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Experimentation and Rapid Prototyping in Support of Counterterrorism Summary Technology and equipment are the warfighter’s tools, and operational concepts are the techniques developed by the warfighter to apply those tools to best accomplish the mission. While the missions of the U.S. military are reasonably stable with respect to operational protocol, those of its adversaries are continuously reacting to U.S. operational concepts and to U.S. enabling technology and tools. To be effective, the United States must be able to anticipate those reactions and develop and execute an acquisition and operational approach that enables the definition, development, and fielding of new operational concepts and tools within the cycle time adopted by its adversaries. Doing so requires red teaming,1 modeling, simulation, and testing combined in an integrated program that includes operational concept development, technology definition, and development; and transfer into fielded equipment with appropriate training and support. After the attacks on September 11, 2001, the Department of Defense (DOD) began to use different approaches to address these needs, including the creation of new “rapid acquisition programs.” The DOD created the Combating Terrorism Technology Task Force (CTTTF) in an effort to help the DOD identify its science and technology (S&T) counterterrorism base. In 2006, the roles and responsibilities of the CTTTF were subsumed by the DOD Rapid Reaction Technology Office (RRTO), which focuses primarily on technologies that can be matured in 1 Red teaming is defined as an activity using a person (or group of people)—sometimes as adaptive simulated enemies—to look for and test vulnerabilities in military plans and/or emerging technical concepts. (See Defense Science Board, 2003, Defense Science Board Task Force on the Role and Status of DoD Red Teaming Activities, Office of the Under Secretary of Defense for Acquisition, Technology and Logistics, Washington, D.C., September.)
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Experimentation and Rapid Prototyping in Support of Counterterrorism 6 to 18 months for purposes of counterterrorism.2,3 The RRTO’s mission is “to partner with Department of Defense (DOD) offices, other government agencies, industry and academia in order to break the terrorist or insurgency cycle, counter emerging and anticipated threats, and respond to validated joint urgent needs by accelerating the development and fielding of affordable, sustainable transitional and non-traditional capabilities for the warfighter.”4 The RRTO has organized itself to provide a quick-response and diverse set of capabilities for leveraging DOD S&T in support of counterterrorism while also attempting to stimulate interagency coordination and cooperation among other federal agencies. At the request of the director of the Rapid Reaction Technology Office, the National Research Council established the Committee on Experimentation and Rapid Prototyping in Support of Counterterrorism. Specifically, the committee was requested to: Review the current experimentation and rapid prototyping approaches utilized by RRTO for counterterrorism; Identify potential barriers, both within RRTO and outside RRTO, that inhibit accelerating the transition of developments in science and technology to support counterterrorism applications; and Recommend potential improvements to RRTO approaches, including areas for future focus that can further accelerate the fielding of affordable, sustainable capabilities and concepts to counter emerging threats. Experimentation and rapid prototyping—both key to accelerating the transition of technologies to the warfighter in support of counterterrorism and counterinsurgency—are approaches employed by the RRTO. Whereas mature technologies can be transitioned to elements of deployed U.S. military forces in the short term, experimentation and rapid prototyping are necessary on the front end of technology development to determine the potential of new technologies and capabilities to mitigate the shortcomings of current operational concepts and systems and to mature those technologies found to be promising. The ability to spur and leverage technological advances is vital to sustaining the DOD’s ability to maintain its edge over current and potential adversaries and to improve or transform the conduct of military operations during irregular warfare. The RRTO role has been and is appropriately targeted on what has been a two-part critical problem in this regard: (1) applying S&T developments that 2 Effective August 21, 2009, the Rapid Reaction Technology Office was subsumed under the new Office of the Director, Rapid Fielding, which will report to the Director, Defense Research and Engineering. 3 In this report, counterterrorism includes efforts to counter insurgency and irregular warfare and to conduct all other associated efforts, but not conventional warfare. 4 Defense Research and Engineering, Rapid Reaction Technology Office Web site, available at www.dod.mil/ddre/org_rrto.html. Accessed April 2, 2009.
