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Army seeks balance with rapid acquisition

By C. Todd Lopez

WASHINGTON (June 04, 2010) -- The difference between rapid acquisition and traditional acquisition can be as much as six years or more.

The rapid acquisition process allows the Army to bypass some of the rules, policies and procedures associated with acquisition for large projects and to get them into the hands of Soldiers quicker, said Lt. Gen. William N. Phillips, military deputy to the assistant secretary of the Army for acquisition, logistics and technology. He spoke May 27 at an AUSA Institute of Land Warfare breakfast.

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One example he used was the Mine Resistant Ambush Protected Vehicles - which took about 12 months to field, and the MRAP All-Terrain Vehicles took about 15 months to field.

With the Ground Combat Vehicle, which will go through the traditional acquisition process, Army officials say they expect to see prototypes of that in seven years.

"Really it's looking at what is value added in the review process," he said. "What brings value and then what doesn't add value to the process. So you can shorten the length of time."

Phillips said that when the Army does rapid acquisition on a system, it looks to see where efficiencies can be gained to speed technology into the hands of Soldiers.

"As you look at that process where you do a program like that, how could you gain efficiency? And as you gain efficiency, ensure you have the same level of effectiveness on the back end without missing anything that is required," he said.

Nevertheless, with rapid acquisition, there are points that get overlooked and that must be dealt with afterward, Phillips said.

"Those 12,000-plus MRAPs we have, today there is really not sustainment," he said. "We are working though the challenges of sustaining those MRAPs over time. And the Army is looking at how many will remain in the inventory, because it is not a program of record. "

Brig. Gen. Mark Brown, deputy for acquisition and systems management, said with rapid acquisition, the Army can deliver good performing systems, but must question the cost.

"What is the balance between due diligence ... thinking the whole problem through and knowing all the answers before you move out (and) speed, which is do it now, do it today get it out there and have discovery and learning after the fact," he asked.

"The systems we put out there fast are very good performers, but every day we are discovering things we didn't think through when we pushed them out," he said. "We seek every day to find that right space and I think by and large we do a good job. And we could do a better job and we owe that to our share holders."

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