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We must hold our minds alert and receptive to the application of unglimpsed methods and weapons. The next war will be won in the future, not in the past. We must go on, or we will go under.
--General of the Army Douglas A. MacArthur, while serving as Chief of Staff, 1931
The Bush administration took office amid high hopes for the fundamental transformation of the Armed Forces. Yet within months, the problem that transformation was designed to solve--changing a large, expensive Industrial Age structure, especially the Army, into a leaner, more strategically agile Information Age force--receded as more pressing issues arose. Instead of being transformed, Cold War military structures will remain unchanged for the time being, while morale and quality of life are shored up. Into this policy vacuum, military leaders have tossed an expensive collection of wish lists that tend to one of two extremes: a bigger, faster, better version of some platform already in use, or something out of science fiction with delivery timelines that stretch all the way to 2032. (1) Although these modernization programs are billed as promoting transformation, they are business as usual.
Fortunately, this is not the whole story. Help may be on the way. The terms of reference for the current Quadrennial Defense Review (QDR) anticipate the emergence of new ground, naval, and air forces reorganized for "more rapidly responsive, scalable, modular task-organized units, capable of independent combat action as well as integration into larger joint and combined operations" (2) sometime after 2006. How the bureaucratic politics of service-centric operational thinking and single-service modernization will produce this outcome is unclear.
This statement also begs the question, why wait until 2006 to build joint warfighting capabilities with today's forces and technologies when the United States needs--and can achieve--these capabilities now to protect its global interests? Experience in the private sector demonstrates that successful corporations do not plan to transform in the distant future; they transform constantly, just as the world around them transforms. Military transformation is a process, not an end-state that depends on exotic technologies that may not be available for decades. America can lose its position of military dominance only by standing still and investing in the past.
Transformation--defined as change in the structure of command, control, training, readiness, doctrine, technology, and organization for combat--can produce short-term economies and increased capability well before 2006. Transformation can be phased in now through continuous adaptation, using today's forces and technology with reform and reorganization that will result in significant improvements in the quality of life and morale, as well as the fighting power of soldiers, sailors, airmen, and marines.
The Bush administration needs a unifying strategic vision for the post-Industrial Age that can drive transformation. The first step requires recognizing that the two-major theater war(MTW) capability strategy based on known threats, doctrines, and orders of battle no longer applies. The second step requires developing a new strategic formula for the use of American military power that is neither scenario-dependent nor based on service-centric concepts and structures designed to deploy masses of men and materiel; the focus must be on critical warfighting capabilities.
Dramatic advances in technology and 10 years of experience point the way to a paradigm shift in warfare that will reshape the structure of American military power through the integration of ground, naval, and air forces within a joint, network-centric system of warfare. To cope with the new strategic environment, a new operational paradigm based on air, space, missile, and information power must emerge long before 2006 to support military operations scaled to meet the requirements of any contingency exactly as envisioned by the Secretary of Defense in the context of the QDR. At the same time, a fresh approach to American military strategy and the employment of American military power is needed--an approach that buttresses the stability of key states around the world, preserves American access to critical bases and infrastructure, and operates to prevent regional crises and conflict rather than react to them.
These points raise a host of questions. What conclusions can be drawn about the direction of the Bush administration's strategic review process and its impact on transformation? What are the strategic implications of review recommendations? And, finally, how can the Bush administration move from the implications for change in strategy, structure, and jointness, derived from the strategic review process, to implementation of real transformation?
These are big questions, but transformation, strategy, jointness, and, strange as it may seem, readiness, are inextricably intertwined. Otherwise, transformation is reduced to a service-centric, Industrial Age quest for a new armored vehicle, ship, or airplane that can transform warfare, as the rifled musket and the machine gun are thought to have done. That approach would miss the real promise of the Information Age--the potential for revolutionary change and transformation through the integration of critical military capabilities across service lines.
Where Is Transformation Headed?
In his speech at The Citadel on September 23, 1999, then-Governor George W. Bush promised to begin an immediate, comprehensive review of the American military--the structure of its forces, the state of its strategy, the priorities of its procurement--conducted by a leadership team under the Secretary of Defense. Bush also noted that he wanted to move beyond marginal improvements to replace existing programs with new technologies and strategies and exploit the opportunity to skip a generation of technology. Shortly after being appointed Secretary of Defense in early 2001, Donald Rumsfeld used this guidance to create dozens of panels to study a range of security issues. The reviews ended in June 2001, and administration leanings on the criticality of jointness to …