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Experimentation and Rapid Prototyping in Support of Counterterrorism can be matured in 6 to 18 months and assisting in the transitioning of resulting solutions quickly to combat units in response to very urgent needs, and (2) providing feedback to the S&T community that can help guide longer-term technology efforts. The information that the committee received in its data-gathering sessions (October through December 2008) identified an array of benefits resulting from RRTO efforts. These include the quicker fielding of technological improvements, potential cost savings, and the identification and development of improved operational concepts and opportunities. These benefits have been enabled by innovative technologies in the DOD’s S&T base and also by technologies available from sources outside the DOD. RRTO-sponsored technologies are bringing benefits to warfighters and to other customers involved in nontraditional conflict. Furthermore, the RRTO can be credited both with giving midlevel management and senior leaders the flexibility to address current warfighter needs rapidly and with highlighting potential benefits enabled by smaller technology projects that might otherwise be ignored. A significant strength developed by the RRTO is the ability to effectively identify and exploit technology programs developed in other federal departments, the industrial base, and academia. The RRTO has also developed and applied tools to allow constructive interactions among various organizations involved in irregular warfare and counterterrorism and has exploited those interactions to improve predictions of likely trends and reactions of adversaries. This approach has been helpful in improving anticipation of future needs. In developing and applying these strengths, the RRTO is serving as a catalyst to better define future needs and also to bring technologies and operational concepts together to address those needs.5 In the cases where RRTO experiments have not been immediately adopted for transition to the warfighter, these experiments have served to provide critical knowledge that has been employed by others to build capabilities that did work. The key attributes of the RRTO and the essential elements of its business model are summarized in Box S.1. Several examples of specific activities of the RRTO related to elements of its business model follow from the concepts outlined in Box S.1:6 Foster communications and form collaborative cross-agency groups: The biometrics and forensics capabilities developed to permit rapid, if not real-time, identification in a combat theater of “bad actors” that have been previously identified as such by other government agencies or even other governments—as discussed in Chapter 2—are an excellent example of this RRTO strength of using cross-agency inputs and collaborative development efforts. 5 A detailed discussion of the RRTO’s methods of experimentation (including project selection, test planning, conduct, analysis, and reporting process) is provided in Appendix C of this report. 6 Additional examples of specific RRTO project activities are provided in Appendix D.
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Experimentation and Rapid Prototyping in Support of Counterterrorism BOX S.1 What Defines the Rapid Reaction Technology Office? During the course of this study, the Committee on Experimentation and Rapid Prototyping in Support of Counterterrorism reviewed the projects sponsored and supported by the Rapid Reaction Technology Office (RRTO) and received briefings from the RRTO’s customers, consumers, and collaborators. Drawing on these various sources of information and its own deliberations, the committee summarizes below the six critical attributes of the RRTO and six essential elements of the RRTO’s business model that it believes define the RRTO. This view of the RRTO was verified in committee discussions with partner organizations of the RRTO. Critical Attributes The Rapid Reaction Technology Office is a catalytic organization that anticipates and responds to emerging threats, with an emphasis on terrorism and irregular warfare. The following are critical attributes of the RRTO: Being limited in size (funding and staff)—a small and agile organization; Possessing enlightened, risk-tolerant leadership; Having highly qualified and motivated staff; Being placed at a high organizational level within the DOD; Being focused on joint and interagency needs; and Serving as an enabler of timely and sufficient rather than optimal solutions—but not executing acquisition and fielding. Essential Elements of the Business Model The essential elements of the RRTO’s business model are as follows: Foster communications and form collaborative cross-agency groups; Operate with transparency and openness; Anticipate and identify capability needs Across multiple disciplines, agencies, and organizational stovepipes, Not seen or addressed within existing individual organizations; Create synergy by bringing diverse organizations together to Recognize needs, Invent and develop capabilities and concepts of operations, Gain buy-in from partner organizations through cost sharing; Enable close relationships among technical staff, testers, and users to accomplish the following: Experimentation to gain early insight and knowledge, Exploration of alternative concepts of operations and determination of effectiveness, The capturing of and making available unique data sets; and Enable multidisciplinary science and technology solutions.
