New Army office aims to get rapid with new tech

The Rapid Capabilities Office is intended to field cyber, EW and other tools in closer to real time.

The Army, which like the other military services has been looking for ways to get around cumbersome traditional acquisition processes and get new technologies into the hands of troops more quickly, has created a Rapid Capabilities Office intended to do just that.

The new office, announced by Secretary of the Army Eric K. Fanning Aug. 31, will focus on quickly developing and deploying new technologies, starting with the areas such as cyber, electronic warfare, survivability and positioning, navigation and timing and others, the Army said.

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

The Army’s effort follows similar programs set up by the Air Force, Navy and the Office of the Secretary of Defense, addressing DOD’s long-running frustration with complex acquisition processes that, while intended to ensure the viability, integrity and affordability of new technologies, can leave DOD behind the curve in the fast-developing technology field.

In June, Vice Adm. Ted Branch, deputy chief of naval operations for information warfare, noted: "The way we buy things in the DOD is a problem from the standpoint of we buy IT much like we buy a ship or an airplane." Dave Mihelcic, CTO of the Defense Information System Agency, said at the same event that it can take five or six years from the time a company offers a new cyber product to when it gets into the field.

The Army’s Rapid Equipping Office will expand on the functions of its already extant Rapid Equipping Force, which looks to get new technologies from the shelf to troops in 180 days. The RCO will take a more holistic approach, addressing immediate needs as well as near-term and mid-term high-priority threats, with the goal of deploying technologies within one to five years. The office also will collect soldier feedback on new technologies in order to speed up the test and evaluation process.

The Army is putting some money behind its effort, for instance planning to spend between $50 million and $100 million on electronic warfare tools, Breaking Defense reported. Electronic warfare is an area the military services have said they need to play catch-up on.

The RCO will span the Army, drawing on expertise from all elements of the service and ultimately reporting to the Secretary of the Army. The office will be led by Douglas Wiltsie, formerly executive director of System of Systems Engineering and Integration.

"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 goal is to bring the development and deployment of new technology tools closer to real time, said Maj. Gen. Walter E. Piatt, who will serve as the Rapid Capabilities Office Deputy Director for Operations. "Our adversaries are modernizing at a rapid rate, and in some cases our capabilities are inadequate to keep up. To maintain our edge, it's vital that we can evolve existing and new technology at a pace that keeps it relevant to today's and tomorrow's conflicts," Piatt said.