WASHINGTON: War is hell, but without the right equipment, it can seem like a one-way ticket to a two-way firing range.
The men and women at the Pentagon responsible for getting those weapons and that gear into the hands of American soldiers, sailors, airmen and Marines know this and have come up with innovative ways to get that job done, according to DoD acquisition chief Ash Carter.
From body armor to vehicles built to resist improvised explosive devices, Pentagon weapons buyers have gotten U.S. military personnel what they need, when they need it, thanks to a ‘fast lane’ procurement process, he said during today’s speech in Washington at the Brookings Institution.
The ad hoc process cooked up between Carter’s office and senior leaders from the Joint Staff was designed to bypass departmental red tape and get weapons and equipment to the field faster, and make sure that when the stuff gets there it works the first time, every time.
So far, according to the acquisition chief, things have worked fairly well.
Due, in part to this fast lane process, DoD is nearly done with its equipment “surge” into Afghanistan, Carter said. That mass shipment includes more counter-IED and intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance platforms, since U.S. and NATO forces are increasingly leaving their armored vehicles to do more dangerous foot patrols — or “dismounted ops” in military terms — into towns and villages scattered through the Afghan countryside.
The process has worked so well, in fact, that Carter wants to take the program and “institutionalize” it into the traditional Pentagon procurement process.
And therein lies the problem.
The key to the fast lane process, or the Joint Urgent Operational Needs (JUONs) process before it, is that it is able to duck many of the pitfalls driven into DoD acquisition bureaucracy over time. By not having to jump through the requirements and funding hoops that have sandbagged many a defense program, efforts like the fast lane approach work.
Circumventing the Pentagon process brought the Mine Resistant Ambush Protected Vehicle to Iraq and later Afghanistan. Circumventing the process brought the counter-IED aircraft of the Army’s Task Force ODIN and the Air Force’s Project Liberty into the field.
We’ll have to wait and see how Carter’s office decides to institutionalize the fast lane process, but if the effort is simply sucked into the normal way DoD does its weapons business, then it will be the men and women in the field who will be going nowhere fast.