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Experimentation and Rapid Prototyping in Support of Counterterrorism Anticipate and identify capability needs: “Human terrain teams” that permit combat units to better understand and communicate with the foreign nationals of differing ethnic backgrounds are an example of the RRTO’s ability to anticipate the need for an improved capability and then to provide a quick solution.7 Create synergy by bringing diverse organizations together: The Bluegrass tracking system experiment brought together outputs from the intelligence community’s intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance (ISR) sensors with outputs from the military’s moving target indicator (MTI) radars to potentially identify locations of high-value targets. This effort is an excellent example of the RRTO’s creating synergy using capabilities from multiple organizations. Enable close relationships among technical staff, testers, and users: The RRTO sponsored the development of a test facility within Yuma Proving Ground, Arizona, to examine new systems for counterterrorism. This facility focuses on testing technologies to combat improvised explosive devices (IEDs) and is also used as a training site to help prepare forces prior to their overseas deployment to areas with terrorist threats. The site has become highly valued for testing systems in a realistic environment prior to their fielding. Test results are documented in NAVAIR (Naval Air Systems Command) Quick Look Experimentation Reports; after review by the RRTO these reports are archived and posted on a Web site for sharing with partner organizations. In addition, the RRTO chairs a biweekly secure videoconference with all interested organizations, including field operational personnel who provide valuable feedback on fielded equipment as well as insights relevant to future experiments. A representative list of RRTO successes with a brief description of each is presented in Appendix D. ORGANIZATIONAL STRENGTHS AND WEAKNESSES In addition to identifying potential issues and recommending areas of improvement with respect to the RRTO’s approach to rapid technology implementation, the committee also discussed the organizational strengths and weaknesses of the organization. Three key RRTO strengths, as perceived by this committee, can be summarized as follows: Current workforce: A major strength of the RRTO is the high quality of its staff. The RRTO director’s handpicking the right set of people to make up a diverse team with different perspectives and appropriate technical qualifications has served to position the RRTO well. Small organizational size: The relatively small size of the RRTO is a 7 The human terrain team efforts are also part of the SKOPE project, discussed in Chapter 2 and Appendix D of this report.
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Experimentation and Rapid Prototyping in Support of Counterterrorism distinct advantage. Because the organization has intentionally been kept small, its director has been successful in personally selecting the high-quality staff consistent with his management style and the RRTO business model. Current business model: The RRTO’s unique combination of attributes and business model elements (it is multidisciplinary, small, risk-tolerant, transparent, joint) contributes to its key strengths of flexibility and agility that are so important to anticipating and defeating rapidly evolving threats. The RRTO is a very successful organization in recognizing emerging technology needs. As with any organization, however, there are areas that can be improved. The following list summarizes the RRTO weaknesses identified by the committee: Contracting delays: The RRTO can experience contracting delays of 4 to 6 months. For an organization with the name “Rapid Reaction Technology Office,” having delays that average many months from the start of a contracting process until the award of the contract is a significant issue. The RRTO does not have its own contracting office but relies on others for contracting support. The committee considered a number of options to improve contracting support and recommends a particular approach. Maintaining other organizations’ awareness: In briefing the committee, some of the senior leaders of organizations noted that they had limited insight into the many efforts that the RRTO was conducting. This was said to be the case even when significant joint efforts were carried out by the RRTO with elements in such senior leaders’ organizations. Because it is important to keep the RRTO staff small and responsive, the director of the RRTO should consider options that are not personnel-intensive for increasing other organizations’ awareness of the RRTO. Ensuring a long-term capability: Having a long-term capability requires preparing for future staffing and leadership. While some midlevel people are assigned to the RRTO, because the organization is small and outside many of the normal career paths, a greater effort is required to expose a range of people to the RRTO and to provide succession planning. MAJOR FINDINGS AND RECOMMENDATIONS In addition to providing a qualitative analysis of the strengths and weaknesses of the RRTO, the committee reviews and discusses other potential issues impacting the organization. Below the committee offers its major findings and recommendations to help guide and maximize future RRTO and DOD efforts to accelerate developments in science and technology to support counterterrorism applications. These are the major findings and recommendations presented in Chapter 4 of the report. Related findings and recommendations are presented in the context of the committee’s analysis in Chapter 3.
