With the war in Afghani- stan winding down, the U.S. Defense Department’s rapid deployment office, which specializes in identifying, developing and quickly fielding
now will take a more long-term
approach. Slightly stretching
out the process will offer more
flexibility to procure the best possible
systems, will present more opportunities for interagency and international
cooperation and may cut costs.
Rather than looking for solutions the
warfighters need immediately, office
personnel will investigate technologies that will be needed up to five years
away, or for technologies that will fill a
gap or provide a hedge over potential
adversaries. “The mission will evolve
from a short-term focus to get the capability out and address time-sensitive
warfighter needs to a mission of emerging capabilities,” reveals Earl Wyatt,
deputy assistant secretary of defense,
emerging capabilities and prototyping, Office of the Assistant Secretary
of Defense for Research and Engineering. “It’s really about going from a zero-to 24-month focus to maybe a 36- to
60-month focus looking further out.”
The longer-term approach will provide several benefits, officials say. “We’ll
be able to take a little bit more time.
In some circumstances, it gives us an
opportunity to identify a medium-risk
or a lower-risk option and to give the
warfighter or the senior leadership
some more choices to pursue a particular course of action,” Wyatt offers.
The evolution also might save money.
“The other part that comes into play is
that we can focus a little more on affordability. We may do a demonstration
and prove that a concept works, but we
may want to spend a little more time on
reducing the cost,” Wyatt says.
Furthermore, it might offer
greater opportunities for inter-agency and international cooperation, something the office already
does. “On the interagency side, we have
for many, many years worked with other
agencies, including the Department of
Homeland Security, Department of Justice, Department of State and the intel
community,” says Ben Riley, Wyatt’s
principal deputy. “There are a couple of
payoffs there. One is that you can help
to defray the cost amongst agencies on
the development of a specific capability.
The other one is that agencies may look
at a system from an entirely different
perspective and use the capability in a
totally different way.”
On the international side, Riley says,
officials seek out mature capabilities
that U.S. forces can use, defraying the
cost of development. “We have a num-
ber of ongoing initiatives with allies in
the Asian theater, Europe, Canada and
South Africa,” he reports.
The new approach likely will include
an emphasis on prototype development. “As we find ourselves in a more
budget-constrained environment, you’ll
see the department—and our office
in particular—moving toward doing
developmental prototypes before we
make the commitment,” Wyatt reveals.
In some cases, the department might
A Pentagon office promotes the expanded
use of prototypes for game changers.
BY GEORGE I.
The rapid fielding office within the
Pentagon contributed to the development of the Autonomous Tactical Unmanned Air System, which
preceded K-MAX, a Navy and
Marine Corps unmanned vertical
lift platform for cargo resupply.
build a prototype and “put it on a
shelf” until “the threat becomes imminent,” or until other circumstances
require officials to procure the system.
“You will find offices like ours concentrating on the art of the possible, on
the potential threat, on how to maybe
provide a hedge against that threat,
or on the means upon which we can
introduce new technology more affordably. And we’ll be using the instrument
of a prototype more frequently than
major acquisition programs, initiations
or start-ups,” Wyatt says.
Besides demonstrating that a particular technical hurdle can be cleared,
prototypes stimulate interest within the
department and can preserve unique
expertise that the Defense Department
may need in the future, Wyatt says.
Wyatt and Riley cite the Accelerated
Nuclear DNA Equipment (ANDE) sys-