Army Launches New Rapid Capabilities Office


Secretary of the Army Eric K. Fanning launched a new Rapid Capabilities Office today to expedite critical technologies to the field in an effort to counter urgent and emerging threats.

The new office will conduct rapid materiel development and delivery efforts to address immediate, near-term, and mid-term combatant commanders' needs, according to an Army press release.

The new office will focus on rapid prototyping and initial equipping of capabilities, beginning with the areas of cyber, electronic warfare, survivability and positioning, navigation and timing, as well as other priority projects that will enable soldiers to decisively operate and win in contested environments.

"We're serious about keeping our edge, so we need to make changes in how we get soldiers the technology they need," Fanning said at event in Washington, D.C. today.

"The Army Rapid Capabilities Office is a major step forward, allowing us to prioritize cross-domain, integrated capabilities in order to confront emerging threats and advance America's military dominance."

Although flexible in its capability, the Army Rapid Capabilities Office will focus on high-priority, threat-based projects with an intent to deliver an operational effect within one to five years. The organization will execute analysis, prototyping, development, procurement and limited fielding for select high-priority capability solutions, according to the release.

The Army Rapid Capabilities Office is different from the Army Rapid Equipping Force, which has a 180-day turnaround time and delivers specific equipment to meet the urgent operational needs of forward-deployed units. Instead, the Rapid Capabilities Office will provide commanders of select formations, and areas of responsibility, with broader capability solutions, delivering a combined operational effect, according to the release.

"This office is vitally important to the Army's acquisition reform efforts, but at the same time, it's not a substitute for the acquisition practice," said Katrina McFarland, the Army acquisition executive.

"The goal of the Army Rapid Capabilities Office is not to procure systems to outfit the entire Army, but rather to use targeted investments to execute strategic prototyping, concept evaluation and limited equipping - especially in areas where technology progresses rapidly. It will help commanders and soldiers in the field today, while building an advantage for those who will follow in their footsteps."

The Rapid Capabilities Office will report to a board of directors led by the Secretary of the Army, and will be led on a day-to-day basis by Rapid Capabilities Office Director Douglas K. Wiltsie. Wiltsie previously served as the executive director of System of Systems Engineering and Integration, Office of the Assistant Secretary of the Army (Acquisition, Logistics and Technology), and as the Program Executive Officer for Enterprise Information Systems.

"If we want to operate in an environment where we are leading and causing our adversaries to react to us, we need to take risks," Wiltsie said. "The Army Rapid Capabilities Office is designed to take those technology risks, and to give us the agility to incorporate disruptive capabilities quickly when they can make a difference for our soldiers."

The new office will also incorporate early and prominent warfighter involvement into the requirements gathering and prototyping process, to ensure that materiel solutions are not only vetted by operators but also delivered to units as a holistic capability with the right support and tactics, techniques and procedures in place, according to the release.

This all sounds terrific, but after writing a story scheduled to run tomorrow on about the latest Pentagon IG audit of the Army’s XM25 Airburst weapon -- a program the audit claims has suffered two years of delays and climbing development costs – it’s difficult to be optimistic about another effort that promises to fix Army acquisition.

I hope to be pleasantly surprised.

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