Army’s Rapid Capabilities Office takes first steps

The Army’s Rapid Capabilities Office is making headway just a little more than a month after its conception.

The office has already had its first board meeting and is expected to have a finished charter by the beginning of November, said Rapid Capabilities Office (RCO) Director Douglas Wiltsie.

“We have three test exercises going on as part of the advanced warfighter assessment out in Fort Bliss in October. One for cyber and one for electronic warfare to help us understand not only the problem set, but the equipment that we have today and what capability if it’s repurposed will it provide,” Wiltsie told Federal News Radio Oct. 4 at the Association of the U.S. Army Conference in Washington. “From there, you’re going to see things before Christmas looking for information, so it’s moving. We need the board to tell us specifically we are on the right track.”

Wiltsie said the goals and experiments will be aligned and move the office forward further into the future.

The Army announced the creation of the RCO at the end of August as a vehicle to circumvent the bulky military acquisition process.

RCO follows in the footsteps of the Defense Department’s Strategic Capabilities Office and the Air Force’s own Rapid Acquisition Office. All of those organizations were created as a means to quickly deliver critically needed products to the warfighter. The Army is focusing on cyber, electronic warfare, survivability and position, navigation and timing.

“A goal of the Rapid Capabilities Office is to prioritize cross-domain and integrated solutions. It will put those solutions in front of senior leaders in enabling us to provide necessary pressure at the start of the process to drive innovation, continuous improvement and iteration,” said Army Secretary Eric Fanning during the RCO rollout at an Aug. 31 Bloomberg event in Washington.

In order to build these new capabilities, the Army needs to reach out to industry. Wiltsie said RCO is building an emerging technologies team that will engage with industry at an unclassified and classified level.

“We are going to create that kind of engagement where we can throw a problem at industry, they can participate, look to see who is doing what and hopefully team as they see that there are different solutions that can be brought forward. That’s going to be addressing specific issues that come out of the combatant commands as we see it,” Wiltsie said.

The other way RCO will reach out to industry is through established channels like the Defense Innovation Unit Experimental, the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency and the Army Venture Capitalist Initiative.

The Army plans to increase contract speeds through the use of Other Transaction Agreements, a contracting vehicle that groups companies into consortiums.

Once in the consortiums, the companies and the Army agree to set rules that quicken the acquisition process.

“There are five that exist today … we’ve utilized two of them. The one I’ve utilized the most is the C5 consortium, which is basically focused on cyber and so we’ve used them to build capability that the cyber teams need and we’ve had great success with it. I want it to go faster. It has not gone as fast as I want it to, but it’s an opportunity to go quick, see what’s available, hone the requirements without a lot of process and then get something in that we can prototype,” Wiltsie told Federal News Radio.

Wiltsie said he did not see the need for any new consortiums in the future.

As far as funding goes, the Army has enough money in its prototyping coffers to pay for RCO to 2018. From then it needs to convince Congress to fund the program.

Army acquisition chief Katrina McFarland said the Army’s future ask for the program would not exceed $100 million.

Read Federal News Radio’s full coverage of the 2016 AUSA conference.