The Army has affirmed the continued existence of its Rapid Equipping Force, thus maintaining the service’s ability to quickly address soldier non-standard equipment needs.
In the past, the process for meeting soldier operational demands was often not as quick as commanders would like. The Army’s Rapid Equipping Force, or REF, was stood up in 2002, to fill that role – to provide rapid solutions to problems soldiers in Afghanistan encountered while conducting their mission. Such solutions can be developed in-house by REF engineers, and fielded quickly to Soldiers using commercial off-the-shelf or government-created technology.
In a Jan. 30 memo, signed by Under Secretary of the Army Dr. Joseph W. Westphal, the Army recognized the REF capability was something the service needs for the long-term.
“The Secretary of the Army and the Chief of Staff have determined that the capabilities afforded the Army by REF must be rendered enduring,” Westphal wrote in his memo.
Col. Steve Sliwa, director of the REF, said the memo underlines the importance of the REF to the entire Army, and also dispels rumors about REF disbanding after the conclusion of Operation Enduring Freedom.
“With this decision, the Army ensures the institutionalization, not only of a rapid equipping capability, but the invaluable lessons learned after more than 11, comprehensive years of delivering tangible results,” Sliwa said.
The memo outlines the implementation plan for transferring REF, its military and civilian personnel, along with their functions and funding, to the Army’s Training and Doctrine Command, or TRADOC. That transition should happen no later than Sept. 30, 2015.
Additionally, the memo ensures that REF will maintain its mission, as established by the REF concept plans to equip, insert and assess urgently required technology solutions.
“The move to TRADOC offers new opportunities for us to expand synergies among a number of organizations within the TRADOC family,” Sliwa said.
Additionally, the REF will now be better positioned to compete for future base Army funds and to support deployed units in regions other than those covered by overseas contingency operations funds.
“The most important objective for the REF right now is to continue to support Soldiers deployed to Afghanistan,” Sliwa said. “However, we, at the REF, have always envisioned an organization that could provide global support and could expand and contract based on the level of requirements.”
Most significantly, the REF will maintain its current authority to validate Soldier requirements directly from commanders on the battlefield, as well as its authority to acquire solutions. The Office of the Assistant Secretary of the Army for Acquisition, Logistics, and Technology provides a dedicated program manager to ensure REF’s compliance and synchronization within the larger Army acquisition community.
REF’s authorities to independently validate urgent requirements and buy equipment are key to their ability to provide urgently needed gear to deployed Soldiers within 180 days or less.
“Regardless of where forces are deployed in the world, we must anticipate unpredictable and unique challenges that will need to be addressed with urgency,” said Sliwa. “This memo ensures the REF will continue bridging these gaps with non-standard equipment.”
The memo is a direct outcome of an Army Headquarters Transformation Focused Target Review, chaired by Lt. Gen. Thomas Spoehr, director of the Army’s Office of Business Transformation, and Thomas Hawley, deputy under secretary of the Army.
The effort was responsible for reviewing specific focus areas and proposing recommendations to best optimize Army headquarters elements and resources.