Special Operations: Urgent Operational Requirements


February 8, 2008: In the last seven years, Britain has spent over $5 billion to quickly acquire weapons and equipment for its special operations forces. This is the UOR (Urgent Operational Requirements) program, and it has been used 796 times to buy gear for combat operations in Afghanistan and Iraq. UOR is similar to the American "Rapid Fielding Initiative" (RFI). The U.S. program is used by the army and marines as well, but was based on a decades old program employed by SOCOM (Special Operations Command) and, before that, the U.S. Army Special Forces.

RFI was created by senior officers who were also unhappy with what the procurement bureaucracy was turning out. This was helped along by troops rapidly adopting the Internet. With all the email and message board discussions by military personnel about their equipment problems, it was only a matter of time before the politicians got hauled in as well. Unhappy troops, or their friends and family, would bug members of Congress, and that would reverberate off army brass and procurement managers.

For a long time, the troops had little choice, or even much say, in what was bought for them. Part of this was the military's fault, because each of the branches (infantry, armor, artillery, etc) had their own little procurement bureaucracy, which further muddied the water. During World War II, the special operations units were allowed to acquire, and even develop, whatever weapons and equipment they believed they needed to accomplish their missions. The British took the lead in developing commando operations, and special gear needed to get things done. The U.S. Army Special Forces adopted this technique, and much, else from the British after World War II.

Since World War II, Britain and the U.S. have used their special operations troops as something of a laboratory for developing and testing new items. The process has simply speeded up because all the troops are connected via the Internet.


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