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Blog & Podcast

Ep 16: AFWERX-A Start-Up Story (featuring Joey Aurora)

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The mission of the United States Air Force is to
fly, fight and win...in air, space and cyberspace.

Achieving that mission means, among other things, that the pace of innovation must accelerate and do so quickly.

Three yeas ago, the Air Force stood up AFWERX, a new program designed to integrate several innovation initiatives already underway. One of the co-founders of that first team, Joey Arora, is my guest today.

Joey Arora explains his journey into the Air Force and then the creation of AFWERX. Joey articulates why AFWERX’s mission is so critical and why Air Force leadership and airmen are working hard to make this program a success.

Email:
mark@commercebasix.com and joseph.arora@gmail.com

AFWERX: https://www.afwerx.af.mil

Original music by Josh Goode Music: joshgoode1@mac.com

Ep 12: Using Blockchain to Ensure Battle Network Integrity-Part 1 of 2

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This is the first episode taken from my conversation with Michael Lewellen, a subject matter expert on blockchain technology. Michael is the president of Tarski Technologies, and a guest lecturer at the University of Texas at Dallas.

The key driver of the Pentagon’s many efforts to harness commercial innovation for its military systems is the growing threat from China. Christian Brose, a former senior staff member of the Senate Arms Services Committee, writes in his book “The Kill Chain,” that “China has devised strategies not to beat America at its own game but to play a different game—to win by denying the US military the opportunity to project power, fight in its traditional ways, and achieve its goals. China has rapidly developed arsenals of advanced weapons intended to break apart US battle networks, destroy the US military’s traditional platforms, and shatter its ability to close the kill chain. ”

A battle network can be broken apart in many ways. But one of the more effective and nefarious methods is to exploit weaknesses relating to the identity of the participants in the network so that a bad actor can masquerade as a good actor. One technique for attenuating this class of attack is to integrate blockchain technology within the battle network.

In this first episode of a two episode series, Michael and I discuss what blockchain is, some of its commercial use cases, and its potential value for ensuring the integrity of battlefield communications.

In the second episode, we speculate on how the Air Force may be planning on using blockchain technology, based on the recent announcement of a SBIR contract in June of 2020.

Participant emails: mark@commercebasix.com and michael@tarski.tech

Original music by Josh Goode Music. Email: joshgoode1@mac.com

Ep 11: How Does DoD Value Commercial Innovation?

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This is the second episode taken from my conversation with Eric Lofgren.

In our first episode, Eric and I discussed the challenge of how DoD counts costs, a system that is based on an industrial view of the defense industry and one that dates back to the second world war. His conclusion
and a view that I share is that DoD’s cost accounting system is outdated and does a poor job of providing guidance to the department’s decision makers as well as members of Congress.

Yet, as the department accelerates its efforts to woo commercial innovators to bring their best ideas to the military, that begs this important question:
how will the department value these innovations? Will it be based on a “works for hire,” “time and materials” accounting method as used by the defense prime contractors? If so, many commercial firms won’t engage with DoD. For them, value is determined by a broader market and is imputed based on a variety of factors, many of which are unrelated to the underlying cost of goods sold - or services rendered.

You can listen to the full episode here on our show, Commercial Innovation for Defense, on Apple Podcast, Spotify, Google Podcast, Overcast, or wherever you listen to your favorite shows.

Email:
mark@commercebasix.com and Lofgren.e.m@gmail.com

Ep 10: The Challenge of Defense Accounting

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This is the first episode of a conversation I had with Eric Lofgren. If you aren’t familiar with Eric, you may have heard of his blog https://acquisitiontalk.com or his podcast “Acquisition Talk with Eric Lofgren.” Eric is a subject matter expert on defense cost accounting and budgeting.

Why does this cost accounting and budgeting matter? Peter Drucker, a legendary management consultant, observed that “you can’t manage what you can’t measure.” DoD’s cost accounting system and budgeting process were developed immediately after WW II and reflect the experience of that time, which was principally industrial and the biggest weapons’ systems were platforms.

But today, weapons are rapidly morphing into systems that bear far more resemblance to a high technology system - with both hardware and software - and the issue of accounting for the costs of these systems bears little resemblance to the current method of DoD cost accounting and budgeting. There are at least two implications to this: 1) how does the department budget for systems whose cost structure doesn’t resemble systems they are used to developing? 2) how does the department value commercial innovation that it seeks as an accelerant to both innovation and lethality?

