White Says Technology Key to Security
By Linda D. Kozaryn
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, May 29, 1997 Harnessing today's revolution in military technology will require a similar revolution in the way the military does business, Deputy Defense Secretary John P. White said in Chicago May 22.
Modernizing U.S. forces is necessary to guarantee the nation's security, White told members of the Chicago Council on Foreign Relations and the Mid-America Committee. "It is time to leap our national defense into the future," he said. "We must begin immediately to build the combat power we need for the uncertainties of tomorrow."
Technology turned the tide during past conflicts, White said. Allied troops defeated Nazi forces during World War II, for example, after the U.S. Army combined new battle-tank technology with new mobile warfighting concepts, tactics and doctrine, he said.
Allied forces won the war in the Pacific by creating aircraft carrier battle groups, combining aircraft, surface ships and new warfighting techniques, White said. Amphibious warfare won the island campaign by combining new ways of fighting with new equipment, he said. More recently, U.S. forces won the Gulf War with technology developed in the 1970s and 1980s.
In the 21st century, U.S. troops will use technology developed today as part of what many call a "revolution in military affairs."
"We can harness this revolution to transform the way our forces fight and give them a superior edge against any adversary," White said. "We must harness this revolution, for if we don't, somebody else will -- to our grave peril."
Stealth aircraft and precision-guided "smart" munitions used in Desert Storm were forerunners of the technology, White said. The next stage involves linking information technology and platforms -- computers, satellites, sensors and reconnaissance -- with a new command and control system.
"This system will give our commanders and our troops what we call 'information dominance' -- a clear, constant and complete picture of the seas, skies, terrain and everything in it -- lightening communications -- and a greater ability to control the combat theater, manage the battle and utilize smart weapons," White said.
Information dominance will provide a quantum leap in capability, he said. "[U.S. forces of the future] will be able to outmaneuver and outposition the enemy with greater intelligence, speed, mobility, agility and versatility. They will be able to identify and destroy targets with pinpoint accuracy. They will have the supplies they need, just in time, when and where they need them."
As a result, White said, fighting units can be smaller and lighter. "They will need fewer weapons platforms. They will cause less collateral damage, and suffer less friendly fire and fewer casualties. They will be able to surprise and overwhelm the enemy and end the battle quickly on our terms -- sometimes even before it starts."
Paying for tomorrow's technology requires launching a revolution today in the military's business affairs, White said. "We need to overhaul the way the department operates, and not just to reduce costs and devote more resources to modernizing the force," he said. "We also need a leaner, more efficient DoD so we can serve the warfighter faster, better and more cheaply. We need a DoD that is just as agile, flexible and responsive as the troops we support."
Modernizing the force, while continuing to meet today's defense needs, is the challenge facing DoD officials, White said. The recently completed Quadrennial Defense Review looked at ways to restructure and reorganize the department to reduce operating costs and provide more money for modernization.
DoD leaders are asking Congress for two more rounds of base closures to get rid of excess infrastructure. The review calls for cutting about 60,000 active duty and 55,000 reserve component troops and about 80,000 civilian employees over the next five or six years. DoD officials also aim to re-engineer support organizations by consolidating, computerizing and commercializing, White said. "The goal in all cases is the same: better service and performance at lower operating costs."
Acquisition reform is also under way throughout the department, he said. DoD is adopting the best commercial standards and commercial buying practices and getting rid of unneeded regulations. "Now we must apply our new acquisition system to all programs, from the big buys to the smaller buys, all the way down to the base level."
Plans also call for relying on the private sector for more support functions, White said. "Our experience with outsourcing shows we can focus better on our core tasks, get better quality service, reduce costs, be more responsive and get better access to new commercial technologies."
Tough choices lie ahead, White said. "The bottom line is do we want to build a superior force for the 21st century or protect an old, inefficient infrastructure from the 20th century?
"Today, we must recognize that when it comes to protecting our national security, there is only one sacred cow, White said. "It is a strong, well-prepared and well-equipped military force. "That must be our single focus as we make the tough national security choices for the next 50 years."