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Experimentation and Rapid Prototyping in Support of Counterterrorism Finding 1: The Rapid Reaction Technology Office’s unique combination of attributes and business model contribute key strengths—flexibility and agility—in anticipating and defeating disruptive threats to this nation and its way of life. These strengths are essential to the Department of Defense, but retaining them requires constant vigilance. The RRTO’s capabilities to span organizational boundaries and to work outside conventional modes serve the DOD well. Recommendation 1: The Rapid Reaction Technology Office should be continued as a separate entity reporting directly to the Director of Defense Research and Engineering (DDR&E), with enhancements as recommended elsewhere in this report but without a substantial change in size or business model. The DDR&E should strongly resist making the RRTO conform to conventional approaches. Doing so would seriously reduce both the RRTO and the DOD’s effectiveness. Also, the committee recommends that the RRTO publish for its potential partners a broad guide to the process and criteria that the RRTO uses for project selection. The Under Secretary of Defense for Acquisition, Technology and Logistics (USD[AT&L]) should review the RRTO every 5 years to assess its value and whether it should be continued. To continue as an effective organization, the RRTO needs to increase its emphasis on succession planning. Finding 2: The RRTO has applied a significant portion of its resources in order to anticipate and address emerging and potential needs that have not been formally recognized by others. This effort has enabled the timely fielding of new capabilities that have been successful in countering rapidly evolving threats. Recommendation 2: The director of the RRTO should continue to devote a substantial portion of the organization’s resources to addressing needs that are emerging and anticipated (even though unarticulated) in order to enable timely fielding of new capabilities that will counter or deter rapidly evolving threats. Finding 3: The committee identified and reviewed seven internal and external issues that could be potential barriers to the RRTO’s ability to enable rapid transition of developments in science and technology to support counterterrorism applications. Most of these issues are such that trying to eliminate or reduce the particular barrier involved would have an overall adverse impact on the RRTO’s effectiveness. The two issues that the committee believes should be addressed are these: The pressure to consolidate the organization with conventional military Service acquisition organizations and/or to conform to institutional acquisition or test methodology, and The lack of test site intelligence support at Yuma Proving Ground, Arizona.
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Experimentation and Rapid Prototyping in Support of Counterterrorism The first issue is addressed in Finding 1 and Recommendation 1. The second issue is addressed in Recommendation 3. Recommendation 3: In supporting the RRTO and Yuma Proving Ground, the Army Deputy Chief of Staff for Intelligence and the commander of the U.S Army Test and Evaluation Command (ATEC) should expand support to the RRTO and its associated test support organizations (i.e., the Naval Air Systems Command and the National Counterterrorism/Counterinsurgency Integrated Test and Evaluation Center) with regard to translating intelligence information into realistic test scenarios. The commander of ATEC should provide for the installation of a secure videoconferencing capability at Yuma Proving Ground so as to enhance communications for the planning of experimentation and the discussion of test results. Finding 4: Contracting delays have resulted in project delays of as much as 4 to 6 months in some cases and can be a serious issue for the RRTO. Recommendation 4: To simplify the contracting process and reduce contracting time for rapid-reaction projects, the RRTO should consider implementing one or more of the following: (1) create a small, dedicated contracting element within the RRTO; (2) use “other transaction” authority for the high-importance, time-critical responses; and (3) make the current contracting approach more streamlined and efficient (e.g., by having the USD[AT&L], who is the chief procurement and contracting officer of the DOD, designate a contracting office to give priority attention to requests of the RRTO when needed). The committee prefers the third approach. Finding 5: The attributes and business model employed by the RRTO are critical enablers of the interagency approach advocated by Secretary of Defense Robert M. Gates in his article entitled “A Balanced Strategy: Reprogramming the Pentagon for a New Age,” in the January 2009 issue of Foreign Affairs,8 and they respond to the particular challenges posed by agile, adaptive threats. Recommendation 5: The Secretary of Defense should make the science and technology director of each of the National Security Council principals—such as the Under Secretary of Homeland Security for Science and Technology—aware of the RRTO, its attributes, and its business model, so that some of the processes and approaches used by the RRTO can be considered for broader adaptation and use in other interagency applications. 8 Robert M. Gates, Secretary of Defense. 2009. “A Balanced Strategy: Reprogramming the Pentagon for a New Age,” Foreign Affairs 88(1):1.