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​The Air Force’s new Strategic Development Planning and Experimentation Office could save the service time and money, its director told Air Force Magazine. Jack Blackhurst said the 15-person Air Force Research Laboratory entity, which reached initial operating capability in September, will use experimentation to provide the senior leadership planning choices for resource decisions. “And I think [Chief of Staff Gen. David Goldfein] really wants options. He wants to make sure that there’s not another solution out there that we haven’t uncovered,” Blackhurst said during an interview. “And so we are open to looking at a lot of different ideas and bringing folks in and actually playing with those ideas to see if they work out or not. And before they make major decisions and planning choices … they get an opportunity to look at this data.”

Blackhurst said the office is in the process of planning multi-year experiments that relate to the Air Superiority 2030 flight plan, including experiments on making data-based decisions and defeating agile intelligence targets. Other experiments could explore how to best utilize directed energy. “While we’ve been doing a great deal over the last X number of years developing [directed energy] technology options, the key question now from an Air Force perspective is, ‘How do they utilize that technology in an operational context?’” Blackhurst said. Most experiments will probably involve more modeling and simulation or virtual prototyping than actual bending metal. But they’ll need funding and Goldfein’s approval before they kick off. Lt. Gen. Arnold Bunch, the service's military deputy for acquisition, has said the service will have a dedicated $100 million budget for experimentation starting in 2018. “It could have a significant return on investment I think in terms of a way forward for our Air Force,” Blackhurst said, noting the experiments could reveal that some planned programs aren’t needed. The Strategic Development Planning and Experimentation Office is expected to reach full operational capability in September 2017. (See also: Reinvigorating Development Planning.)