Rapid Equipping Force

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Rapid Equipping Force
File:U.S. Army Rapid Equipping Force Official Logo.jpg
U.S. Army Rapid Equipping Force Logo
Country United States of America
Branch U.S. Army
Part of HQDA G-3/5/7
Garrison/HQ Fort Belvoir
Website https:// www.ref.army.mil

The Rapid Equipping Force (REF) is a U.S. Army organization charged with quickly providing Army units deployed globally with innovative government- and commercial-off-the-shelf solutions that address urgent requirements. In January 2014, the capability was deemed critical by the Army and is currently transitioning to the U.S. Army Training and Doctrine Command.


The mission of the REF is to harness current and emerging technologies to provide immediate solutions to urgent challenges of U.S. Army forces deployed globally.

REF Functions

The REF lines of support fall into three distinct categories: equip, insert, and assess. Its primary function is to equip units with technologies that fill identified capability gaps. The REF provides training on these technologies downrange and at home-stations. It can insert selected future force solutions for operational evaluation in addition to providing new capabilities not readily available in the existing Army inventory. Finally, the REF constantly identifies and assesses emerging technologies and Army practices concerning operational needs affecting force readiness.

The 2004 REF Charter and Implementation Guidance and Coordination memo, signed by Lieutenant General Richard A. Cody, formalized REF’s “equip,” “insert,” “assess” functions. The excerpt below outlines how each line of support would shape REF’s mission.

“The REF will identify and evaluate emerging technologies, concepts, and surrogates to estimate/approximate threshold capabilities, while simultaneously providing operationally relevant capabilities to our combat forces within a time frame relevant to current operations… It is my intent to insert critical future technologies and capabilities into the current force while continuously shaping the future force and accelerating its evolution. Therefore, I direct expansion of the mission of the REF to encompass two additional critical functions:

  1. First, the REF will analyze relevant technologies and capabilities that exist in the Army’s laboratory, developmental systems, other Services and Federal Agencies, and international sources, and when appropriate, bring these capabilities into an operational environment to examine and evaluate the concepts and their effectiveness. If suitable, the REF will assess the potential to accelerate fielding and the contribution such fielding would make to increased combat effectiveness.
  2. Second, REF initiatives will serve as the testbed to construct a model for lasting change and improvement of Army business practices and to better streamline Army Acquisition processes. Establish a continuous feedback process to provide lessons learned and best practices identified through the rapid equipping process to the relevant staff and US Army Major Command (MACOMs). The Army Acquisition Executive (AAE), with the support of the REF, will use REF initiatives to develop a process to transfer REF initiatives to a fast-tracked fielding program of selected systems. The Assistant Secretary of the Army, Financial Management and Comptroller, in coordination with the Chief of Legislative Liaison and the REF, will develop a concept and Congressional strategy to support significant Army reprogramming actions and request modifications to laws as necessary to facilitate rapid acquisition when acceleration of future technologies contribute significant combat power to the force in the near term.”[1]

Organization Overview

The REF is structured to integrate three distinct functions to provide the Army with a responsive, rapid acquisition organization. First, the REF Director has the unique authority to validate requirements. Second, the REF has acquisition authority and provided by the Assistant Secretary of the Army for Acquisition, Logistics and Technology chartered Project Manager housed within REF’s chain of command. Finally, the REF receives funding from a variety of sources, allowing it the flexibility to support Soldiers deployed around the world.

These three pillars of authority allow REF to quickly insert solutions into theater in weeks rather than years. REF aims to deliver items into Soldiers’ hands within 90 days, and has even provided a solution in 72 hours after learning of an urgent need.[2]

The REF can receive requests for support from any Soldier, from a private to the Chief of Staff of the Army. These requests are submitted via a simple document called a “10-Liner” that prompts Soldiers to describe the capability gaps they are facing downrange or as they prepare to deploy. From that information, the REF team begins the analysis and procurement process in order to best equip the requesting unit.

It is important to note that the REF equips specific units, not the entirety of the Army. If a solution is applicable to a larger portion of the Army, REF works with partner organizations to transition technologies to project managers who can then field the equipment to a larger portion of the Army.


The Vice Chief of Staff of the Army authorized the formation of a Robotic Tiger Team, known as the Rapid Integration of Robot Systems (RIRS) to find a robot to address the operational shortfall soldiers faced while clearing caves and place a solution into theater quickly. The team partnered with the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) and industry partners, and in less than 30 days, procured the PackBot, the Marcbot and the M7 Operator Controller Unit (OCU) and subsequently deployed them to Afghanistan.

Following this success, the Rapid Equipping Force was founded under the Army G-3/5/7 in late 2002. Its primary task was to support Soldiers in Operation Enduring Freedom using deployed teams of subject matter experts and a headquarters office at Fort Belvoir, Virginia. When Operation Iraqi Freedom (OIF) began in March 2003, REF expanded its operations to include forward teams in Kuwait and Iraq. REF personnel provided manpower to support daily operations, but most importantly, REF continued to provide technology to fill capability gaps and to counter the highest priority threats.

