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The Army’s Robotic Enhancement Program (REP)

The Army’s Robotic Enhancement Program (REP) is a newly established program that uses a “buy-try-inform” methodology to better inform the Army’s emerging requirements and expedite the acquisitions process through the evaluation of robotic solutions. 

The REP mission is to identify and evaluate commercial-off-the-shelf (COTS), government-off-the-shelf (GOTS), non-developmental items (NDI), robot systems, accessories, and or robotic payloads that have the potential to enhance the overall combat effectiveness of the force. Program officials are adamant that the REP shall not be used to "reinvent" technology, nor to launch lengthy development programs.

Proposals received are reviewed and evaluated in the quest for technologies that offer new smaller, lighter, smarter robotic capabilities and/or enhancements that may end up as new initiatives.  As Army COL Kurt Thompson, Director Soldier Requirements Division at the Army’s Manuever Center of Excellence (MCoE) tells DSJ: “REP Institutionalizes a process that enables the Department of the Army the ability to quickly purchase and evaluate small quantities of emerging state-of-the-art robotic solutions.”

Here’s how it works: An individual, organization, or contractor may propose – via http://www.peocscss.army.mil/proposal.pdf -- a relevant non developmental Commercial or Government Off-the-Shelf (COTS or GOTS) robotic item -- hardware, payload, accessory, and or software -- for evaluation under the REP.  Program Executive Office Combat Support & Combat Service Support (PEO CS&CSS), in coordination with the Maneuver Center of Excellence (MCoE) – a so-called “Council of Colonels” -- then reviews submissions and prioritizes items for further consideration.  Selected REP Initiatives may be purchased in limited quantities to enable testing and evaluation.

There were 56 industry submissions under the first (16.1) iteration of the REP early in 2015. Six of these proposals were chosen for demonstration. Program officials note that three REP experiments will be carried out in 3Q2016 at Fort Benning and three will be carried out at Fort Leonard Wood.  28 REP proposals were rejected, and 20 were deferred for future consideration.

COL Kurt Thompson tells DSJ that the suspense date for submissions of proposals for the 16.2 Council of Colonels Review and Decisions is 31 December 2015.  The decision on which proposals are selected for REP 16.2 Initiatives will be made during the REP Council of Colonels on 18 February and the announcement made a few days afterward.  

Thompson notes that the Council of Colonels are looking at some of the referenced deferrals from the first (16.1) round and will consider them during the 16.2 review.  As to focus, Thompson notes: “As we are finalizing the Army's Robotics and Autonomous Systems (RAS) Strategy, we wanted to select some themes that complement it.  The theme for the 16.1 selections focused on urban operations and extending the network.  The emphasis for this next review will still be urban operations and extending the network with addition of an emphasis on EOD capabilities.  As we go forward, we will be looking at some additional themes.  Our next opportunity to socialize those themes should nearly coincide with the distribution of the Army's RAS Strategy during the first quarter of this next calendar year.”

As for the future of the program, the REP will be assessed after three years of operation to evaluate its success. If submitted projects aren't advancing beyond the experimental phase, DoD will cease its funding.  COL Thompson expects that funding for the program will increase over time.