives. Just sitting in D.C., and having all our meetings there, you don’t get that.

The Airmen that spoke to us at our luncheons were inspirational.”


The SAB was created as an advisory body of experts who provide independent, external, expert advice to the senior leadership of the Air Force, Dahm said. The 50 member board includes scientists, engineers, academics and technical program leaders, who are tasked annually to complete studies on topics deemed critical by the Secretary and Chief of Staff of the Air Force.


“Some of the key missions at the 25th and 24th are a reflection of what is happening at the leading edge of the Air Force,” he said.


“Cyber has grown to become pervasive,” Dahm said. At Joint Base San Antonio, people are well aware of how pervasive the cyber threat is and the implications Air Force-wide, he said.


“All of the services are more dependent on technology than they were ever before, and that vector is going one way,” Dahm said. “It is increasing every year. There is hardly anything in the Air Force that doesn’t depend, in one way or another, on technology.”


Among the topics discussed during this SAB Spring Board Meeting were:  ‘Nuclear Surety and Certification of Emerging Systems,’ ‘Adapting Test and Evaluation to Emerging System Needs’ and ‘Technology Viability to Support Penetrating Counterair Capability,’ Dahm said.


“The studies the SAB has done during its nearly 75 year existence are remarkable,” Dahm said. The key mission limitations have changed, the challenges have changed and the SAB has always been tasked to take on the most contemporary, current problems and provide the best advice to the Air Force, Dahm said.  


In addition to the assigned studies, the board also completes five reviews of technology developments from the Air Force Research Laboratory, and provides technical advice to the Secretary and Chief of Staff of the Air Force, and major command leaders.


“In the past several months, the board has conducted on-site in-depth reviews of research strategy and progress in the Air Force Research Laboratory, including Aerospace Systems, Sensors, Directed Energy, Space Vehicles, and the System Technologies Office,” Dahm said.


Through the board’s work, Dahm said the Air Force can invest in the key technologies where they will achieve the greatest value.


“Part of the SAB’s job is, in part, to help Air Force leaders think through that, so every dollar the Air Force invests gives the Airmen the best tools to be dominant,” Dahm said.


Dahm appreciates what the board does to help every service member accomplish their mission.

“I think there is tremendous value in every Airman here, at Joint Base San Antonio, within ACC and the broader Air Force, knowing that they have got an Air Force Scientific Advisory board working to keep the Air Force at the leading edge, to help them have the tools to be able to be dominant in the jobs they do.” 


The board, first known as the Army Air Forces Scientific Advisory Group, was established by General H. H. “Hap” Arnold in 1944, and chaired by his scientific advisor Dr. Theodore von Kármán. It is a Federal Advisory Committee that provides independent advice on matters of science and technology relating to the Air Force mission.


Since its formation, studies and technical reviews by the SAB have had strong impacts on the science and technology programs conducted by the Air Force, and on the resulting capabilities that have emerged from these programs to support the Air Force mission, according to the SAB website.