AFRL Space leader commends team, transitions to new role
KIRTLAND AIR FORCE BASE, N.M. (AFRL) — “I’ll miss the “ah ha” moments,” said Col. Eric Felt, director of the Air Force Research Laboratory Space Vehicles Directorate, who will depart AFRL for an assignment at the Pentagon in July.
Felt became the Space Vehicles director in July 2018 and has a dual-hatted role as commander of AFRL’s Phillips Research Site, both located at Kirtland AFB. He will be taking on the job of the director of Space Architecture, Science and Technology within the Office of the Assistant Secretary of the Air Force for Space Acquisition and Integration, SAF/SQ, led by Frank Calvelli. The Assistant Secretary for Space Acquisition and Integration reports directly to the Secretary of the Air Force, serves as the senior architect for space systems and programs across the Department of Defense, and is the Department of the Air Force Senior Acquisition Executive for space systems and programs.
“AFRL has exposed me to the art of the possible,” Felt said. “As a science and technology research organization with some of the best brain power in the nation, our primary focus is on developing innovative technologies for the Air Force and Space Force warfighter.”
Felt described three highlights during his time at AFRL that are particularly satisfying.
“When I arrived at AFRL, the 2018 National Defense Strategy had just been released that discussed the threat China posed to our security,” he said. “It was clear that we had to make every dollar and person focus on outpacing China, whether it was in our research or in contracting or financial management. I think our team led all AFRL in that pivot to China as our pacing competitor.”
“Secondly, the team has done a good job in optimizing and being able to explain our portfolio,” Felt continued. “We had to make many decisions in identifying our needs and prioritizing our activities to maximize our efforts. To do that well, we used a variety of methods such as modeling and simulation, cost benefit analysis and a forward leaning public affairs posture to get the word out about the important work AFRL is doing, and how vital that work is to national security.”
Felt believes strongly in giving his team the right tools, bringing him to his third point.
“There’s nothing more frustrating to researchers or a group of professionals than having to work without the proper tools to accomplish the job, of having to walk through molasses every day to get the job done,” he said. “We’ve accelerated our science and technology processes, making them faster and easier, turning us into an even more highly functioning organization.”
“We’ve provided better IT equipment, supported telework effectively, established agile contracting methods – things that have set us up for future successes. These process and tool innovations are just as critical as our research innovations to out-innovating and deterring our competitors,” Felt explained.
Felt looks forward to his upcoming position where he will rely on the experiences he gained at AFRL as a Space Force executive, supporting Calvelli and his deputy, Brig. Gen. Steve Whitney in the standup of the service’s acquisition office.
“I am excited that we will have the opportunity to craft this office the way we need it to be to best support Space Force acquisition processes in the field,” he said. ”We can use the Air Force acquisition office as a model, learning from the past but not being shackled to it.”
As a leader of AFRL’s Space Vehicles Directorate and a legacy Space Force officer, Felt said he is honored to have served more than 1,080 military, civilian and on-site contractor workforce.
“We have wonderful people here, and across AFRL, doing amazing research every day, and I will miss the fun of discovering something new, of being a part of that innovation spirit, and leading this team,” Felt said. “It has been a dream job for me, and I am thankful to have had this opportunity, and to be able to go forward with the Space Force in defending our nation.”
AFRL will hold a change of command of ceremony July 13, 2022 at Kirtland AFB, to say farewell to Felt and welcome Col. Jeremy Raley, from the Space Rapid Capabilities Office, as the incoming Space Vehicles director and Phillips Research Site commander.
The Air Force Research Laboratory (AFRL) is the primary scientific research and development center for the Department of the Air Force. AFRL plays an integral role in leading the discovery, development, and integration of affordable warfighting technologies for our air, space, and cyberspace force. With a workforce of more than 11,500 across nine technology areas and 40 other operations across the globe, AFRL provides a diverse portfolio of science and technology ranging from fundamental to advanced research and technology development. For more information, visit: www.afresearchlab.com.