General “Hap” Arnold established the Air Force Scientific Advisory Board (SAB) to assist the Air Force in maintaining its “vision into the future” of technology-enabled capabilities. Since 1944, the SAB has served as the Air Force’s main external advisory body for science and technical matters relating to its mission - to fly, fight and win in Air, Space, and Cyberspace. The Board provides a link between the Air Force and the nation’s scientific community and provides independent scientific and technical advice to Air Force leadership.
The SAB accomplishes its mission by conducting studies on topics deemed critical by the Secretary and Chief of Staff of the Air Force, by conducting reviews of the Science and Technology portfolio in the Air Force Research Laboratory, and by providing independent technical reviews where are needed by SecAF, CSAF, Major Commands, and the Air Force Research Laboratory. The SAB’s mission supports the Air Force in achieving its central strategy of adapting and responding faster than potential adversaries.
The Scientific Advisory Board, first known as the Scientific Advisory Group (SAG), established by General Henry Harley "Hap" Arnold during World War II, was organized, and chaired by Dr. Theodore von Kármán, his scientific advisor. The SAB provided a long-range forecast of research and development needs for the Army Air Corps. Initially, the SAB consisted primarily of those within the field of academia. At the end of World War II, when the SAB transitioned to the U.S. Air Force Scientific Advisory Board (SAB), the Board included a Secretariat that would be considered part of the Air Staff.
The Board also expanded its membership to include engineers and scientists from academia, government, and industry. Initially, the SAB was organized around panels dedicated to different technical areas, and these panels provided regular reports. Cross-cutting ad hoc and special committee studies were also performed, starting with the renowned study, "Toward New Horizons," that set forth many of the early research and development goals pursued by the early Air Force. By the early 1980s, standing technology panels were set aside, and studies were performed by the more agile study teams still used today. Along the way, the SAB also began performing regular reviews of Science and Technology work at the Air Force's research laboratories.
In 2022, the U.S. Air Force Scientific Advisory Board was renamed the Department of the Air Force Scientific Advisory Board. The SAB is a Federal Advisory Committee and promotes the exchange of the latest scientific and technical information to enhance the Air Force and Space Force mission. The Board's function is solely advisory and provides findings and recommendations to the Department of the Air Force senior leadership, namely the Secretary of the Air Force.
DAF SAB members are among the nation’s top civilian scientists and engineers from industry, national labs, federal funded research and development centers, academia, and retired general officers. Members are selected to obtain the best, independent advice possible and based on preeminence in scientific fields of interest and importance to the Department of the Air Force. It is the broad technical expertise, experience, leadership, and vision of its members that are essential to the Board’s ability to provide the type of advice that the Department of the Air Force relies on from the SAB.
The Board exists to complement, but not duplicate, the work of the Assistant Secretary of the Air Force for Acquisition, the Air Force Research Laboratory, and other Air Force activities that deal with science and technology issues. The Board is chartered by the Secretary of Defense and reports directly to the Secretary of the Air Force.
The SAB operates as a Federal Advisory Committee under the Federal Advisory Committee Act; therefore, the Board’s function is purely advisory. The Board presents its findings and recommendations to the Secretary and Chief of Staff of the Air Force and other senior leaders. All decisions or actions taken on Board advice or recommendations are made solely by full-time, salaried officers or the Air Force employees.