Pentagon weapons buyers want lawmakers to give them the authority to create an account that could quickly pay for equipment urgently needed on the battlefield, according to the Defense Department's top acquisition official.
Ashton Carter also told a House Appropriations defense subcommittee that DoD will combine several of its services' rapid-equipping organizations.
DoD requested $200 million to stand up the so-called "joint urgent operational need response fund" as part of its 2012 budget request. The allotment was split equally between the Pentagon's base budget and overseas contingency operations account.
"The purpose of this fund is to allow execution to begin before the full reprogramming process is complete," Carter told the House Appropriations defense subcommittee during an April 13 hearing. "This could save months, and thus save lives and ensure missions success."
Should lawmakers authorize the account, the Pentagon would notify Congress when it spends money in the coffers, according to Carter.
"I ask that you assist us to expand … our tool kit to manage the funding side JUON response," he said.
Battlefield commanders in Afghanistan and Iraq frequently identify new requirements for equipment to defeat a threat. The requirement is called a joint urgent operational need, or JUON. Major acquisitions - such as Mine Resistant Ambush Protected (MRAP) vehicles, which are designed to withstand roadside bombs better than traditional Humvees - were born from this process.
The 2011 Defense Authorization Act requires DoD to define a "true rapid acquisition process" for items needed in the battlefield in less than 24 months, Carter told lawmakers. The Pentagon is planning to combine a number of task forces into a single integration group for urgent needs and "considering alternate ways to institutionalize" these rapid acquisitions.
Carter called on lawmakers to create a corresponding "fast lane" approval process for these items.
"That's what I think Congress would like to see more of, this idea of trying to do these things in a couple of years, 24 months," Rep. Norm Dicks, D-Wash., the ranking member of the subcommittee, said of the urgent needs response group. "If you could do these developments in a more rapid way, I just think that would have a tremendous support up here."
Earlier this year, lawmakers and the Pentagon were at odds over the funding source for a number systems included in a JUON reprogramming request. It took more than month before the two sides ironed their differences out and the request was approved.