The Importance of Process

Jones: ‘We don’t have time or talent to waste’

BOSTON (8 June 2022) – To us here at Kessel Run, it is evident that we’re pressed to set up new offenses and defenses in the software, cyber and digital realms. The die has been cast and it is time that aerospace and defense evolves once more.

As Gen. Charles Brown would say, “Accelerate, change or lose.”

Frank Kendall, Secretary of the Air Force, outlined his 7 Operational Imperatives. Leadership in our ecosystem have been saying the same things for some time now and it's incredibly validating to know that Secretary Kendall, the Air Force’s highest ranking civilian, directly believes in our ethos.

Kendall’s Operational Imperatives are:

  1. Defining Resilient and Effective Space Order of Battle and Architectures;
  2. Achieving Operationally Optimized Advanced Battle Management Systems / Air Force Joint All-Domain Command & Control;
  3. Defining the Next Generation Air Dominance System-of-Systems;
  4. Achieving Moving Target Engagement at Scale in a Challenging Operational Environment;
  5. Defining optimized resilient basing, sustainment, and communications in a contested environment;
  6. Defining the B-21 Long Range Strike Family-of-Systems;
  7. Readiness of the Department of the Air Force to transition to a wartime posture against a peer competitor.

The work we do today fits most closely with the second imperative, which is to modernize command and control, speed decision-making and seamlessly linking multi-domain forces.

We also identify with his fourth and fifth imperatives, that look to accelerate dynamic targeting and make a more resilient operating presence through Agile Combat Employment.

These endeavors are dead serious and hitting these wickets will be a superordinate goal that we can’t pull off by our lonesome. That’s not to say we haven’t had help along the way and frankly, without the exponentially growing list of supporters, we simply wouldn’t exist in our current capacity.

You know who you are - our stakeholders in combat boots or suits - your names sing in our ears, and we cannot thank you enough for your tenacity and due diligence.

In short, Kendall wants continued development of a defense-wide effort known as Joint-All Domain Command and Control and the Air Force component of that effort, the Advanced Battle Management System, better known as ABMS.

We’ve been chewing the fat on these tasks for years now to ensure our end-users are getting the latest and greatest.

Our critical assistance with Operation Allies Refuge, the systematic rollout of our proprietary Command and Control Incident Management Emergency Response Application (C2IMERA), and our chaos engineering alley-oop for GSA are proof that we’re operational, not experimental.

Still, there have been speed bumps in our smuggling of DevSecOps into the Department of Defense.

On average, our tech and aircraft are about 30 years old. Outdated policies are essentially gatekeeping a lot of strides we could be making from happening sooner than later. There is always friction with government budgets, and last but not least, we’re competing with industry to hire top talent to update, upgrade and manage day 2 ops for these weapon systems. Bureaucracy or red tape... whatever kids are calling it these days, it slows us down.

Today, the Pentagon would agree that our adversaries have begun to take scissors to our safety nets of historically having the finest fighting forces in the air, on land and at sea. They’re attacking and provoking us in new and dynamic ways.

So, what are our keys to success? How do we stay competitive? Is what Kessel Run doing even important? The chain is only as strong as the link, and the DoD is only as capable as the collective talent that serves under its umbrella.

One of those public servants is Gina Ortiz Jones, the Under Secretary of the Air Force, who just so happens to have recently visited Kessel Run to discover our special sauce and hopefully advocate for us in places we historically haven’t had a voice.

We discussed business development, operations and even had a more candid conversation about culture, mental health and challenging those who preach, ‘We’ve always done it this way.’

Jones, who served as an Air Force intelligence officer under ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,’ knows all too well how tradition isn’t always the be-all, end-all.

“Some folks might be kind of threatened by that, because they've been doing the same thing, the same old way,” said Jones. “I think when there are policies in place that prevent you from serving to your full potential, that is in effect a hindrance on your success,” said Jones. “And that's what that policy was. We just don't have time or talent to lose.”

Kessel Run isn’t exactly traditional either, and to be completely honest, breaking the mold has objectively become our best strategy to remain competitive in doing what we do best - providing the warfighter with software they love, faster than ever before. Constantly challenging assumptions - something we’re happily surprised that we share in common with Jones - has directly been tied to much of our success.

When discussing culture, we asked Jones where to look to find top, diverse talent to fill more seats at KR and carry out these imperatives, she said to look no further than the Department of the Air Force.

“The talent is clearly there,” said Jones. “Now, some of them, this is their very first assignment so they're coming straight out of their commissioning program or maybe they've got one term in, but the talent is in the force, so we don't really have to look very far.”

Sidenote: we’re still trying to figure out if she meant that as a Star Wars reference or not, but it was a proud nerd moment for us nonetheless.

“I'm so proud of what [Kessel Runners] are working on, and now my challenge is making sure that we are continuing to provide them with meaningful challenges and showing value in their work, and maybe not necessarily stove piping them into what's been understood as a traditional path of success,” she said.

Jones, Frank Kendall’s right hand (wo)man, said that she’s certainly been fortunate, but there's plenty more work to be done.

“I like to say, it's funny how the luckiest people are those that work the hardest,” said Jones. “I think my ‘why’ is very clear, and why public service is my calling. I think because I'm so fulfilled through public service - and I understand that awesome opportunities to serve and to make a difference help others serve also to their full potential - I'm passionate about it, which I think has allowed me to experience some level of success. But I also know that I am very, very fortunate.”

Air Force Life Cycle Management Center
Detachment 12, Kessel Run
Media and Communications Engagement