You can listen to the full episode here or at our show, Commercial Innovation for Defense, on Apple Podcast, Spotify, Google Podcast, Overcast, or wherever you listen to your favorite shows.

Email:
mark@commercebasix.com and Lofgren.e.m@gmail.com

Ep 9: Astrapi-An AFWERX Success Story

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In this fourth and final episode of our discussion with David Shaw, he tells the story of how the Astrapi team discovered AFWERX, competed for a Phase 1 SBIR, and won.

This concluding episode provides the perfect capstone to the rollercoaster ride most entrepreneurs ride, particularly as they pursue opportunities with the Department of Defense.

Email: dshaw@astrapi-corp.com

Ep 8: Stopping Amputee Pain

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This episode reflects the kind of serendipity that can play a role in breakthrough innovation. In this case, it is innovation that could end the chronic pain experienced by amputees.

My business partner and I spent nearly 12 years advising senior managers at an organization that used to be named the Natick Soldier Research Development and Engineering Command or NSRDEC. It now is called the CCDC Soldier Center.

During our time there, we learned a great deal about soldier survivability and how an unintended first order effect of the body armor worn and the MRAP vehicles used was a soldier survival paradox: there were far fewer fatalities but a far greater number of injuries to soldier extremities, injuries that often resulted in amputations and a lifetime of pain.

Living with this pain can be extremely difficult and often leads to immobility or an addiction to narcotic pain killers such as opioids. Tragically, some vets take their own lives when the pain becomes unbearable.

Now, here’s where the story takes an interesting turn. I produce several podcasts, one of them with two friends who come from very different backgrounds than me. And that diversity is part of the appeal of our show. One of my cohorts, a gentleman named Khalid Beard, is good friends with the manager of a local Dallas watering hole known as Milo’s. The manager’s name is Tommy Donahue and besides the fact that he has been managing this bar for thirty years, he is also the survivor of a hit and run accident in which his right leg was amputated.

Tommy survived the amputation and recovered. But in yet another odd turn of events, the woman who rescued him from dying at the scene of that accident remained unknown to him for 25 years, that is, until a local paper ran Tommy’s story and the two were reunited.

Tommy’s resilience as an amputee motivated him to start an annual charity event named Legapalooza. The proceeds from this event — generated from the sale every year of Tommy’s prosthetic limb and as well as copious amounts of alcohol — are given to the Dallas Amputee Survivors Society.
My friend Khalid booked us to record multiple episodes of our podcast at this charity event and while there we were introduced to a company that, get this, is on the leading of edge of doing research and development of an electronic pain blocking system designed to enable amputees in pain to avoid the use of any pain medication at all. This venture’s founders includes MDs and PhDs from institutions such as Case Western Reserve in Ohio and Baylor White Medical Center in Dallas. They are in the midst of formal FDA trials and came to Legapalooza looking for volunteers to participate in a trial and study.

As we interviewed the business development executive, Brie Jackson, I couldn’t help but ask about the wounded warriors who might be perfect candidates for this device. She said that she had approached the VA about the device and the trials but couldn’t get past the gatekeepers. I told her that we had a way to get the word out to people who could potentially queue up the right introduction to the right people at the VA or elsewhere in the Army.

You can susbcribe to this podcast on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, or Google Podcasts. You can reach Brie Jackson at bjackson@neurosdmedical.com

Ep 4: 5G, the US, and the Chinese

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In today's episode, we talk with Peter DeNagy, a subject matter expert in telecommunications, a thought leader in the area of 5G (and particularly in IoT applications), an entrepreneur, and a consultant to major organizations. Pete's career in telecom spans nearly four decades.

Pete explains in layman's terms what 5G is, the changes it will bring to business, commercial, and military communications, and the particular challenges the US faces in catching up to the lead the Chinese have developed in 5G.

Pete can be reached at pdenagy@acommence.com

Ep. 3: Artificial Intelligence and the US Military (Part 3 of 3)

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In this third and final part of our discussion with Stephen Ellis, we discuss both the AI start up market space as well as the activities of large established enterprises such as Microsoft. We then pivot to a discussion of China’s innovations in AI, why they are making such advances, and some strategies for how the US military could accelerate the integration of American commercial AI into its systems.
November 2020
October 2020
October 2019