In December 2013, four special operators were injured after the CV-22 Osprey tiltrotor aircraft they were riding in were hit by small arms fire as they evacuated U.S. citizens from South Sudan.
Soon after, Special Operations Command's acquisition arm, working alongside the Army and the Navy, began an effort to field lightweight armored panel kits to give its fleet of Ospreys greater ballistic protection. In less than six months, SOCOM had acquired enough kits for the entire fleet.
That is just one example of SOCOM reacting quickly to meet critical warf-ighter needs, Jim Smith, deputy director of the Special Operations Research, Development and Acquisition Center, told National Defense.
While many experts criticize the length of time traditional Defense Department acquisition programs take from start to finish, SOCOM has gained a reputation for speedy procurement.
That continued ability to field equipment in weeks or months instead of years will be critical as U.S. military strategy shifts from Afghanistan and focuses on smaller, global missions led by special operations forces, Smith said.
"I believe the urgency [for rapid acquisition] is going to certainly endure and may even increase," he said. "The relevance of SOF to the current national security strategy, the role they play in support of the geographic combatant commands all over the globe and the expectations for SOF to accomplish a very broad set of missions to include no-fail missions, that's going to continue ... but in a more dispersed, remote, austere environment."
Smith is one of the top leaders at SORDAC, which is made up of 270 civilian workers and 90 officers. When an urgent need is identified--that is, if something is deemed necessary to the success of a mission or loss of life could occur without it--the acquisition process is streamlined to meet the requirement within 180 days, he noted.
SOCOM's speed is made possible through a series of special acquisition authorities, including parts of Title 10 in the United States Code and appropriation funding from Congress called Major Force Program-11.
In addition, SORDAC is able to expedite the procurement process by overseeing all technology development, acquisition and logistics for SOF operators in one place, said James Geurts, acquisition executive for SOCOM.
"This synergy enables us to reduce the historical stovepipes between those disciplines and associated gaps as capabilities transition between investment, procurement...