US Army weapons acquisition just got a much-needed kick in the pants

A paratrooper with the 82nd Airborne Division’s 1st Brigade Combat Team passes before the rising sun during a patrol into a village May 4, 2012, Ghazni Province, Afghanistan. The equipment on his back is used to block remotely detonated improvised explosive devices.

A paratrooper with the 82nd Airborne Division’s 1st Brigade Combat Team passes before the rising sun during a patrol into a village May 4, 2012, Ghazni Province, Afghanistan. The equipment on his back is used to block remotely detonated improvised explosive devices. | US Army photo by Sgt. Michael J. MacLeod

On Wednesday, the US Army announced the creation of the Rapid Capabilities Office to “expedite critical technologies to the field in an effort to counter urgent and emerging threats.”

Essentially that means the Army now has an office with the authority to fast track technologies through the hulking, bloated, wasteful defense acquisition system that tried and failed three times to pick out something as simple as a new handgun.

Even vital systems can take 10 years to reach the field, which has greatly hamstrung the Army and made their tactics stale, predictable, and therefore vulnerable.

“Russia goes into the Ukraine and Russia goes into Syria [and] we realize that they’ve been watching us and learning from us and adapting. So we see some areas where we want to have a more pronounced ‘overmatch,”’ Army Secretary Eric Fanning told Bloomberg News in an interview.

Fanning told Bloomberg’s Anthony Capaccio that the office would focus on “improvements to cyber operations, electronic warfare, survivability and GPS-enabled positioning, navigation and timing.”

As Deputy Secretary of Defense Robert Work said of the US armed forces in 2015, “our greatest advantage is the vibrant technological community in the United States, and the vibrant technological communities in our defense industrial base.”

However, as Daniel Gouré, Ph.D., of the Lexington Institute points out, with the current lag between technology’s inception to its deployment on the front lines, adversaries like Russia and China could gain technological supremacy over the US in as little as five years.

“There’s no denying we have a troubled acquisition past,” Fanning told Bloomberg. “We are bringing all elements of the Army together,” he said of the Rapid Capabilities Office.

“We’re serious about keeping our edge, so we need to make changes in how we get soldiers the technology they need,” Fanning said in a US Army release. “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.”

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