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Engagement leads to mission enhancement for Hanscom PEOs

Engagement leads to mission enhancement for Hanscom PEOs

Capt. Victoria Wyler, left, executive officer for Program Executive Officer Digital at Hanscom Air Force Base, Mass., discusses Air Force Pitch Day at the MassChallenge Safety and Security Track Roundtable event in Boston, Feb. 20, as Capt. Steve Lauver, right, AFWERX director of technology accelerators, and Scott Kirsner, editor and co-founder of Innovation Leader, look on. The Safety and Security Track will remove traditional barriers and enable Hanscom directorates to forge partnerships with early stage dual-use startups, positively impacting the acquisition process and the mission. (Courtesy Photo)

HANSCOM AIR FORCE BASE, Mass. – Two Hanscom directorates are partnering with MD5, the Department of Defense’s National Security Technology Accelerator, to participate in the MassChallenge Safety and Security Track, which kicked-off with a roundtable event in Boston Feb. 20.

The Boston-based program’s goal is to remove traditional barriers to connect the defense community with early stage dual-use startups and promote rapid engagement.

The Command, Control, Communications, Intelligence and Networks Directorate and the Digital Directorate each contributed one topic area to the Safety and Security Track. The C3I&N topic is “Data capture and analytics employing AI/ML [artificial intelligence/machine learning] techniques” and the Digital topic is “Secure, Resilient Operations in the Cloud.”

The Hanscom directorates see forging partnerships with startups as a way to positively impact the acquisition process and the mission.

“We must attain a mindset of the speed of relevance when it comes to technological innovation, and deepen our ties in an enduring fashion to small businesses and startups who so often lead the way,” said Brig. Gen. Michael Schmidt, program executive officer for C3I&N here. “By partnering with MD5, and locally with MassChallenge and the Massachusetts Innovation Bridge, we are seeking to identify the latest commercial innovation in critical areas such as artificial intelligence and machine learning to increase our warfighting advantage.”

Steve Wert, PEO Digital, agrees that strengthening Hanscom’s connections to the innovation community is crucial.

“Whether companies are right outside our gate in Boston, the top startup community in the U.S., or anywhere else in the nation, it is clear we must have a better sense of their technologies to incorporate into our acquisition decisions,” he said.

Additionally, participating in the Safety and Security Track allows Hanscom PEOs to build upon Assistant Secretary of the Air Force for Acquisition, Technology and Logistics Dr. Will Roper’s charge to demonstrate the Air Force’s willingness and ability to work with non-traditional startups.

“Dr. Roper's call to action led to Air Force Pitch Day, a showcase event to align PEOs with industry practices,” Wert said. “In an effort to best meet Dr. Roper’s intentions after Pitch Day, PEO Digital is partnering with the experts to continue agile efforts, work with non-traditional companies and ultimately deliver capabilities.”

Partners like MD5, a DoD program office designed to address the gap between entrepreneurs and the government, can help Hanscom PEOs leverage the momentum from AF Pitch Day and channel it into current and future opportunities, such as the Safety and Security Track.

“The expanded partnership between PEO Digital, PEO C3I&N, MD5, MassChallenge and the Massachusetts Innovation Bridge will not only enhance our efforts in executing innovative practices, but will also bring the latest technologies into the hands of our Airmen,” said Wert.

The Safety and Security Track is the result of a memorandum of agreement, which was established between MD5 and MassChallenge in November 2018.

“The opportunity to partner with a global entrepreneurial leader like MassChallenge is tremendous as we work to further enhance innovation for our national security,” said Morgan Plummer, managing director of MD5. “The inaugural year of this fellowship program in Boston will introduce small startups to the military ecosystem, allowing MD5 to meet the demands of our military customers while also evaluating opportunities for implementation throughout the United States.”

MassChallenge, a not-for-profit organization supporting entrepreneurship, serves as a convening platform by identifying and pulling together the right partners to make programs like the Safety and Security Track a success.

“MassChallenge is fantastic at building programs, but we’re not necessarily experts in each field,” said Christian Melton, partnerships manager for MassChallenge Boston. “We need to bring in the experts to help support us and to help support our startups as they continue to develop through the program.”

Hanscom’s participation in the track is a direct result of the base’s strong partnership with MassChallenge, which was solidified when the organization hosted Air Force Materiel Command’s senior leader conference attendees for an innovation tour in 2017. Seeking to strengthen that relationship, the Hanscom Public Affairs office sought opportunities to boost engagement with MassChallenge, including successfully championing for their co-founder John Harthorne to participate in the 2018 Joint Civilian Orientation Course.

“This is a prime example of the benefit that can be derived by persistently engaging with people and organizations embedded within the innovation sector,” said Chuck Paone, director of Public Affairs at Hanscom AFB. “The goal is to develop relationships that evolve into partnerships, leading to tangible Air Force mission enhancement.”

For further information or to learn how startups can apply to participate in the MassChallenge Safety and Security Track, visit masschallenge.org/apply.