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Conference on Defense Transformation
Remarks as Delivered by Deputy Secretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz, Washington DC, Friday, February 27, 2004

Thank you, Ed [Feulner, President, Heritage Foundation], and everyone. Congratulations to Heritage on this new building and new auditorium. It's a great institution. It's remarkable what you've built in the time you've been here.


You mentioned anniversaries. Last year we celebrated the 100th anniversary of flight.  We launched the celebration. Some in this room may not be aware that this month marks the 96th anniversary of the first contracts in the aerospace business to the Defense Department. It was a contract to the Wright brothers in which they promised to deliver a heavier‑than‑air machine in 200 days for which they would be paid $25,000. That's current dollars, as we say in the Pentagon -- then-year dollars, as we say. [Laughter]


They promised that it would meet Signal Corps Specification No. 48.  Let me read you that spec. It goes, "The machine must be capable of carrying two persons at a speed of 40 miles per hour, staying in the air for at least one hour, and landing without serious damage." [Laughter]


When you consider that that spec numbered about 30 words, I'll leave it up to you decide just how far we've come in the last 96 years. We still have four more years before the hundredth anniversary.  Maybe we can get it right by then, I don't know, at least with regards to government procurement and paperwork.


There's a lot of transformation that needs to be done. I appreciate what the organizers of Heritage have done to bring together such an extraordinary series of panels on what I think is one of the most important subjects facing the country today and certainly facing the Defense Department.  And in truth, I'd rather be in the audience listening to people like Andy Marshall and Art Cebrowski than up here speaking.  But it's my job to open this conference, and it's a pleasure to be able to do so.


Maybe I could help to set the stage for today's dialogue by recalling some of how we got here and some of the actions that have been taking place in the last three years during my time at DoD with Don Rumsfeld. In fact, it's almost three years to the day since President Bush gave DoD our marching orders on transformation.


Within a month of his inauguration, the President acted to fulfill his campaign pledges to protect the United States against what he called “the dangers of a new era.”  He said -- and I quote -- "At my request, Secretary of Defense Rumsfeld has begun a comprehensive review of the U.S. military, the state of our strategy, the structure of our forces, the priorities of our budget."


The President went on, "I have given him a broad mandate to challenge the status quo as we design a new architecture for the defense of America and its allies."


And he added, "We do not know yet the exact shape of our future, but we do know the direction we must begin to travel" -- a direction that he then described with words like “lighter,” “more lethal,” “easier to deploy and sustain,” and “pinpoint accuracy.”


There was, moreover, an urgency to the President's directive even in early 2001. As he put it, "We must use this time well. We must seize this moment."


In fact, time was shorter than we knew, as we learned just seven months later on September 11, 2001.


In the wake of that terrible attack on America, some people said the global war on terrorism meant that transformation had to be put on the back burner. Don Rumsfeld thought otherwise.  He said, "The global war on terror has made transforming an even more urgent priority. Our experience on September 11th made clear that our adversaries are transforming the ways in which they will threaten our people. We cannot stand still."


And we haven't. We have continued to transform America's defense, even as we wage deadly war on our enemies. The resulting changes have involved a full range of military capabilities, including hardware, doctrine, communications, organization and training.


The most obvious changes, those that seem to make the headlines, are those that involve systems and platforms.  And I will talk in a few minutes about what I think is the tendency at times to focus too much on platforms as a measure of transformation.


I was very struck more than 15 years ago, I think it was, when Andy Marshall first introduced me to the fact which I thought startling at the time -- it may be commonplace now and maybe everyone's heard it, in which case forgive me -- but it wasn't the Germans who invented tanks, it wasn't the Germans who first fielded tanks in warfare. In fact, it was the British and French in World War I who first fielded them.


The Germans didn't outpace the British and French in the conception of tanks. At the time of the battle in France, the British and French had as many tanks in the field as the Germans.


And yet because the Germans had figured out how to organize and use tanks in a way that transformed warfare, they were able to defeat Britain and France in the space of four weeks in truly stunning fashion.


So it isn't just about technology, it isn't just about platforms, it's about much more than that. But when it comes to platforms, let me also emphasize it isn't just about how many obsolete or outdated systems you kill. Sometimes when I read the press, that seems to be some people's measure of transformation. By that measure, some of our European allies who seem to be taking their defense budgets down to zero would be in the lead of transformation. That's not the kind of transformation we're trying to do in the Defense Department.


We are trying to shift resources and we're doing it, I think, in some very significant ways.  But it's not simply to go out of systems that are less needed, it's to go into systems that are more needed.


One example is the cancellation in 2001 of DD21, the Navy's future surface combatant program, a program that incorporated some truly brilliant technology but that no longer looked like the right ship for this new era. Now, instead of producing a single ship class, the Navy’s renamed DD(X) program will produce a family of advanced technology surface combatants able to meet a range of threats and mission needs, including what we call the Littoral Combat Ship, that will enable us to operate more effectively in close-in coastal waters, a mission that looks increasingly important and difficult in the future.


