By Whitney Vickers
WRIGHT-PATTERSON AIR FORCE BASE – The Air Force Research Laboratory at Wright Patterson Air Force Base welcomed C. Douglas Ebersole as its new director this week, and plans to continue to focus on five key areas, including nanotechnology, unmanned aerial systems, autonomy, hyper-sonics and directed energy.
“The Air Force Research Lab is the science and technology arm of the Air Force,” Ebersole said. “We’re one of the few parts of the Air Force that have all three components of air, space and cyberspace … With that, we develop the technologies, a little over $2 billion per year in Air Force funds, a little bit more than $2 billion per year out of customer funds, in total about $4 billion working across the entire spectrum of Air Force funds.”
The AFRL meets needs of the Air Force in three domains, including responsiveness, relevance and revolutionary; responsiveness relates to meeting the needs of current war fighters; relevance is in relation to finding solutions in the field in the coming years while revolutionary means conducting research for items in the future.
“The outlook is great for AFRL,” he said. “We’ve got a chief and secretary in the Air Force who are really visionary, and they’ve given AFRL a great vector. They wrote a document called ‘A Call to the Future,’ which is essentially a 30-year outlook for where they think the Air Force needs to go. In that, it calls out five game-changers, and that is nanotechnology, unmanned aerial systems, autonomy, hyper-sonics and directed energy. If you look at those five areas of focus, AFRL is all over those.
Here in the Miami Valley, the tech directorates who lead four of those five game-changing technologies are here at Wright-Patterson. It’s a great outlook for AFRL, and it’s a great outlook for the Miami Valley as there will be a lot of great focus on those, and opportunities – not only here, but for those who support us outside the gate.”
Ebersole is a Huber Heights native, who met his wife and graduated from Wayne High School. He went on to attend Purdue University, and graduated with his bachelor of science degree in Aero/Astro-nautical engineering. While attending Purdue, he married his wife and began to co-op at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base.
He later graduated with his master of science degree in aerospace engineering, advanced program management course, master of business administration and was named a senior executive fellow in 2006 at Harvard University. He has a son and daughter who both live out of state.
“It was a natural fit to come back here,” he said. “With the exception of one year in Boston and three and a half years in Washington D.C., I’ve principally lived in the Miami Valley my entire life. This is home for us.”
Immediately before serving as the director of the AFRL, he served as the director of Aerospace Systems at AFRL. His move over the weekend consisted of four boxes and 500 yards. He served as the director of Aerospace Systems for 22 months; before serving in that position, he worked in the F-35 joint program office in Washington D.C. as the director of engineering.
“I’ve been an acquisition guy most of my career, and Wright-Patterson is the home of acquisition,” Ebersole said. “The mission has kept me here by and large – for air planes and the disciplines I’m involved in.”
He feels comfortable coming into his new position. Former AFRL Director Rickey Peters began several projects that Ebersole plans to continue, including workforce development and the commercialization of AFRL technologies outside of the gate. Coming into 2016, Ebersole said citizens may seen AFRL focus on opportunities to be more agile in its business endeavors.
“There’s another three Rs, which are recruit, retain and reward,” he said. “We’re going to be looking for what we can do to satisfy the younger workforce, because they are a more demanding workforce than what I was when I graduated 30 years ago. Keeping the retention rates up, because the people are our most critical resource.”
When hiring a new individual to work for the AFRL, Ebersole said attitude is key.
“If you have attitude and the basic abilities, then you can deliver,” he said. “I think for someone who has a positive attitude and wants to serve, this is an outstanding place to work. We’re looking for not only scientist and engineers, but we have a demand signal for business entities as well, in both finance and contracting. I think it’s that attitude that I look for in a prospective employee.”