Improvised Explosive Devises (IEDs) quickly became the primary threat to American Soldiers in Iraq. To address this threat, REF partnered with the Joint Improvised Explosive Device Task Force, a precursor to JIEDDO, by providing support personnel and technology solutions. Together, the two organizations equipped units with the Ballistic Armor Kit for Vehicles that transformed the Army’s standard soft-skinned vehicles used early on in OIF into a much safer vehicle for Soldiers.

By this time, the applicability of REF’s capabilities to operations in Iraq and Afghanistan was well established. In order to give the organization broader authorities, in 2004 the Army established an embedded ASA(ALT) Project Manager within the REF to provide acquisition oversight and ensure compliance with acquisition laws and policies.

This increased independence allowed REF to promptly address capability gaps for Soldiers during the Iraq troop surge in 2007. As the number of troops increased, the number of 10-Liners submitted to REF increased. REF worked with partner organizations like JIEDDO and the Asymmetric Warfare Group to equip units with technologies that focused on the biggest threats at the time – IEDs and sniper fire. By 2008, REF transitioned sixteen counter-sniper programs to PEO Soldier for wider fielding.

As the United States decreased the number of missions in Iraq, the REF refocused on the war in Afghanistan. Just as in Iraq, during the OEF troop surge REF saw an increase in the number of requests for support. In order to handle the influx, the REF created the “REF Integrated Priority List” to categorize incoming 10-Liners. The list is constantly updated and refined to reflect requirement trends.

One of the major trends seen in requirements was for increased support at the tactical edge. In these remote locations, the rationing of fuel and water is extremely important to combat readiness. To enhance capabilities, REF developed an initiative called Energy to the Edge that focuses on decreasing energy consumption using alternative energy solutions in addition to energy management training. The REF has also inserted several water management technologies in Afghanistan, Africa, and Central America for further assessment.

The REF also developed the Expeditionary Labs to support Soldiers serving in austere locations with rapid solution development. These containerized labs can be moved around theater to support units with its 3D printers, CNC machines, and forward engineer teams. With the Ex Labs, the REF brings scientists to Soldiers in order to increase collaboration during solution development. Several notable technology improvements have been developed at the REF Ex Labs, including a valve stem cover to prevent MRAP tires from deflating, an X90 USB power adapter that allows Soldiers to charge USB devices on standard-issue batteries, and a tactical light mount that allows Soldiers to attach flashlights to their IED detectors for use in the dark.

On January 30, 2014 the Army declared the REF an enduring capability. It has realigned under the US Army Training and Doctrine Command, where it will continue to support Soldiers deployed globally for years to come.

REF Projects

  • PackBot: Remote-Controlled, full sensor package capable tracked vehicle
  • Magnetometer: Commercial off the Shelf (COTS) ultra-sensitive metal detecting wand
  • Wellcam: Complete man-portable video system to search wells
  • Armor Kit: 4-door vehicle protection kit equipped to units during OIF
  • PILAR: Acoustically based, fully passive system that determines sniper fire direction on LCD screen
  • Talon Robot: A man-portable robot used for the disposal of IEDs and other dangerous explosives
  • Minotaur: A robotic loader with front mine rollers to support dismounted operations
  • Tactical Aerostats: Smaller aerostats used as ISR and communications platforms
  • Pole Cam: Extendable pole-mounted camera with a handheld receiver for situational awareness
  • Rapid Deployment Integrated Surveillance System (RDISS): System to monitor movement near remote FOBS and COPs
  • Man-Portable Line Charge (MPLC): Backpack-packaged clearing charge to disrupt IED trigger mechanisms

REF Lines of Support

The REF lines of support fall into three distinct categories: equip, insert, and assess. Its primary function is to equip units with technologies that fill identified capability gaps. The REF provides training on these technologies downrange and at home-stations. It can insert selected future force solutions for operational evaluation in addition to providing new capabilities not readily available in the existing Army inventory. Finally, the REF constantly identifies and assesses emerging technologies and Army practices concerning operational needs affecting force readiness.[3]

External links

  • [1] Official Website
  • [2] Official U.S. Army Website
  • [3] Official TRADOC Website
  • [4] “Rapid Equipping Force Speeds New Technology to Front Lines,” American Foreign Press Service, 12 August 2005
  • [5] “Army rapid Equipping Force Taking Root, Chief Says,” National Defense, October 2006.
  • [6] “Mobile Labs Build On-the-Spot Combat Solutions,” Military News, 17 August 2012.
  • [7] “NCO Tells How Rapid Equipping Force Helps Soldiers, NCO Journal, 18 November 2013.
  • [8] “3D Printing at the Tactical Edge,” Ground Combat Technology, 3 February 2014.
  • [9] “Army Confirms Rapid Equipping Force as ‘Enduring’” Army News Service, 3 February 2014.
  • [10] “Top 5 of Rapid Equipping Force” Defense News, 25 February 2014.
  • [11] “How to Run the Pentagon: Letters to the Editor Regarding ‘Running the Pentagon Right,’” Foreign Affairs, May/June 2014.


  1. Department of the Army Memorandum, Signed by LTG Richard A. Cody "The Rapid Equipping Force (REF) Charter and Implementation Guidance Coordination," 12 January 2004.
  2. Richard A. Cody, “Minutes and Hours… Not Days and Weeks” ed. D. Bennett Dickson, 2008
  3. Rapid Equipping Force Overview Brochure