Another example was the decision by the President that in the post‑Cold War era we didn't need the same level of nuclear force that we had in the past and that four Trident submarines -- as someone described them, workhorses of the Cold War -- could be demobilized and converted into conventional cruise missile carriers. And more importantly, I am finding as the Navy begins to bring these ships into initial operational capability, the enormous volume that the Trident provides allows Naval Special Forces to think about using submarines in ways that weren't conceivable in the past.


Similarly, the decision to cancel the Crusader artillery system with so much attention when it was canceled has enabled us to move those resources, not out of Army indirect fire systems.  In fact, the total investment in Army indirect fire since the cancellation of Crusader has actually gone up.


I had a chance to visit the Army Artillery School in Fort Sill a few weeks ago and I was very pleased with what the Army is doing with that increased investment. It is accelerating things like the Excalibur artillery round, a round that can give us 10‑meter accuracy in artillery.  And I think that kind of accuracy in artillery will have the same kinds of transforming effects that we saw with naval cruise missiles or with air-delivered bombs.


It's led the Army to accelerate the High Mobility Artillery Rocket System, a rocket system that permits us to deploy artillery and eventually very accurate artillery in C‑130s and extend the reach of indirect fire into new areas.


As Secretary Rumsfeld said at the time of that decision, it was not a decision about a single weapon system, but about a strategy of warfare, he said, that drives the choices we must make about how best to prepare the nation's total forces for the future.


A similar analysis went into the Army's very recent decision to cancel the Comanche helicopter program and shift those resources into other areas of Army aviation, the net result of which is some 800 additional helicopters that will be bought over the course of a five‑year defense program in place of the 120 Comanches.


It's a complicated issue which I guess you may discuss later on the program, but it very much reflects the fact that Comanche -- unlike the Wright brothers, which you may notice were moved into procurement five years after first flight -- Comanche, I believe, was first discussed in 1978 on the drawing boards. So it's 26 years, and it's not surprising that the world is a little different today, that the radar threat to helicopters is not the primary focus, which is what Comanche was meant to counter, and that we can with other helicopter systems accomplish the Army's missions much more effectively.  And that's what this decision was about.


As I said earlier, transformation is about a good deal more than just platforms. It's about more than just technology. In fact, I would say it's not even primarily about technology. Changes enabled by new networking and information technology have taken the potential of joint operations to a new and unprecedented level, and that is more than just a platform change. It requires a change in the way we organize, and it requires changes in organizational culture.


Indeed, I've said sometimes that if you want to look at transformation, a great example of transformation is the Goldwater‑Nichols Act of ‑‑ correct me if I'm wrong ‑‑ 1987 that has helped to transform the way in which we approach jointness in the Department of Defense. I remember when I came in as Under Secretary under Secretary Cheney it was a rather new innovation. The full impact of it really could only just barely be glimpsed. We've seen it dramatically, though, in the course of the last two years of war when jointness, combined with new communications technologies and networking technologies, has been able to allow us to combine forces widely disparate geographically, where there's been precision air support to such strange formations as the Northern Alliance in northern Afghanistan -- something that I don't think could have been contemplated when Goldwater‑Nichols was enacted, but something that would not have probably been possible without that landmark legislation.


That combination, in fact, enabled American ground forces in Iraq to achieve what the President has rightly characterized as “one of the swiftest advances of heavy arms in the history of warfare.”  It also made possible the use of Special Forces on a hitherto unprecedented scale.


We saw that in Afghanistan where Special Forces rode literally on horseback. I had the honor and privilege of meeting with some of these young kids who had gone in in the very early days of the war.  At their first meeting with General Dostum, they weren't sure, they told me, whether he was going to kill them or embrace them. After the first embrace, fortunately, they were then told to get on horseback.  Only one of them had ever been on a horse in his life, and there they were off on a cavalry charge and within a very short time after that calling in B‑52 strikes.


It has led me to observe over and over again that we have this amazing combination of a literally 19th century horse cavalry, with 50‑year‑old B‑52s, combined with modern communications into a true 21st Century capability.


Don Rumsfeld was asked in one of his famous press conferences what he had in mind by bringing the horse cavalry back into modern warfare.  He said, “It's all part of our transformation plan.” [Laughter]


The fusion of human intelligence with electronic intelligence is occurring at an unprecedented rate, made possible by these information technologies and by concepts like chatrooms, something that all of your teenagers know about and those of us over 50, sometimes we do and sometimes we don't, but it's amazing to get briefed on what those young 20‑year‑olds are doing in AWACS crews and in other crews, integrating multiple chatrooms during the course of both wars.  It's enabled us to develop new tactics in Iraq for force protection to counter threats like improvised explosive devices.


