DOD Groups Speed Equipment to Warfighters

BLOOMINGTON, Ind., Aug. 31, 2011 — Two Defense Depart­ment groups are labor­ing to rush equip­ment and sys­tems to over­seas-deployed U.S. warfight­ers.

Thomas P. Dee, direc­tor of the Joint Rapid Acqui­si­tion Cell, and Dou­glas Cav­ileer, oper­a­tions direc­tor for the Com­bat­ing Ter­ror­ism Tech­ni­cal Sup­port Office, described those efforts yes­ter­day to hun­dreds of peo­ple attend­ing the Nation­al Defense Indus­tri­al Association’s Joint Mis­sions Con­fer­ence here.

Dee, whose cell reports to the office of the under­sec­re­tary of defense for acqui­si­tion, tech­nol­o­gy and logis­tics, acknowl­edged the usu­al DOD process involved in major pur­chas­es isn’t always speedy.

The defense acqui­si­tion sys­tem “actu­al­ly works okay if you’re try­ing to do big things,” he said. “We’ve got the best defense sys­tems in the world, by far … but [that] comes at a cost in terms of delib­er­a­tions and [the] time that it takes to get things done.”

In con­trast, Dee said, the JRAC aims to field equip­ment for spe­cif­ic com­bat require­ments that rep­re­sent “valid, urgent needs” in cur­rent con­flicts.

JRAC doesn’t han­dle major defense pro­gram or what Dee calls “big-A” acqui­si­tion.

“We don’t wor­ry that much about the future of [JRAC-man­aged equip­ment],” he said. “These are expens­es, not invest­ments.”

The appro­pri­ate com­bat­ant com­man­der — for exam­ple, U.S. Cen­tral Command’s Marine Corps Gen. James N. Mat­tis for requests sup­port­ing Iraq or Afghanistan oper­a­tions — must val­i­date requests to JRAC, Dee said.

“Our job is not to ques­tion his require­ment, but to fig­ure out how to get it for him,” Dee said.

“What do we need to do to get a good enough capa­bil­i­ty out there right now? That’s what our goal is,” he added.

Requestors have to spec­i­fy what they are try­ing to field, how it will be used and who will use it, as well as whether it can be moved where it’s need­ed and if train­ing and main­te­nance are in place to ensure the equip­ment can be used and is sus­tain­able.

Depend­ing on the equipment’s cost and whether the unit request­ing it has funds avail­able, Dee said, JRAC can request bud­get-repro­gram­ming author­i­ty from Con­gress.

“In the last two years or so, for urgent needs, we’ve gone through about $5 bil­lion like this,” he said. “But that adds time … if you have the mon­ey in the bank, you can spend it now. If you have to go to the Hill, it nor­mal­ly takes two or three months to get per­mis­sion.”

Dee cau­tioned anoth­er holdup in urgent­ly need­ed equip­ment deliv­ery can occur in the con­tract­ing process. Warfight­ers and accoun­tants don’t nec­es­sar­i­ly see things the same way, he said, so oper­a­tors should take care to work through the JRAC process with their con­tract­ing offi­cers.

While Dee said the JRAC process relies on “mature tech­nol­o­gy” that is essen­tial­ly avail­able now, Cavileer’s group aims to achieve “rapid pro­to­typ­ing and rapid tran­si­tion” of equip­ment for spe­cif­ic coun­tert­er­ror­ism objec­tives.

The Com­bat­ing Ter­ror­ism Tech­ni­cal Sup­port Office, or CTTSO, works as autho­rized by the assis­tant sec­re­tary of defense for spe­cial oper­a­tions and low inten­si­ty con­flict, Cav­ileer said.

“We have an inter­a­gency com­mu­ni­ty mis­sion for com­bat­ing ter­ror­ism,” he said.

Work­ing close­ly with more than 100 fed­er­al agen­cies, state and local gov­ern­ments, law enforce­ment orga­ni­za­tions and nation­al first respon­ders as well as a num­ber of inter­na­tion­al part­ners, CTTSO works to col­lect and com­bine par­tic­i­pat­ing mem­bers’ tech­ni­cal exper­tise, oper­a­tional objec­tives and inter­a­gency fund­ing, he said. “We try to get the right mix at the table … shar­ing resources and try­ing to avoid dupli­ca­tion of effort,” he added.

Any mem­ber of the group, Cav­ileer said, can bring require­ments for­ward. The group then votes on and pri­or­i­tizes work to meet those needs.

The CTTSO pub­lish­es require­ments in two Broad Agency Announce­ments per year and invites busi­ness­es of all sizes and types, edu­ca­tion­al insti­tu­tions, gov­ern­ment agen­cies and non­tra­di­tion­al sub­mit­ters to review the BAA pack­ages and pro­pose solu­tions to the require­ments, Cav­ileer said.

“Our goal is always to try to get things done in less than two years,” he said. “We’ve done projects as fast as nine months. The goal is to get a pro­to­type out for com­bat eval­u­a­tion … and then we com­mer­cial­ize.”

The group typ­i­cal­ly con­sid­ers com­mer­cial­iza­tion suc­cess­ful if first respon­ders or mil­i­tary mem­bers adopt it, he said.

Cav­ileer said CTTSO-man­aged projects com­plet­ed or near com­ple­tion include soft­ware that mod­els blast effects in urban areas, a force pro­tec­tion pack­age for aus­tere loca­tions, tech­nol­o­gy to iden­ti­fy sui­cide bombers at range, an enhanced mor­tar tar­get­ing sys­tem, and auto­mat­ed for­eign-lan­guage search and trans­la­tion tools.

One solu­tion the group found use­ful for coali­tion oper­a­tions was already-exist­ing police tech­nol­o­gy that allows dif­fer­ent brands and mod­els of radios to com­mu­ni­cate, he not­ed.

“We need to come up with prod­ucts we can use in a coali­tion envi­ron­ment, where we may have NATO allies, U.S. mil­i­tary and police orga­ni­za­tions,” Cav­ileer said. “It may not be the most effec­tive tool in your arse­nal, but one that you can share and use imme­di­ate­ly.”

Source:
U.S. Depart­ment of Defense
Office of the Assis­tant Sec­re­tary of Defense (Pub­lic Affairs)