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Military Transformation Requires Cultural Change

By Steven Donald Smith
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, June 8, 2006 – To be sure, the Defense Department's transformation initiative is about improving military technology, mobility, lethality and speed to meet the 21st century's asymmetrical threats. But it is a cultural transformation as well.

"Transformation is really about cultural changes as much as anything else," said Thomas Hone, the Defense Department's Office of Force Transformation assistant director for risk management, in a June 6 interview. "It means a change in people to maximize their potential."

Changing the way people think about their work will yield better results, he added.

Transformation is a continuing process that does not have an end point. The evolution of concepts, processes, organizations and technology are all part of transformation. Change in any one of these areas necessitates change in all, military officials said.

Hone said that when Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld arrived for his second tour as Pentagon chief in 2001, he was on the vanguard of military transformation.

"He had an intuition," Hone said of Rumsfeld. "And I think the intuition was correct. That intuition was that people could do things very different and the results would be dramatic."

Because transformation represents a shift in fundamental and long-held conventions, it has not been welcome by everyone.

In his commencement speech May 31 at the Air Force Academy, Rumsfeld reiterated that the U.S. must continue to transform and streamline its military forces to meet future challenges. He then pointed out that some people will always be resistant to change and urged the airmen to challenge inherited assumptions and seek out better approaches.

"I urge you to make that the bedrock of your careers," Rumsfeld said during his graduation remarks.

Hone credits the former director of the Office of Force Transformation, retired Navy Vice Adm. Arthur K. Cebrowski, who died in November, for having the broad vision for force transformation. "One of the things that struck him over his long and very successful military career was the way in which war itself was changing," Hone said.

For instance, in the late 1980s and early 1990s, Cebrowski was intrigued by the Revolution in Military Affairs, a theory about the future of warfare. During this time period, the ability to get information on enemy positions became so absolute that large amounts of ordnance were no longer needed to destroy a target.

"Information can displace firepower," Hone said. "You don't need so much firepower, because you know where the target is and you can hit it with precision munitions. You find a target and then you attack it. You'd do all of this in a matter of minutes instead of in a matter of hours or days."

Hone said transformed concepts and technologies have already been put to good use in Iraq. Joint close-air support is provided to ground troops around the clock and in all weather conditions. "Technology and organization makes this possible," he said.

The quick toppling of Saddam Hussein's regime in 2003 is another example of transformation at work. "A relatively small military knocking over the Army of Iraq and removing the regime there from power," Hone said. "That was done with just a little more than 130,000 troops. That's not very much when you're talking about a country of 26 million (people)."

He also stressed the positive impact transformation will have on the U.S. Army as it moves toward brigades that are designed to be highly mobile, self-sufficient and interchangeable.

"You will be able to pull one out and put another in its place," Hone said. "(It's) as though you were pulling a brick out of a wall and putting another back in."

Had the U.S. military had current capabilities during World War II, it could have ended the war in Europe in the fall of 1944 instead of the spring of 1945, Hone said.

"If you could go back to the spring of 1944 and tell General (George S.) Patton that 'We can offer you day-and-night, all-weather, precision bombing. We can offer you coordination between ground and air. We can offer you all the logistics you need when you need it. We'll anticipate what you'll need so it will show up on time. We will offer you combat replacements, so that as soldiers get tired they get replaced by other soldiers who understand the situation.' If you had gone to him and said all that in April 1944, he'd have grabbed every piece of it and the war in Europe would have been over in October 1944," Hone said.

This wish list of hypothetical offerings to Patton is now becoming a reality, he said.

"And that's what we're talking about now," Hone said. "We're talking about getting real intelligence on the enemy in real time. We're talking about making sure that everybody at every level has a shared operating picture."

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