It's also having an impact on organizations. Who would have imagined ‑‑ well, somebody imagined it, but it certainly wouldn't have happened in the past ‑‑ that you could have had a conventional tank company being flown to an improvised desert strip in C‑17s to be placed under the command of a lieutenant colonel from Special Forces? I don't think the Army would have even thought about that before.  And of course the regular Army are proud to point out that this lieutenant colonel proceeded to dump his first tank into a deep hole which he never got it out of.


But the fact is that the rest of the tanks under Special Forces command -- for the first time, I think, in our military history -- were able to block the road from Baghdad to Tikrit at an early stage of the war, something that would not have been possible in an earlier era.


And this ability of different units across different services to function jointly is also leading to a revolution in training, which you will be talking about later with Paul Mayberry and others from the Defense Department, I know.


It wasn't so long ago that I heard some very senior generals and very smart ones, too --  I'm not being critical in this -- observing that the tank commander really doesn't need to know what the guy in the cockpit is looking at. Well, that era has passed, and we're looking now at how to integrate tank training with Air Force training, and we are persuaded that trying to create a new joint national training center was the wrong way to go. We have some absolutely incredible individual service training centers, but it's possible, again thanks to a lot of virtual technology and modern information technology, to combine what's being done at Nellis with what's being done next door at Fort Irwin and in the various other service training centers around the country. And this will be called not a joint national training “center,” but a joint national training “capability,” which I think will bring jointness into the training area in a dramatic and important way.


Our transformation also has to do with how we manage the Department of Defense. As Secretary Rumsfeld put it, “In an age when terrorists move information at the speed of an e‑mail, money at the speed of a wire transfer, and people at the speed of a commercial jetliner, the Defense Department is bogged down in the micromanagement and bureaucratic processes of the industrial age -- not the information age. Some of our difficulties,” he admitted, “are self‑imposed.… Some are the result of law and regulation. Together they have created a culture that too often stifles innovation.”


We're trying to change some of that, and we've had some great help from the Congress in last year's Defense Authorization bill with the civilian personnel system in Defense. It has made important changes to Civil Service rules that we think will allow us in the personnel area to replace some old and archaic procedures with a culture that encourages innovation and intelligent risk-taking.


Taken together, we are moving from a framework that focuses in the past on known threats, to a more flexible framework based on capabilities to defend ourselves from shifting and uncertain threats … from a focus simply on programs and platforms, to a focus on results … from segmented information and closed information architecture, to network information and open architectures … from stovepiped competitive organizations ‑‑ these bureaucratic phrases really do mean something; we could explain them in a longer discussion ‑‑ from stovepiped competitive organizations, to aligned organizations with common and shared objectives … and from what is called “deliberate planning” -- which is to say planning done in excruciating detail and such excruciating detail that it takes four to ten years to do a plan, by which time the conditions for which the plan was created have totally changed -- we're trying to adjust from that to what we call, in the lingo of the Department of Defense, “adaptive planning.” There's a very important change hidden behind those two terms.


And of course transformational change doesn't come easily to any organization, let alone military institutions that have to rely on tradition. I think one of the great strengths of our individual services is the extraordinary tradition that goes with each of those great services.


There's a wonderful example, though, of tradition run amok during World War II. It involved the effort to look at how to increase the rate of artillery fire in the British army.  And the British called in a time-motion expert to study the gun crews at work, and he was struck by something that he couldn't put his finger on. He took slow motion pictures of the soldiers as they loaded, aimed, and fired and discovered that, just a moment before firing, two members of the gun crew would cease all activity and come to attention for a period of three seconds.  And then the gun would be fired. He was puzzled by this. So was an old colonel of artillery with whom he shared the film.  And then all at once the old colonel brightened up, and he said, "I have it. They're holding the horses." [Laughter]


We can find any number of such stories to illustrate the point.  But I want to stress that our military leaders today have embraced change as a necessity, painful though it sometimes is, as the Army just did with the decision on Comanche. I can't say enough about the enormous quality of the current leadership. I've had the privilege over many years of knowing many chiefs of services and many chairmen of the Joint Chiefs. I don't know of a finer group than Chairman Dick Myers; Vice Chairman Pete Pace; our new Chief of Staff of the Army, Pete Schoomaker, who gave up a very comfortable and well‑earned retirement to come back to active duty; Admiral Vernon Clark, the CNO; General Mike Hagee, the Commandant of the Marine Corps; General John Jumper, the Chief of Staff of the Air Force.


It is an outstanding group and their commitment is matched by our combatant commanders in the field, including that great hero Tommy Franks, who put together two extraordinary innovative battle plans for Afghanistan and for Iraq in record time; and his successor out at CENTCOM, John Abizaid, whose leadership in the continuing war has been so impressive.


