Introducing BRAVO: A hackathon series for Air Force, industry

  • Published
  • Secretary of the Air Force Public Affairs

The Air Force’s new STITCHES Warfighter Application Team, or SWAT, in close coordination with the Office of the Chief Information Officer, AFWERX, Air Combat Command, the Joint Artificial Intelligence Center and others are organizing the first known Department of Defense-wide classified innovation hackathon called BRAVO @ Nellis Jan. 5-12 at Nellis Air Force Base, Nevada.

A hackathon is an innovation event commonly employed by security communities and technology companies, in which teams self-form and develop working prototypes urgently in response to challenges often accompanied with data.

In an unprecedented collaboration of Air Force, Navy, Army, and Department of Defense civilians along with an expected 10+ industry companies, hackers – data scientists, product managers and engineers – will rapidly prototype capabilities of their choosing on Air Force Weapons System data with mentorship from Air Force and DoD leaders.

Unlike other DoD technical environments, BRAVO will allow hackers to bring open source or proprietary software into the environment quickly, such as the JAIC’s Joint Common Foundation development platform. This allows for unprecedented software collaboration to be used on classified DoD data.

“I began planning this hackathon with a peer, Jimmy Jones, this summer while still at DARPA before being hired by the USAF,” said Stuart Wagner, chief digital transformation officer for the Department of the Air Force. “We realized the extent of underleveraged raw data available from various Air Force weapons systems and we want to fundamentally shift Joint All Domain activities from talk and imagine exercises to development exercises on real weapons system data.”

Wagner, a former software developer at Microsoft, coded a sex trafficking disruption prototype on a winning Microsoft hackathon team after just three months working there. That capability, now known as Freedom Signal, has since scaled to dozens of police departments and non-profit organizations around the United States.

“This is a beta test of a radical military innovation model that will allow any capable DoD civilians or military members to build and validate capability and impact U.S. and foreign partner national security after one week of effort. Once we validate our model, we will scale this to 500+ inter-service, inter-agency, foreign partner hackers,” Wagner said.

The BRAVO hackathon series is named from Project B, a 1921 series of joint Army-Navy target exercises conducted on surplus ships in response to Army Brig. Gen. Billy Mitchell’s claim that bombers sink battleships. This claim undermined the then current investments and strategy of the Navy and then Department of War.

Project B was authorized by SECWAR and SECNAV to disprove and disgrace Mitchell by demonstrating the insignificance of airpower. Mitchell instead directed his bombers to destroy all the test ships, changing military strategy, defense resourcing for aeronautics and aircraft carriers, and ultimately the Department of War by proving the need for a separate Air Force military department.

Styled off Project B, BRAVO hackathons are sponsored by senior DoD leaders to provide technical and cultural innovation environments that enable government and industry to test and validate bold ideas on real DoD data. These events align under Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. CQ. Brown, Jr.’s Sept. 17, 2021, memo requiring senior leaders to enable Airmen to experiment and innovate.

A limited number of spots remain for members of government who are interested in attending. Registration remains open until December 15th: