Washington, D.C.- In case you missed it, Congresswoman Elise Stefanik published an op-ed in Real Clear Defense highlighting the need for the Department of Defense to better identify organizations that embrace innovation and enable them to transition technology to the warfighter highlighting Future Flag’s model of experimentation and active risk reduction.

The Joint Future Flag Experiment led by Air Force Research Lab-Rome offers an opportunity for the Department of Defense to experiment, test, and evaluate emerging technologies in the town of Lewis in Essex County, New York.

Read the full article below.

Real Clear Defense: The Air Force’s Future Flag Experiment Is A Success

By Rep. Elise Stefanik

New York’s 21st Congressional District has a long and distinguished history of playing a critical role in U.S. national security. From the renowned Battles of Saratoga that turned the tide of the Revolutionary War to the work of Strategic Air Command’s missileers at Plattsburgh Air Force Base during the Cold War, to today’s continued service of the 10th Mountain Division at Fort Drum, the region’s history of service and innovation is ingrained in Upstate New York and North Country culture. In today’s global climate of competition and instability, the innovative ecosystem in NY-21 is more critical than ever. 

Carrying on the region’s tradition of service and conducted annually in Lewis, New York, the Joint Future Flag Experiment led by Air Force Research Lab-Rome (AFRL-Rome) offers a unique opportunity for the Department of Defense (DoD) to experiment, test, and evaluate emerging technologies while they are in the hands of operators. Designed as a joint operational and laboratory effort, Future Flag brings together operational personnel, research and development teams, and government and industry, to enable rapid design, solution development, and prototyping. Future Flag cuts through the bureaucracy to effectively integrate technology for the warfighter at the speed of relevance in today’s ever-changing world without the typical constraints found in the DoD.

The key to this effort is the objective experimentation’s focus on collaboration across multiple communities with direct and unfiltered exchange of ideas and concepts. Seldom do operators, developers, and engineers have a chance to work together in small unit level operational settings. Future Flag offers the opportunity to reduce risk, focus limited resources, and provide the warfighter with new and unique capabilities targeting their actual needs, not poorly conceived and out-of-date requirements. Future Flag’s results are sent forward into large scale exercises like Northern Edge, or into Combatant Commands (COCOMs) where they are directly impacting current operations.

Future Flag creates a process where industry can iterate and develop technologies unconstrained by conventional doctrine. The goal of developing new technologies is to provide new capabilities, which in turn require new doctrine. Unlike traditional approaches to development that allow for only slow evolution of doctrine to exploit new and emerging capabilities, Future Flag starts by throwing out conventional doctrinal constraints, allowing the operators and engineers to push their limits and test the art of the possible to rapidly provide vital capabilities to the warfighter.

The Future Flag series is already yielding critical results that are contributing to strategic deterrence in the Indo-Pacific Command (INDOPACOM). The Air Force’s Air Combat Command worked with the Future Flag team to rapidly experiment with edge computing for the MQ-9 Reaper’s M2DO (Multi Domain) configuration in Lewis, NY. These experiments directly resulted in enhancing the MQ-9 platform with critical command and control and electro-optical/infra-red sensing capabilities, significantly increasing the Air Force’s ability to conduct unmanned-Intelligence, Surveillance, and Reconnaissance missions in INDOPACOM.

It is critical that we continue to provide our service members with resources to conduct these vital missions. Following my advocacy, the final FY 2024 defense appropriations bill included $25 million for Air Force Research Laboratory-Rome to expand the scope of Future Flag. In keeping with my commitment to provide our warfighters with the very best capabilities, Future Flag represents one of the earliest and most effective forays into the arena of contractor owned, contractor operated large scale operational laboratories in the nation.

The DoD must better identify organizations and activities that embrace innovation, like Future Flag, and enable them to transition technology to the warfighter. To truly innovate and get capabilities to the warfighter at relevant speed and scale, DoD must scale Future Flag’s innovative model of aggressive experimentation and active risk reduction. The DoD’s repeated failure to appropriately manage risk in pursuit of innovation only shifts the risk to the operational community. Future Flag must be the standard in testing, evaluation, and experimentation, not the exception. The stakes are too high to fail at placing anything but the best capabilities in the hands of the warfighter.