Superintendent hosts State of USAFA Forum


The Air Force Academy’s top officer discussed modernization, improving the school’s communications and ridding its campus of sexual assault, March 22 at the State of USAFA Forum.

The forum is an annual update on the school’s state of affairs for civic officials, the media, and the industry partners.          

Lt. Gen. Michelle Johnson also announced the name of the officer selected to be the next commandant of cadets, Col. Kristin Goodwin.

Goodwin, a 1993 Academy graduate, was nominated by the president for promotion to brigadier general. She’s scheduled to be assigned to the Academy, pending Senate approval of the nomination later this year.

“We’re anxious to see her on board,” Johnson said. “She’s a great leader and she’s going to be a great addition to our team. We’re really excited about the future with Kristin.”

Goodwin served in several high-level leadership positions, including vice commander of the 59th Bomb Wing at Whiteman Air Force Base, Missouri; commander of the 2nd Bomb Wing at Barksdale AFB, Louisiana; and senior military adviser to the secretary of the Air Force at the Pentagon.

She's also a veteran pilot who has flown B-2 Spirit, the EC-130h compass Call, the C-130 Hercules, and other aircraft. 

Goodwin will likely report for duty at the Academy in May, Johnson said.


“One of our challenges is that we haven’t communicated well enough as an institution, and I think today is a part of a new beginning and the kinds of things that will blossom over time,” Johnson said, referring to the unveiling of the Academy’s new Website,

The superintendent hopes the Academy’s extensive audience shares the stories they see on the school’s social media platforms.

“We want you to take these stories and share them and tell them,” she said. “We’ll provide video for you to back you up so that you can have evidence of it. So if one persons’ opinion, or if one headline comes out that’s confusing, you’ll have the background to be able to say there’s more to the story.”

Johnson said the Academy is serious about confronting and owning sexual assault.

“As part of the human condition, we are not immune from social challenges like sexual assault prevention,” she said. “It’s awful to talk about, we don’t want to talk about it, but we can’t fix some of these things unless we have these difficult conversations.”

Every report of sexual assault is measured at the Academy, Johnson said.

“So people see our numbers and they don’t like talking about it,” she said. “But when I go talk to other college leaders, they go, ‘You know, we’re facing the same thing. How do we get at it?’ In fact, many people see us as leaders because we are ‘owning this’ and having the uncomfortable conversations and talking about giving people tools to avoid those kinds of situations.”

Johnson said the Academy is also addressing an aspect of social media she said “captures that dark part of human nature” and lends itself to “intolerable behavior.”

“That’s tough,” she said.

Johnson announced the Academy will host the Collegiate Board of Directors and other officials April 9-11 in Polaris Hall to discuss healthy relationships.

“Other people are starting to come to us to take on these really tough challenges that we can’t shy away from,” she said. “We want to own it."  


The pursuit of scientific advances by cadets and faculty keeps the Academy atop U.S. school rankings and their knowledge, collaboration and problem-solving abilities has led to progress for the Academy and U.S., Johnson said.

“The world is changing,” she said. “The world keeps turning. The profession of arms has become more modern. The way we deliver education, the way knowledge is expressed, the way we communicate -- the profession of arms has become modern, as well.”

For several years, Johnson said, cadets have been pioneered technology by operating at the cutting edge of education and training.

“The great thing about the modern profession of arms is in airplanes, a satellite [or] the ballistics of a missile -- don’t care what you look like,” she said. “They don’t care where you came from. They care that you can do your job. That they can back up your fellow Airmen; that you can be a great wingman to them to do their job.”

The Academy’s curriculum prepares graduates to be leaders in the modern profession of arms, Johnson said.

“We know not what that brings and we hope that we’re doing them right, so that they’re ready for that moment that we can’t even predict,” she said. “And so everything we do here is really about warrior ethos.”  

Johnson updated the audience on the Academy’s Falcon Satellite Program, or FalconSAT, a small-satellite engineering program designed and operated by cadets under the administration of the Academy’s Space Systems Research Center. Most cadets in the program are astronautical engineering, electrical engineering, mechanical engineering or computer science majors.

“Falcon SAT 6 should be launching soon on a Space X, which is also assigned to the modern profession of arms with [U.S. Air Force Space Command at Peterson AFB], working with commercial entities to get the lift to put our satellite in orbit,” she said.

Last month, faculty and cadets delivered their latest experiment to the International Space Station through a mission via SpaceX. The experiment studies how spacecraft thrusters interact with the station and if they’ll contaminate experiments housed on the station’s exterior. FalconSAT 7 and 8 are in the works, Johnson said.

“FaconSAT 7 is a solar telescope about the size of a loaf of bread, about the size of this sheet of paper, that will be hitching a ride on a rocket soon,” she said.

Johnson said FalconSAT 8 is scheduled to make its first launch in 2019.

This was Johnson’s third State of USAFA address and the first in Polaris Hall, home of the Academy’s Center for Character and Leadership Development. Polaris Hall represents the constancy of the Academy’s purpose, she said. 

“It’s not leaning -- it’s aimed at the North Star because that’s our moral compass,” she said.

Visit to watch the State of USAFA Forum.