Lt. Gen. Robert Otto is promoting an Air Force industry day to focus on ISR needs. (US Air Force)
WASHINGTON — The US Air Force is planning to host an industry day to address the growing need for new technologies in the intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (ISR) sector, according to the service’s top ISR general.
“We are looking to get approval to have a day with industry this year at the end of February,” Lt. Gen. Robert Otto, Air Force deputy chief of staff for intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance, said in a Jan. 23 interview. “There are some legal wickets that we need to get approval for this, but the notion is, let’s call industry together, let’s tell them here are the directions we think are fruitful, and then give them an opportunity to respond.”
The event, which would take place at the Pentagon, is tentatively scheduled for Feb. 26. However, that date could move if the legal approvals needed to discuss certain topics are delayed.
The service last held an ISR industry day event May 23, 2012, according to an Air Force spokeswoman. In that 20-month span, the world of ISR has changed dramatically.
Gone is the goal of 65 combat air patrols of Predator and Reaper unmanned systems. Instead, the focus is shifting toward multifaceted systems that could work in a heavily contested aerospace.
With changing requirements comes the need to spend on new research and development, funds for which have been greatly decreased under sequestration.
“In this environment, it’s a tough case to make,” Otto acknowledged. “Essentially, all of the easy decisions have been made. Now we are left with difficult tradeoffs. I believe that is healthy, but it also means we have to be very persuasive in order to get the resources we need.”
Given fiscal realities, Otto hopes his office can help guide industry on where to fund research.
“I think to the extent that we can be clear about the direction we want to go, and it allows industry to focus their IRAD, their research and development dollars, ultimately we both win,” he said. “The government gets a product, perhaps sooner because there has already been research and development going on, at the best possible price because the overhead for the company is focused and not wasted. We try to help in that regard.”