George Forbes, Director of Digital Operations Directorate at the United States Air Force, discusses the importance of innovation within the federal government

“To fly, fight and win… airpower anytime, anywhere.”

The United States Air Force’s (USAF) mission is clear. For the US Department of Defence (DoD), it is quite literally a matter of life and death to be proactive with innovation and leveraging the latest technology in the market and seeking to innovate where possible. The need for agility and development speed has become a necessity in order for the USAF to thrive and deliver on its objectives.

George Forbes is in his second stint with the USAF having previously served as a Civil Engineering Officer for 10 years. Now a veteran, he rejoined the organisation in October 2020 but has only recently moved into a newly created role as Director of Digital Operations Enterprise. This position is centred around looking after the airmen and organising how to perform shadow IT. 

“We found that as gifted and talented as our aviators are, as soon as they learn something, we switch them out and let them grow into another role and we bring in someone else,” explains Forbes. “That high rate of rotation didn’t suit long term capital investment. Having someone who’s not on that move cycle was something necessary for us to have.” 

Forbes believes his organisation required someone with influence over how operations worked for the process to be successful. “We’re creating an environment where we can have both technical experts who are experts in their own right and compliment the operators who also are technical experts and professionals in their own field. I think we were just missing that balance.”

Digital is the way forward

With the Fourth Industrial Revolution representing a major change for industries the world over due to increasing interconnectivity and smart automation, processes are becoming progressively more automated as time-consuming tasks are eradicated.

Forbes recognises the shift in the technology space and believes making workflows more efficient could hold the key. “Regardless of the industry or the business, time-consuming and manual tasks are incredibly expensive, not only in capital but also in time,” he affirms. “Few people can afford to have time evaporate and consider that commodity as infinite. And certainly, time is infinite. But the time that you have to accomplish something or make a choice is not. The Fourth Industrial Revolution moves us from that purely desktop digital age to the age where we can take manual processes and shift those techniques to doing cognitive processes which we can all benefit from.”

An important component of Forbes’ role as an enterprise architect revolves around determining the best solution. While innovation and being proactive are key ingredients to the USAF, Forbes explains it doesn’t define the strategy. “When we innovate, taking the risk out of it is important for us because it’s not necessary for us to invent the cloud as we can grab those things on the shelf and put them to use right away,” he says.

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