Deep inside the sprawling Pentagon, headquarters of US defence establishment, sit a bunch of officials tasked with a singular objective: How to do more defence business with India.
Established in February, shortly after defence secretary Ash Carter took took office, the cell is called the India Rapid Reaction Cell and works as a wing of the office of the undersecretary for defence acquisition, technology and logistics, focussed on co-production and co-development of military equipment.
“The purpose of India Rapid Reaction Cell is to work all the initiatives that we have ongoing under (India-US) DTTI (Defence Trade and Technology Initiative) — both the initiatives that for example came out of the joint statement between the (US) President and the Prime Minister in January (in New Delhi) to move quickly and timely and be through, which in my opinion requires dedicated support to ramp up the operational tempo,” Keith Webster, who heads the cell told PTI, which first reported the existence of this cell.
Since its birth, Webster told PTI, the cell has wrapped up some defence purchase/sale negotiations within months compared to years that it would have taken earlier.
This is the only country-specific cell in the trade and acquisition sphere at the Pentagon.
The Pentagon began removing bureaucratic impediments from its defence trade with India under defence secretary Leon Panetta, who tasked Carter with it, his then deputy.
The US is now the biggest supplier of military hardware to India, replacing Russia, which held that slot for decades. Israel is the third largest.