Air Force Secretary Barbara Barrett Speaks at Space Pitch Day

Opening day of Air Force Space Pitch Day. The two-day event was hosted by the U.S. Air Force to demonstrate the Air Force’s willingness and ability to work with non-traditional startups. The opening ceremony features Lt. Gen. John F. Thompson, Space and Missile Systems Center commander, Dr. Will Roper, Assistant Secretary of the Air Force for Acquisition, Technology and Logistics, and Secretary of the Air Force Barbara M. Barrett.

Barbara M. Barrett
Secretary of the Air Force

Walter Talens
Public Affairs, SMC

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Now with that, Welcome. Let me turn and introduce our guest of honor today. So, Secretary Barbara Barrett — three weeks in the Air Force — she’s here to say this matters and she has a fantastic background for us. She grew up on a farm, so she knows something about the hard work that companies have to put in, and, went on to an illustrious career in government as the Deputy Administrator of the FAA, so she knows something about airplanes. She served on the Chairman of the Board for the Aerospace Corporation and even trained as an astronaut. So we could not have a Secretary more attuned to space. She has served on numerous corporate boards so she knows what it takes for companies to not just grow, but to succeed and thrive. And the fact that, Ma’am, you’ve been willing to come lead our air force and be here today speaks wonders to how important we view this. So, with that, Ma’am, I’d like to welcome you to the stage and thank you for being here.

Secretary Barbara Barrett: Well, aren’t we lucky to have Dr. Will Roper as a part of the United States Air Force. Would you join me in thanking a great American. And, General J. T. Thompson. What a fantastic leader, a great friend, and someone who is taking the United States Air Force to new heights. Thank you very much for your leadership in all of what we do. (audience applauding) Well, welcome to the United States Air Force’s Space Pitch Day. As Dr. Roper indicated, I’m pretty new on the job. It’s not like I’m an old hand here. I was actually formally sworn in on Saturday. (audience chuckling) But when I first heard about this concept, I was intrigued, and then thrilled, that see the work that is being done and getting our nation’s defenders the right tools, at the right time, and for the right price. Many of you know the story of aviation innovator, Kelly Johnson. Kelly was an innovative young aeronautical engineer when he graduated from the University of Michigan. Then he joined Lockheed in 1933. As his experience grew, so did his reputation as the company’s most respected engineer. In 1943 the Army Corps of Engineers needed an aircraft to counter Germany’s fighters. Kelly quickly committed to have his company, Lockheed, take on the task. Well, he did however fail to mention to Lockheed that he’d made that commitment. (audience chuckling) So, while his bosses may not have known about it, he promised to deliver a decisive product within six months. Kelly hand-picked his team, enticing the best in designers, engineers and fabricators, many times stealing them from other teams. With a tent built on cretes for a shop, and dedicated to the use of the company’s wind tunnel, out came the P-80 Shooting Star on a deadline and within budget. Today’s… Today Kelly’s innovation cell is known as the Skunk Works. A group that has produced the world’s first stealth fighter and so many other revolutionary tools we use today. Kelly Johnson is truly an American hero. In that spirit, I look forward to the collaboration we will foster here today. The Air Force is building upon the work it started last March, with the original Pitch Day held in New York City. Since March the Air Force has awarded 72 contracts worth forty one million dollars. And those are in the live events, like these. But, over a thousand contracts to tech startups have been issued and to small businesses. Signing on the dotted line in these live events, often within minutes, and sending out, sending innovators out the door with money in their hands. This is not the usual pace of the United States government, but it’s the new pace of your air force. Our goal is to be corporate America’s partner of choice. In order to earn the title, the Air Force is channeling the spirit of Kelly Johnson and finding creative ways to cut non value-added time from the process and to seek access to a wider population of businesses. That’s where you come in. Your contributions can add inspiration and innovation in space. The bottom line, we need you and the creativity that you bring. To hold up my end of the bargain, I’m joined by some of the best of the United States Air Force to facilitate your business today. First let me publicly thank the Sherpas. These acquisition experts have shepherded you through the process while keeping the Air Force up to date on your progress. This two-way communication instills discipline in the process to ensure that our contracts come in on time and on budget. We are joined by Lieutenant General J.T. Thompson and some of his elite space professionals to provide technical guidance and to analyze the fit to our transactions today. J.T. thank you so much for shaping America’s future in this complex domain. Thank you so much. Finally, my teammate Dr. Will Roper and his award-winning Acquisition Corps, the original Pitch Day squad was just awarded the David Packard Excellence in Acquisition Award for devising, planning and executing endeavors like these. Congratulations to your entrepreneurial leaders. One more thing, I invite you to visit the booths of the various small businesses showcased here today and, just maybe, more contracts will be awarded beyond those with the Air Force. The Air Force mindset is to think like a venture capital firm. As former Great Britain British Prime Minister, David Lloyd George is known for saying, “Don’t be afraid to take a giant leap when one is indicated. You can’t cross a chasm in two small leaps.” I look forward to taking leaps with you together. Let’s see what you’ve got. Thank you very much for being here.

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