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Rapid Equipping and the U.S. Army’s Quick-Reaction Capability

October 1, 2015

Despite views to the contrary, U.S. combatant commanders and U.S. allies continue to request land forces to mitigate risk in their respective theaters. The joint and combined force currently faces an increasingly complex, ambiguous and rapidly changing operating environment. Threats are developing from diverse sources, such as nation-states, rogue states and nonstate actors. These enemies—including transnational terrorist, insurgent and criminal organizations—use asymmetric tactics, enabled by increasingly accessible and affordable technologies, to present an unpredictable and sophisticated threat to U.S. vital interests. The U.S. Army, as the backbone of the joint force, protects the U.S. homeland and is prepared to deter and defeat enemies around the world who challenge the United States and its allies. Army forces train to seize, retain and exploit the initiative on the battlefield—to present multiple dilemmas to the enemy and decisively defeat him on land.

The Army is working to develop agile, adaptive and innovative leaders and institutions to respond to the current threat environment. Acquiring the most advanced technology remains a critical component of maintaining overmatch against potential and actual enemies. The traditional Department of Defense (DoD) acquisition process strives to develop future capabilities by establishing programs of record (PORs) to meet these threats through requirement analysis, technology development and testing. The process procures, fields and integrates new technologies across the doctrine, organization, training, materiel, leadership and education, personnel and facilities (DOTMLPF) prism and ensures the U.S. military remains the most technologically advanced force in the long term.

The nature of warfare, however, is unpredictable. Enemies change tactics and unexpected environmental challenges often arise. As the Army faced these challenges very early in its experiences in Afghanistan and Iraq, it became clear that quick-reaction capabilities were needed to complement the standard procurement system with faster and less expensive materiel solutions. As a result, the Rapid Equipping Force (REF) was established to quickly procure and deliver nonstandard, situation-specific solutions that mitigate urgent capability shortfalls. These solutions, often derived from commercial-off-the-shelf (COTS) and government-off-the-shelf (GOTS) technologies, are typically delivered in less than 180 days. In addition, the REF maintains a critical communications loop with the requirements, product producer and end-user communities that helps develop the next iteration of off-the-shelf technologies. Through quickreaction capabilities, delivered by initiatives such as the REF, the Army is adhering to the fundamental tenets of adaptability, innovation and institutional agility contained in its Operating Concept.2