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Transforming Defense Report and You

By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Dec. 4, 1997 – Amid discussions of "asymmetric threats" and "transformation strategies," what does the National Defense Panel report to Congress mean for service members?

The nine panel members examined the world of 2020 and projected likely threats facing the United States. Service members entering the military today may see these threats as they near retirement.

If DoD adopts the panel's recommendations, all forces will be faster, more agile, have more firepower and be more precise. When they go on operations, they will carry less. The panel thinks the "logistics footprint" or U.S. forces is far too large.

Under no circumstances should DoD reduce the quality or training of its people, says the panel's report to Congress. "The technology revolution and advanced weapons we seek to embrace will be for naught if we take our military and civilian work force for granted."

Service members will work in an increasingly "joint" environment. Knowing the capabilities, missions and reach of the other services -- and how they fit in with yours -- will become much more important. Intelligence garnered by the Navy a thousand miles away from an Army infantryman might be crucial to his survival. Getting that information, across service and command lines, also becomes important.

Interoperability -- that buzz word from the 1970s -- surfaces again. DoD cannot afford to have systems that cannot talk to or work with other systems. Service members may have to become familiar with systems used by other services.

American service members are used to working with allies, but friendly forces will be more important by 2020, the panel said. Panel members said U.S. security will depend on coalitions we build. Allied resources, strengths and capabilities must be taken into consideration before U.S. service members are committed to operations, the report said.

The reserve component service members must be prepared for many different worldwide operations. Gone, forever, are the days of "weekend warriors." [The reserve components] will play an increasing role in a variety [of operations] by relieving active duty units and reducing the operational and personnel tempos of frequent and lengthy deployments," the report reads.

While the panel praises the Navy, Air Force and Marine Corps for their integration of their reserve components, it blasts the Army and Army National Guard for their "destructive disunity." The panel recommends some National Guard combat units become part of active divisions and brigades. National Guardsmen should play a larger role in "homeland defense" -- responding to domestic emergencies, terrorist attacks and attacks using weapons of mass destruction, the panel says.

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