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Facilitators of progress: AFGSC A9 and the business of innovation

  • Published
  • By Joe Thomas
  • Air Force Global Strike Command

The men and women of Air Force Global Strike Command’s Innovation, Analyses and Leadership Development, also known as A9, are the facilitators of progress. From expediting new ideas to leadership development, the directorate is responsible for keeping AFGSC at the forefront of deterrence. At the heart of this effort is the command’s most valuable resource – people.

“We’re ultimately putting innovation in the hands of the Airmen,” said Brig. Gen. Christopher Skomars, A9 director. “We have some outstanding people who work with Airmen out in the field to find the ground truth and develop solutions.”

A9 tackles issues from bomber generation to convoys and every command issue in between. The directorate is also responsible for functional area management of the command’s operations research, engineering and program management career fields. In short, A9 serves as the driving force behind all-things improvement.

This drive is a three-pronged approach to the business of innovation – pulling ideas from Airmen, gathering lessons learned and developing leaders. It’s a mission that relies on any combination of personal experience, math modeling and critical thought.   

At the heart of the process lies Airmen Driven Innovation, an initiative that takes the torch from the Force Improvement Program, or FIP, as the command’s catalyst for change.

“FIP was just the beginning,” Skomars said. “It was a revolutionary idea, and now we’re building on that foundation. We have operationalized FIP so that it has greater reach and has a greater impact throughout the command. We have an ADI board that has been directly tasked by the commander to find answers.”

ADI addresses FIP legacy issues while solving new problems for the command. ADI builds on the foundation of FIP by opening channels of communication that reach throughout all levels of AFGSC. A9 Airmen also embed themselves with units to see how operations function at the ground level.

“I’ve personally been on convoys at every one of our wings and sat in different parts of those convoys to gain a sense of how those convoys worked,” Skomars said. “We’re also speaking with external agencies who work with our wings to identify areas of improvement.”

An organization largely without branches, everyone who works for A9 is tied directly or indirectly to ADI, whether it’s information gathering, analysis or implementation. Airmen are empowered to bring up issues that affect their ability to do the job. A9 synthesizes those issues into actionable solutions. 

Although the directorate uses a wide variety of skillsets to improve processes and programs for AFGSC, all of these programs are tied to one purpose – innovation. However, staff says the success of A9 is dependent on the success of others. In the end, it’s a directorate that serves all areas of the command, an effort that is not limited to just the mission.

“Our desire is that the command will embrace objective analysis and critical thinking when approaching all complex issues,” Skomars said. “Whether that impacts mission accomplishment, taking care of our Airmen or supporting our families.”