Pentagon's 'rapid acquisition' unit to speed up war procurement

Wednesday, December 8, 2004

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 related groups.

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 systems.

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 for Arabic interpreters by the end of November, Buhrkuhl said. No announcement has yet been issued regarding the contracting of interpreters.

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

Copyright 2004 East West Services, Inc.

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