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The US Military & Rapid Prototyping


Two terms that are not usually associated with military acquisition are innovation and agility. For many years, the military acquisition procedures of the Defense Department have been termed as ineffective, bulky and sometimes even too bureaucratic to be considered efficient. Of course, there have been some internal measures undertaken such as Better Buying Power, along with some external schemes that include Congress reform proposals which have been done to somewhat improve the situation of ineffective acquisition. However in this age of new technologies, both leaders and military personnel are coming to terms with the idea that reforms are not the most efficient when a situation is developing and equipment is needed on an urgent basis. Therefore, there needs to be faster deployment of solutions and tools in the operational field as a situation is developing.


According an official from the office of Assistant Secretary of Navy Elliott Branch, the force has created too many rules that only add to the complexity of the process of buying the necessary equipment. However, these regulations do not usually lead to the appropriate solutions. The innovation that the Navy wants to pursue is not the innovation of bureaucratic processes, but the innovation of technology. Branch, who happens to be the deputy assistant secretary in the procurement and acquisitions department, told a panel at the Acquire Show, Washington DC in June 8 that the Navy as a force must simplify its process of acquisitions. Only the bare essentials of the processes must be kept and it should be driven towards innovation of products as opposed to innovation of processes. These are important when it comes to the consolidation of data center and mobility, driving the decisions in product acquisition in the coming years.


Newport Rapid Innovation Center, US Navy

Centers with sandboxes for conducting tests on devices and rapid prototyping facilities are growing in the US military. The Newport, RI Rapid Innovation Center has become a hotspot for rapid prototyping and testing out of new ideas and technologies. It would be beneficial if there were a sandbox that ensured cyber safety and separation from the remaining parts of the Naval Warface Center. According to Steve O’Grady, the innovation head at the center believes that the center would enable military personnel to track everything that goes in and out, keeping the warfare center safe from vulnerabilities.


The center boasts technologies such as advanced rapid prototyping, even though getting the finished devices and new technologies into the hands of the military personnel at the field level is still a great challenge. In order to encourage innovative ideas, in house contests such as hack a thons are held to solve complex problems, which are then sent as recommendations to the relevant directorates that would go on to make the concepts a reality. The rapid prototyping facility can be used by naval teams across the US to innovate and test devices without the risk of exposing the systems to problems.


Defense Innovation Unit, Experimental (DIUx)

Another Defense Innovation Unit specializing in rapid prototyping is situated in the Silicon Valley outpost of the Pentagon. Recently placed under new leadership, this innovation center can also play a similar role in promoting innovative technology. The new director of DIUx, Raj Shah has given a new concept where the various directorates and services are going to come to the center with a requirement, do an operational evaluation on the products wanted, figure out what kind of solutions are best suited and in the end, have it all documented rapidly for better implementation in the military levels.


Cyber Proving Ground, US Air Force

The US Air Force has opened up its proving ground for their testing and quasi-rapid prototyping facility. Major General Burke Wilson, commander of the 24th Air Force opined that the Cyber Proving Ground wants to focus on partnerships; hence they have developed some organic capabilities that would help them develop some innovative tools. In order to speed up development, the center focuses on the force’s offensive actions, situational awareness, command and control that is essential in the field. This necessity of providing equipment on demand has given rise to extensive rapid prototyping of weaponry and equipment promptly needed at the field. They are working on solutions that they can convey to the hands of their operators very quickly and aggressively. This Air Force proving ground is to enable the force to test the tools from an operational perspective and decide whether these can be sent into operations. If tools are not fit and ready for primetime of action, they are going to be sent back for further modifications in rapid prototyping.


The fast moving pace of attacks and assault threats in this age occurs faster than ever. It is believed that humans cannot in fact; respond in real time to sudden attacks that take place in the blink of an eye. Hence the importance of faster acquisition through rapid prototyping is more than it has ever been before.






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