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Rapid Fielding Initiative (RFI)

What is it?
The RFI leverages current procurement programs, commercial-off-the-shelf technology, and lessons learned from ongoing operations in Iraq and Afghanistan to enhance the survivability, lethality, and mobility of Soldiers deployed in support of Overseas Contingency Operations. To maintain its currency and relevance, the list of RFI equipment fielded to Soldiers is updated regularly by the U.S. Army Training and Doctrine Command and approved by Headquarters, Department of the Army (HQDA). The RFI executes role-based equipping which distributes the highest capability of mission-essential equipment to each deploying Soldier. Every Soldier, regardless of their unit type, is assessed as a system and issued equipment necessary to execute a specific mission. For example, every M249 squad automatic rifleman receives the appropriate optics, short barrels, collapsible butt-stock, Modular Lightweight Load-carrying Equipment, and ammo packs required by a light machine gunner. The RFI mission, originally scheduled to be completed by the end of FY07, has been extended indefinitely to ensure continued support of Overseas Contingency Operations.

What has the Army done?
The Army has issued RFI-designated equipment to every deploying Soldier, regardless of component, since 2003. Because many deploying Soldiers are now on their second or third combat tours, RFI has implemented procedures to avoid redundancies in equipping these Soldiers. As a result, the 'lean fielding' concept was put into practice by RFI in the third quarter of FY08. Lean fielding allows Soldiers to decline items already in their possession, lessening the burden on the individual Soldier to account for and return duplicate items later. As lean fielding is refined, it is expected that significant cost avoidance will be realized through more accurate projections of equipment demands thereby reducing procurement and distribution requirements. Between May and September 2008, lean fielding realized $28.5 Million in cost avoidance.

Additionally, RFI has shifted its focus from unit-based fielding to role-based fielding which considers each Soldier's function and each unit's mission when planning and executing pre-deployment fielding. This focus prioritizes available resources to equip the Deployment Expeditionary Forces in the Army Force Generation (ARFORGEN) force pool. This distribution process ensures the Army's ability to meet near-term equipping requirements of deploying forces while it implements the ARFORGEN cycle for sustained capabilities over time.

What continued efforts does Army have planned for the future?

The Army's Program Executive Office (PEO) Soldier will continue to be proactive in fielding the latest and best combat equipment available to deploying Soldiers. The PEO Soldier will continue to build on the success of RFI. Largely because of the RFI program, the turnaround time for getting essential equipment into Soldiers' hands, or from 'warehouse to foxhole,' has been reduced from months or years to days or weeks. The lessons learned will continue to be invaluable in meeting future equipping requirements and strategies. The PEO Soldier has a vision for centralizing planning, programming, and delivery of the more than 400 items in its portfolio. Centralized planning will be essential as PEO Soldier transforms from a supplemental funding-based resource model to Program Objective Memorandum-based support for Soldier-as-a-System Unit Set Fielding. Centrally managed resources and fielding of equipment under the purview of PEO Soldier will better support unit ARFORGEN training and readiness requirements. Equipping Soldiers in unit sets, in accordance with the ARFORGEN process, will benefit the Army and the industrial base by establishing stable and predictable production requirements to support Army readiness now, and into the future.

Why is this important to the Army?
In October 2002, the Vice Chief of Staff of the Army directed PEO Soldier to develop the RFI process so that it equips deploying Soldiers with enhanced capabilities. This directive initiated the Army's largest equipment fielding effort since World War II, and supplements unit and Soldier equipment with essential capabilities required for success in Overseas Contingency Operations. The program enhances the capabilities of our Active and Reserve Components fighting forces, while ensuring Soldier modernization is carried out in a systematic and integrated manner that is commensurate with the principles of the Soldier-as-a-System philosophy.

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