Procurement: November 5, 2003

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There's a long tradition in the United States military of creating new weapons or equipment in a very short time. This usually only happens during wartime, however. During the 1991 Gulf War, a heavy "bunker buster" bomb was developed in six weeks, and put to use. During the Afghanistan war, the air force again developed a fuel-air explosive bomb in 30 days and used it during the Tora Bora battle in late 2001. There were many similar "rapid development" examples during Vietnam, the Korean War, World War II and earlier. Noting all this, the Department of Defense is now encouraging weapons and equipment developers to rapidly get their new gear ready for use in the field. Then the stuff is shipped off to military training areas so troops can learn how to use it, and then sent off to Afghanistan or Iraq for actual combat use. It's not as dangerous as it sounds, as most of these "fast track" items are not weapons, but electronic gear or off-the-shelf equipment adapted for military use. In peacetime, it could take years of testing, paper shuffling and bureaucratic delays before the troops got the stuff. Now, delivery time is sometimes measured in weeks. Such speed is not unknown in the Department of Defense, for the U.S. Army Special Forces have long had their own equipment budget, and permission to get new stuff into the field as quickly as they wished. Troops are increasingly unofficially adopting new civilian gear (and sometimes weapons) for military use. The widespread availability of email, even in combat zones, makes it easier for the troops to share new discoveries in this area. As a result, the Department of Defense has been under pressure to allow some of these troop level initiatives to become official issue equipment. 


 


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