WASHINGTON — Mirroring plans announced by the Army earlier this week, the Air Force will rely on small groups of operators and acquisition personnel to expand the success of its Rapid Capabilities Office — which has been responsible for the development of the B-21 — across the rest of its acquisition force.
Earlier this week, the Army announced a massive reorganization of its acquisition enterprise built around cross-functional teams that will spearhead requirements development, prototyping and procurement of technologies like next-generation combat vehicles and rotorcraft.
In a similar move, the Air Force is developing a charter that would lay out a model for making mainstream Air Force acquisition programs look more like RCO programs, said Lt. Gen. Arnold Bunch, the service’s top uniformed acquisition official.
“It would streamline the reviews, it would form a board of directors for those certain programs along the line of what the RCO executes to today,” he said in an exclusive Oct. 10 interview with Defense News.. “The goal of that is cross functional, multi-disciplinary teams … smaller teams that are empowered to make decisions and go forward.”
The Rapid Capabilities Office was formed in 2003 to expedite important, often classified programs while keeping them on budget. Some of the RCO’s most famous projects include the X-37B space plane and the B-21 Raider, which recently completed its preliminary design review. The RCO’s streamlined, flat structure is seen as critical to its success, as is the office’s ability to keep requirements stable and work alongside operators.
While the RCO has been responsible for many thriving programs, the Air Force shouldn’t have to rely on it for every acquisition effort, Bunch said.
“I need to inoculate that culture across the acquisition enterprise so I don’t have to go to one shop to go fast or to be creative or to take risks,” he said. “You shouldn’t have to go to one organization every time I want to do something fast.”
The Air Force has already selected a handful of programs to be run by small, multi-disciplinary groups that, like RCO, can adhere to a more flexible mode of operation.