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Rapid Capabilities Office

The Air Force Rapid Capabilities Office, located in Washington, D.C., reports directly to a Board of Directors chaired by the undersecretary of defense for acquisition, technology, and logistics. Board members also include the secretary of the Air Force, the Air Force chief of staff, and the assistant secretary of the Air Force (acquisition). The office responds to Combat Air Force and combatant command requirements.

The Air Force Rapid Capabilities Office expedites development and fielding of select Department of Defense combat support and weapon systems by leveraging defense-wide technology development efforts and existing operational capabilities. The Board of Directors tasks the office directly to address needs that involve mission applications and operational concepts requiring specialized expertise, and involve sensitive activities managed by other government agencies. The office also conducts projects on accelerated timelines.


The RCO reports to a board of directors comprising the undersecretary of defense for acquisition, technology and logistics and the secretary and chief of staff of the Air Force.  The office is staffed with a variety of functional specialists who form a collaborative melting pot of expertise. Inherent in the accomplishment of its mission to deliver capability is intent to experiment, within the bounds of statute, to discover and recommend new methods, processes, and techniques for the Air Force and the Department of Defense to conduct business in an efficient fashion

Key Operating Principles
Operating principles for the Rapid Capabilities Office are based upon expedited and operationally focused concept-through-fielding activities to support immediate and near-term needs as directed by the Board of Directors. Any enduring activities resulting from these efforts will be transitioned over to a program office for long-term development/production or to an operational unit for operational control and long-term sustainment and support. Key operating principles include a short and narrow chain of command, overarching programmatic insight, early and prominent war fighter involvement with small integrated operating teams within a single office, high DOD, Air Force, or industrial precedence rating, and funding stability. In addition, waivers to and deviations from any encumbering practices, procedures, policies, directives or regulations may be granted in order to ensure the timely accomplishment of the mission within applicable statutory guidance.

The secretary of the Air Force activated the office April 28, 2003. One of its first projects was to deploy significant upgrades to the Integrated Air Defense System, now operational around the National Capital Region, to meet critical counter-terrorism objectives before the January 2005 Presidential Inauguration Day. Currently, RCO is working on the X-37B Orbital Test Vehicle to demonstrate a reliable, reusable, unmanned space test platform for the United States Air Force. Additionally, RCO, in conjunction with MIT Lincoln Lab and other partners, is developing a sensitive airborne receiver system. The system is scheduled for in-theater evaluation during the summer of 2009. The RCO Red Team assesses current and future threats to U.S. combat operations by providing independent technical assessments.


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