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Rapid Capabilities Office faces challenges ‘never seen before’

Tuesday, November 01, 2016

The Army Rapid Capabilities Office was created because “our adversaries have been modernizing” while the Army was waging a counter-insurgency fight, Maj. Gen. Walter E. Piatt said Oct. 4.

“This cannot wait,” he added.

Piatt, director of operations at the newly formed office, cited the capabilities in electronic warfare, unmanned aerial vehicles, cyber and disruption of the global positioning system that Russia demonstrated in its support of Ukrainian separatists.

Those activities present challenges to the Army “that we’ve never seen before.” If the Army cannot fight in those conditions, “we can’t deter,” Piatt said at a Warriors Corner presentation at the 2016 Association of the United States Army’s Annual Meeting and Exposition.

Douglas K. Wiltsie, director of the office, said it would engage in rapid prototyping of technologies to meet immediate needs from the combatant commanders, and assess the effect the prototype could have on meeting that need.

That means it must deal with not just the material proposal, but the effect, he said.

The initial efforts will focus on things such as cyber and countering unmanned aerial vehicles, Wiltsie said.

The office will determine if the technological capabilities are available to address the requirement, then will use soldiers to conduct the assessment before moving forward.

Based on the assessment, the office has the authority to move “limited” numbers of the proposed system into production, he added.

The office’s efforts will be evaluated by the Army leadership, including Chief of Staff Gen. Mark Milley and Katrina McFarland, the acting assistant secretary for acquisition, logistics and technology, and for some projects, Assistant Defense Secretary Frank Kendall, he explained.

But Wiltsie cautioned, “this is not the panacea to solve all the Army’s problem,” but will attempt to address the highest priority needs of the combatant commanders.

Piatt also noted that “this is not the Rapid Equipping Office,” which seeks to provide fixes for immediate concerns from the operating forces.

But, it would seek to fill a gap between that and the normal acquisition process, which can take a decade to field new systems.

He said the office must be willing to “fail often, fail early… to get this right. Let’s not wait 15 years.”

Wiltsie appealed to industry representatives to offer ideas that can be ready quickly.