The Defense Department has formed a rapid response unit to
expedite rapid procurement of weaponry to U.S. troops in Iraq.
The new group, termed Joint Rapid Acquisition Cell, was meant to
accelerate delivery of off-the-shelf equipment and
services for U.S. forces in Iraq and other areas challenged by Al Qaida and
Officials said one of the most pressing needs was for Arabic
interpreters in the military, Middle East Newsline reported.
The Pentagon decision followed more than a year of complaints from U.S.
military commanders of delays in mission-critical weapons and equipment,
such as body armor and vehicle armor. Other immediate needs cited were
defenses against improvised explosive devices, body heating and cooling
Robert Buhrkuhl, director of the cell, said his unit could cut months
and even years from the acquisition timetable. Buhrkuhl said procurement of
weapons and equipment to Iraq has often been delayed by legal requirements.
"We focus on near-term, logistical solutions," Buhrkuhl said. "Our role
is not to look forward to new technologies."
The cell hoped to see a contract awarded for the first request
received Ñ for Arabic interpreters Ñ by the end of November, Buhrkuhl
said. No announcement has yet been issued regarding the contracting of
Buhrkuhl said Congress has lifted many restrictions on weapons
procurement. He said the Pentagon has sought to identify urgent operational
needs, determine solutions and move toward acquisition.
Officials said the Pentagon unit would seek to act on requests for
immediate warfighter needs as rapidly as 48 hours and within 14 days at the
latest. They said the cell sought a process that would last no longer than
four months from contract
award to delivery.
Under a Sept. 3 memorandum that authorized the cell, Deputy Defense
Secretary Paul Wolfowitz directed the Joint Staff, combatant commands and
each service to appoint a liasion as part of their commitment to the cell.
Buhrkuhl said the assignment of senior employees as liasions would
facilitate the procurement process.
"Having to get permission slows things down," Buhrkuhl said