Evan A. Gist

Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Science in Cost Analysis


Department of Systems Engineering and Management

First Advisor

Amy M. Cox, PhD


The AFWERX Open Topic (AOT) program uses funding from the United States Air Force’s (USAF) Small Business Innovation and Research (SBIR) budget to adapt commercial technology to USAF needs. The AOT approach to small business investment is markedly different from that of legacy SBIR investment methods. This research is a comparison of processes and outcomes for AOT and legacy SBIR. The first axis of comparison is on commercialization rates. Applying a legacy definition of commercialization on a sample of AOT contracts, we found AOT’s commercialization to be 37% (compared to an 8.8% for legacy SBIR). We caveat this finding by pointing out the ways a commercialization comparison of the two SBIR methods might be appropriate. The next comparison considered the military capabilities each process invested in. AOT contracts were binned into Joint Capability Areas (JCA) to create an AOT military capability portfolio (MCP) which was then compared to a legacy SBIR MCP. Results suggest legacy SBIR invests at higher rates in the Force Application JCA while AOT investment rates are higher in the Force Integration and Command & Control JCAs. The final comparison considers the success of AFWERX’s strategy of creating technical centers (or ‘front doors’) in regions known for being bastions of innovation (i.e., AFWERX Austin) by a simple test of differences between AOT and legacy regional SBIR participation rates. In Texas and Washington District of Columbia (DC), regions with AFWERX centers, AOT participation rates were statistically higher than legacy SBIR.

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DTIC Accession Number