Air Force Research Lab fosters collaboration, security, and productivity with Google Workspace
The Air Force Research Laboratory (AFRL) is a global research enterprise supporting two services, the U.S. Air Force and the U.S. Space Force. From laser-guided optics enabling telescopes to see deeper into the universe to fundamental science that has spawned innovations in quantum computing and artificial intelligence, AFRL rapidly scales discovery to deliver leading-edge technologies for the military.
As an integral part of the nation’s defense, AFRL engages with world-leading scientists, small businesses, large industry, and other government agencies to build communities that drive innovation. And given the sensitive nature of its work, AFRL needs to maintain high levels of security, even with remote employees. To tackle these challenges, AFRL is deploying Google Workspace among a segment of its workforce of scientists and engineers.
A single, secure platform for collaboration and innovation
As a leader in developing cutting-edge technology, AFRL needs flexibility, but also must meet rigorous security standards—while maintaining the agility to onboard new researchers quickly.
AFRL teams are using Google Workspace solutions like Google Smart Canvas to simultaneously share, collaborate, and discuss research—eliminating the toil of email chains and hours-long data file exchanges. Through video conferencing service, Google Meet, some AFRL research teams are hosting flexible, virtual meetings to exchange ideas anywhere, anytime. The recent announcements of Workspace Client-Side Encryption, combined with Google’s Zero Trust security approach, provides AFRL additional safeguards, while keeping security measures invisible to end-users. Ultimately, the goal is to accelerate collaboration and innovation amongst AFRL scientists, while meeting the standards defined by the U.S. Defense Information Systems Agency (DISA).
“Covid-19 significantly limited the physical presence of researchers in the lab,” said Dr. Joshua Kennedy, research physicist, Materials and Manufacturing Directorate at AFRL. “Google Workspace eliminated what would have otherwise been almost a total work stoppage. In fact, new insights into 2D nanomaterials, critical to future Department of the Air Force capabilities, were discovered using Workspace that would have otherwise been impossible.”
Dr. Kennedy is just one of many researchers at AFRL who have reported a positive, tangible impact on their work as a result of using Google Workspace. For example, a recent survey of hundreds of researchers involved in the Google Workspace preliminary deployment revealed an average time savings of three hours per week. For AFRL’s highly trained workforce of PhDs, that means more time to dedicate to the mission.
Secure collaboration for a global mission
AFRL’s global workforce fuels the organization’s innovations, but its worldwide footprint is the source of one of its biggest challenges: How do you create a collaborative, secure, and adaptive environment for an advanced research organization without hampering its ability to innovate?
In early fiscal year 2021, Air Force Research Laboratory commander Maj. Gen. Heather Pringle directed AFRL to prioritize ongoing efforts of digitally transforming AFRL and issued a charter establishing the AFRL Digital Transformation Team. The team’s charter outlines the vision of “One AFRL”—a flexible, synergistic enterprise “that capitalizes on the seamless integration of data and information through the use of modern methods, digital processes and tools and IT infrastructure.”
“Our mantra is ‘collaborate to innovate,’” Pringle said. “We want our alpha nerds to be very connected, and we really want to up their proficiency as a digital workforce where data becomes a third language. We're incorporating digital engineering into everything we do in science and technology and have a data-informed human capital strategy. We started experimenting with Google Workspace to supplement existing capabilities, and it has revolutionized our ability to collaborate with our external partners and build the best teams.”