AF senior leaders discuss budget, aircraft procurement Published April 20, 2023 By K. Houston Waters 66th Air Base Group Public Affairs HANSCOM AIR FORCE BASE, Mass. – Air Force, industry, and academia leaders recently discussed the president’s budget request, the Secretary of the Air Force’s operational imperatives, and the service’s state of readiness. Sponsored by AFCEA’s Lexington-Concord chapter, New Horizons 2023 was held in Newton, Massachusetts. During the event, leaders held briefings, participated in panels, and shared business opportunities on numerous Air Force programs, all in an effort ensure the service remains ahead of global competitors. Andrew P. Hunter, assistant secretary of the Air Force for Acquisition, Technology and Logistics, provided the virtual keynote address. "To make the progress that we're proposing in the President's Budget for fiscal year 2024, our ability to divest some of our legacy systems is essential,” he said. “These currently require tremendous dollars and infrastructure, which we need to free up and rededicate to systems that will make our operational imperatives successful." On the divestment of the E-3 Airborne Warning and Control System, or AWACS, Hunter said the service plans on retiring about half the fleet and replacing them with the E-7 Wedgetail. “We are looking to acquire, develop, and deploy the E-7 at an extremely rapid timeframe through the middle-tier acquisition process,” he said. “We want to supplement what the AWACS has historically provided and extend that to the needs of today's air operations." Steven Wert, program executive officer Digital, headquartered here, oversees those programs, and discussed how his divisions are deploying non-traditional strategies to meet the demand for new technology. “We are a new work magnet,” he said. “We might be retiring AWACS, but we’re leaning into the E-7, which will be our biggest program. We’re retiring the E-8C Joint Surveillance Target Attack Radar System, or Joint STARS, but we’re inheriting the Tactical Multi-Mission Over the Horizon Radar, or TACMOR. This pivot to the near-peer fight is really driving demand for rapid acquisition, and that need for speed is what’s driving us.” Maj. Gen. Heather Pringle, commander, Air Force Research Laboratory, believes that when it comes to procuring new technology to keep up with competitors, the Air Force must be in it for the long haul. "There are no quick fixes to address the threats that we face as a Nation, we have to be patient and have perseverance," she said. "We're not just in a military competition, but a technological one. We must ask ourselves, are we graduating the number of STEM students that we need? Are we investing in research and development to seed the future of technology? And it's not just an Air Force approach we need. We don't have all the answers, but together with industry we can get this right." Maj. Gen. Anthony Genatempo, PEO, Command, Control, Communications, Intelligence and Networks and Brig. Gen. Luke Cropsey, integrating PEO, Command, Control, Communications and Battle Management, also participated in New Horizons. The pair spoke at length about development of the Advanced Battle Management System, or ABMS, the Air Force component of Joint All-Domain Command and Control. Visit our website in the coming days for an additional article on this topic. Perry Hill, deputy director of the Nuclear Command, Control and Communications Integration Directorate, headquartered here; Kristen Baldwin, deputy assistant secretary of the Air Force for Science, Technology and Engineering; Mike Madsen, deputy director and director of strategic engagement at the Defense Innovation Unit; and Dr. Paul Nielson, director and chief executive officer of Carnegie Mellon University’s Software Engineering Institute, also provided in-person remarks, covering a variety of topics, such as leveraging American ingenuity, strategic deterrence, and artificial intelligence in a contested environment.