But most of all, I can't conclude anything on this subject without mentioning our people. Our people are the key to everything, and our people are incredible -- officers and enlisted men. I think one of the great exciting things about the American military is in fact the quality of the non‑commissioned officers.


I remember General [Sergei] Akhromeyev, a former Marshall of the Soviet Union, when he first visited the United States, he was impressed by our technology, but he was stunned by our sergeants. Other militaries just don't delegate that kind of authority down to that level, and I guess they can't.


I am stunned by the sheer ingenuity of our soldiers in Iraq. Their courage we know about; the ingenuity is amazing.


I remember back in July walking around the tents there in Mosul in northern Iraq with this young Army captain who commanded the company that had security for the town square.  And as we passed one side of the square where the butcher shops were, he explained to me that, for the butchers of Mosul, liberation meant they could now slaughter sheep in the town square and leave the carcasses in the street. Of course in the old days they would have simply dealt with this, I guess, by shooting a couple of butchers, and the rest would have fallen into line. That's exactly what we are not there to do.


So what did this young captain do? He organized an association of butchers of Mosul and negotiated with the butchers, and he explained to them that it was not acceptable to be leaving the carcasses in the street and the problem was soon cleaned up. And I jokingly asked him, "Was there a course at West Point where they taught you how to organize a butcher's association?" And, of course the answer was, "No."


We asked a similar question of a Marine lieutenant colonel who was in charge of one of the key Shia cities in the south.  I think it was Karbala. His answer was, "I learned it in sixth grade."


There is something about American ingenuity and American civic culture that is combined with American military courage that is producing incredible results in Iraq and Afghanistan and around the world, and that is what our whole transformation rests on.


I just leave you with three thoughts about where transformation should go. 


First of all, it has to continue.  As Secretary Rumsfeld said, the war is not an excuse to delay transformation; it's a reason to accelerate it. And, indeed, in some respects, change comes easier in wartime because people understand the need for change. I imagine it didn't take long to point out to those British artillerymen that it wasn't a terribly efficient use in wartime to stand and wait holding the horses that weren't there any more. But we have to continue the transformation that's been going on. We've got to take jointness to a new and higher level. Technology permits it.  The organization needs to get out of the way of it.


Second, and very importantly, I think we need to think about transformation in the context of the global war on terrorism. I think one area that we have neglected for a long time as a country and as a military is the area of irregular warfare. There are many dimensions to this. I will say, in my experience over the last two or three years, the key one is our ability to work with indigenous forces, to train and to organize them, to equip them, and to fight alongside them or with them. It is the key to success in Afghanistan; it is the key to success in Iraq. We are making remarkable progress in both of those countries, but we're doing it somewhat against our own culture, and we're having to learn on the run.


Remember, it was General Abizaid who said to me that for our regular tank units it's been difficult to think about training, taking Iraqi forces and using them, and you can understand why. Because we'll never have Iraqi forces that can do a complicated warfare maneuver of the sort that we train for out at Fort Irwin.


I remember being in Afghanistan and visiting the training of the Afghan National Army. There was a Special Forces site, and they were doing training.  I asked someone afterwards:  Special Forces are stretched thin around the world. Training ought to be fairly simple. Why can't we have some regular Army or even Marine Corps people here doing this training?


The explanation that was given to me made a lot of sense. He said we need people doing this training who understand what a Third World Army is capable of and is prepared to live with that standard and don’t insist on training to the standards of the U.S. military.


It's an interesting notion that transformation in the area of irregular warfare means understanding how to lower those incredible standards that we've done such a great job of bringing our armed forces to. It's a complicated world out there, but a key to winning this war on terrorism, I am convinced, and certainly in Afghanistan and Iraq, is getting the people who are on our side able to fight with us.


That also involves another kind of transformation and that is taking more advantage of the extraordinary resource in this country that comes from our immigrant population. This is on the civilian bureaucracy side as much as it is on the military.  It is still a lot more difficult in my view than it should be to bring Afghan-Americans into the American military or the American Defense Department; or Iraqi-Americans into the American military or the American Defense Department. Stop and think, it's pretty obvious how valuable those people can be in the context of fighting today. You realize that that's a transformation that needs to take place.


Finally, I would also urge us to think around the corner to the ugly things that might happen in the future, to “what” might threaten us, as opposed to “who” might threaten us, which is my shorthand for a capabilities-based strategy as opposed to a threat-based strategy. I think bio-defense is something that has to take a much higher priority in the Defense Department and in the country. It's a horrible thing to contemplate. It is difficult to deal with. But that difficulty is not an excuse for not thinking about it.


So if I can leave you with those three challenges, I want to congratulate Heritage on pulling together such a fine conference, and I look forward to hearing the results. Thank you