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The National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine
Air Force Studies Board
Current Activities





Gen Douglas M. Fraser (USAF, ret.), Chair  |  Joan Fuller, Director 

The Air Force Studies Board is where the nation turns for independent and informed assessments of a diversity of subjects of importance to the United States Air Force.



Recent Publications




Owning the Technical Baseline for Acquisition Programs in the U.S. Air Force: A Workshop Report  (2015)


The U.S. Air Force has experienced many acquisiton program failures - cost overruns, schedule delays, system performance problems, and sustainability concerns - over program lifetimes.  A key contributing factor is the lack of sufficient techhnical knowledge within the Air Force concerning the systems being acquired to ensure success. To examine this issue, the Assistant Secretary of the Air Force for Acquistion requested that the Air Force Studies Board of the National Research Council undertake a workshop to identify the essential elements of the technical baseline - data and information to establish, trade-off, verify, change, accept, and sustain functional capabilities, design characteristics, affordability, schedule, and quantified performance parameters at the chosen level of the system hierarchy - that would benefit from realignment under Air Force or government ownership, and the value to the Air Force of regaining ownership under its design capture process of the future.  Over the course of three workshops from November 2014 through January 2015, presenters and participants identified the barriers that must be addressed for the Air Force to regain technical baseline control to include workforce, policy and process, funding, culture, contracts, and other factors and provided a terms of reference for a possible follow-on study to explore the issues and make recommendations required to implement and institutionalize the technical baseline concept. Owning the Technical Baseline for Acquisition Program in the U.S. Air Force summarizes the presentations and discussion of the three workshops. 

Opportunities for the Employment of Simulation in U.S. Air Force Training Environments (2015)


Simulators currently provide an alternative to aircraft when it comes to training requirements.  Current technical issues related to simulation for training include simulation fidelity and multi-level security, among others, which will need to be addressed in order for the Air Force to take full advantage of this technology.  This workshop held in November, 2014 examined the current status of simualtion training, alternative uses, current and future technologies, and how the combination of simulation and live training can improve aircrew training.  The scope of the workshop focused on technologies and practices that could be applicable to high-end aircraft simulations.

Development Planning: A Strategic Approach to Future Air Force Capabilities

Development Planning A Strategic Approach to Future Air Force Capabilities (2014)


Development Planning provides recommendations to improve development planning for near-term acquisition projects, concepts not quite ready for acquisition, corporate strategic plans, and training of acquisition personnel. This report reviews past uses of development planning by the Air Force, and offers an organization construct that will help the Ar Force across its core functions. Developmental planning can provide the Air Force leadership with a tool to answer the critical question, Over the next 20 years in 5-year increments, what capability gaps will the Air Force have that must be filled? Development planning will also provide for development of the workforce skills needed to think strategically and to define and close the capability gap. This report describes what development planing could be and should be for the Air Force.






U.S. Air Force Strategic Deterrence Analytic Capabilities: An Assessment of Tools, Methods, and Approaches for the 21st Century Security Environment (2014)


U.S. Air Force Strategic Deterrence Analytic Capabilities identifies the broad analytic issues and factors that must be considered in seeking nuclear deterrence of adversaries and assurance of allies in the 21st century.  This report describes and assesses tools, methods - including behavioral science-based methods - and approaches for improving the udnerstanding of how nuclear deterrence and assurance work or may fail in the 21st century and the extent to which such failures might be averted or mitigated by the proper choice of nuclear systems, technological capabilities, postures, and concepts of operation of American nuclear forces.  The report recommends criteria and framework for validating the tools, methods, and approaches and for identifying those most promising for Air Force usage.



Changes in the 21st century security environment require new analytic approaches to support strategic deterrence. Because current adversaries may be deterred from the use of nuclear weapons differently than were Cold War adversaries, the Air Force needs an analytic process and tools that can help determine those Air Force capabilities that will successfully deter or defeat these new nuclear-armed adversaries and assure U.S. allies. While some analytic tools are available, a coherent approach for their use in developing strategy and policy appears to be lacking. Without a coherent analytic approach that addresses the nuances of today's security environment, Air Force views of its strategic deterrence needs may not be understood or accepted by the appropriate decision makers.

A coherent approach will support Air Force decisions about its strategic force priorities and needs, deter actual or potential adversaries, and assure U.S. allies. In this context, the Air Force in 2012 requested that the Air Force Studies Board of the National Research Council undertake a workshop to bring together national experts to discuss current challenges relating strategic deterrence and potential new tools and methods that the Air Force might leverage in its strategic deterrence mission.

The workshop consisted of two 3-day sessions held in Washington, DC on September 26-28, 2012 and January 29-31, 2013 and was attended by a very diverse set of participants with expertise in strategic deterrence and a range of analytic tools of potential interest to the Air Force. U.S. Air Force Strategic Deterrence Capabilities in the 21st Century Security Environment summarizes this workshop.



Energy Reduction at U.S. Air Force Facilities Using Industrial Processes: A Workshop Summary (2013)

The Department of Defense (DoD) is the largest consumer of energy in the federal government. In turn, the U.S. Air Force is the largest consumer of energy in the DoD, with a total annual energy expenditure of around $10 billion. Approximately 84 percent of Air Force energy use involves liquid fuel consumed in aviation whereas approximately 12 percent is energy (primarily electricity) used in facilities on the ground. This workshop was concerned primarily with opportunities to reduce energy consumption within Air Force facilities that employ energy intensive industrial processes—for example, assembly/disassembly, painting, metal working, and operation of radar facilities—such as those that occur in the maintenance depots and testing facilities. Air Force efforts to reduce energy consumption are driven largely by external goals and mandates derived from Congressional legislation and executive orders. To date, these goals and mandates have targeted the energy used at the building or facility level rather than in specific industrial processes.

In response to a request from the Deputy Assistant Secretary of the Air Force for Energy and the Deputy Assistant Secretary of the Air Force for Science, Technology, and Engineering, the National Research Council, under the auspices of the Air Force Studies Board, formed the Committee on Energy Reduction at U.S. Air Force Facilities Using Industrial Processes: A Workshop. The terms of reference called for a committee to plan and convene one 3 day public workshop to discuss: (1) what are the current industrial processes that are least efficient and most cost ineffective? (2) what are best practices in comparable facilities for comparable processes to achieve energy efficiency? (3) what are the potential applications for the best practices to be found in comparable facilities for comparable processes to achieve energy efficiency? (4) what are constraints and considerations that might limit applicability to Air Force facilities and processes over the next ten year implementation time frame? (5) what are the costs and paybacks from implementation of the best practices? (6) what will be a proposed resulting scheme of priorities for study and implementation of the identified best practices? (7) what does a holistic representation of energy and water consumption look like within operations and maintenance?





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