“COVID has really impacted the aerospace industry in this nation and nations around the world disproportionately to other industries… and the Air Force has not been exempt from these impacts,” says former Assistant Secretary of the Air Force for Acquisition, Technology and Logistics, Dr. Will Roper:
COVID Has Really Impacted Aerospace… and the Air Force
COVID has really impacted the aerospace industry in this nation and nations around the world disproportionately to other industries. The Air Force has not been exempt from these impacts. We have had to go into a wartime posture and engage with exceptional authorities and funding to keep the aerospace industry, which allows us to go to war, whole.
But aside from the crisis response that we’ve all been in it’s forced us to do some serious reflection about how we engage with production and supply chains going forward. How does the Air Force need to change the way it views its future self so that we’re not just more ready for a crisis when it occurs but we’re actually designing better systems, doing better engineering, and using technology more effectively? Systems that we need to go to war are going to be hidden behind doors where their vulnerabilities are never going to be exposed because of secrecy.
Secrecy Hinders Our Ability To Digitally Go To War
We’re moving into an era where we’re leveraging commercial technology more frequently. Because of that, we can no longer hope that secrecy, keeping our systems classified, will be the sole means for us to be secure. We need to find a new paradigm where openness is also part of our security posture. Now we’re not going to be able to copy commercial industry one for one. Our systems in many cases don’t have a commercial analog. We can’t quickly replace them.
We’re not in a competition where spirals occur in years. Many of our aerospace breakthroughs, especially those in technologies like stealth, take time to do. Secrecy is going to continue to be part of the equation. But secrecy can’t be the catch-all approach to how we ensure systems are able to digitally go to war and be ready to fight in a cyber environment against an adversary as capable as we are.
Containerization Solves The Secrecy Problem
The software development capabilities that technologies like Kubernetes or containerization and Istio bring in to the Air Force. It’s amazing that companies like Google that have now transitioned this to an open-source driven initiative have solved a lot of what we would have to solve as a military. How do you write code in a development environment, in that tech stack that may also represent the physical aspects of your system, but it certainly represents the software components?
How do you go from your development environment out to the edge securely and know your code will run the same way. Containerization solves that problem for us. The military is behind and adopting it. It’s not old but this technology is moving through industry as fast as Linux did. If we don’t get off the dime we will be left behind. Keep pushing the Air Force and Space Force on this. Do not let us get comfortable.