Video // Andrew Arthur Breese

Secretary of the Air Force Heather Wilson addressed the relevance of innovation and significance of taking risks in order to ensure Air Force success now and in the future during her 2018 State of the Air Force speech at the Air Force Association Air Warfare Symposium in Orlando, Florida.

“It’s time to take risks. It’s time to productively fail,” said Wilson. “Innovation has to be part of the way the Air Force does business.”

Wilson stressed an era of great power competition has re-emerged in which adversaries jostle for global influence and it is a central challenge to US prosperity and security. The Air Force also faces the challenges of a world where far more innovation is happening outside the government than inside of it.

“The creativity, initiative and spirit of the American Airmen and American industry must now be leveraged in new domains in more contexts to solve more problems faster,” Wilson said. “Focusing on great power competition will change our culture and it will change the way we operate.”

The Air Force is investing in game-changing technologies such as autonomous systems, unmanned systems, hypersonics, directed energy and nanotechnology. Wilson said long-term U.S. military supremacy depends on our ability to rapidly innovate and be at the cutting edge of science.

“Sharpening our competitive edge in this new age will require creative approaches, innovation, resources and execution at the speed of relevance,” she said. “The advantage will go to those who create the best technologies and who integrate and field them in creative operational ways that provide military advantages.”