What Can the Fire Service Learn From the Military About Rapid Contracting?

The mission of the U.S. Army’s Rapid Equipping Force is to provide innovative material solutions to initially meet the urgent requirements of U.S. Army forces employed globally and to inform material development for the future force. The REF is designed to increase the rate of innovation to put the United States in a position of advantage. To do this, REF works directly with units in the field to identify urgent requirements ranging across the Warfighting Function areas. To learn more about some of REF’s specific efforts, click here.

Defense Innovation Unit Experimental (DIUx)

Another group to look at for inspiration is the DIUx. The U.S. Department of Defense (DoD) relies on innovation to deter and prevail in conflict. Defense Innovation Unit Experimental (DIUx) increases DoD’s access to commercial technology, with the ultimate goal of accelerating innovation into the hands of the men and women in uniform. The DIUx recently posted an excellent Commercial Solutions Offering (CSO) How-to Guide on their website.

Rapid Contracting in the Fire Service

The key identified goals for gaining firefighter input into technology transfer are to increase the engagement of the fire service in the technology development process and enhance the value that the fire service places on this activity. A specified need is to continue bringing a group of firefighters and fire officers together more often to talk about specific needs. This group should also include product marketers, manufacturers, and design engineers along with representatives from national fire service organizations. This approach can create a strong collaborative voice for movement forward.

The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Science and Technology Directorate (S&T) lead many of the existing activities in this area. Programs such as the First Responders Resource Group are designed to engage responders in focusing S&T’s efforts on the highest priority needs. On the other end of the technology development cycle, S&T also conducts operational field assessments. While these opportunities exist, a broader involvement of the fire service is needed, from individual responders to national organizations, would be beneficial and is warranted.

To achieve rapid innovation in the fire service, we need to engage fire departments in the technology development process, create better feedback loops, identify applicable standards for technologists to consider, and recognize innovative fire departments for their achievements.