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Military Must Transform to Meet new Threats

By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Dec. 13, 2001 – "America and our allies must not be bound to the past. We must be able to build the defenses we need against the enemies of the 21st century," President Bush said Dec. 11 during a speech in Charleston, S.C.

Transforming the military has been a priority for the Department of Defense since Bush took office. When Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld came aboard, he stressed that changing the military from a threat-oriented force to a capabilities-based force would be one of his top jobs.

Rumsfeld's consistent message has been that the U.S. military needs to assess the threats of the future and adjust manning, equipment and doctrine to counter those threats. Long before terrorists rammed planes into the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, he hypothesized that enemies would use "asymmetric" means to counter America's preponderance in conventional weapons and tactics.

Military and civilian personnel need to understand that "transformation is not a destination, transformation is a process," said retired Vice Adm. Arthur Cebrowski, Rumsfeld's newly appointed special assistant for transformation.

Military and civilian workers need to shed mindsets conditioned by years of business as usual. "Business as usual means you're dead," Cebrowski said. The events of Sept. 11 prove new threats confront the United States and its allies, and new means must be found to counter them, he remarked.

When people think of transformation, they most often think of new equipment with new capabilities. While this is true, it could also be a case of taking old equipment and using it in a different manner. For example, there were tanks and airplanes during World War I, but it wasn't until the Germans put the two together 20 years later that the world saw the stunning strategy of Blitzkrieg, or "lightning war."

So the object most desired in transformation is a flexible mind, Cebrowski said. Military and civilian workers need to innovate, experiment and try new combinations. They need to design new equipment and think of new ways to use old equipment. They need to look at established ways of doing things and finding better ways. "The Industrial Age is over. The Information Age, the future," he said.

The side that best collects information and disseminates it to decision makers will win the wars of the 21st century.

New equipment will obviously play a large part in transformation. Cebrowski used the experimental ship the Joint Venture as an example. The ship, now undergoing tests in Norfolk, Va., will do many missions. Configured one way, it can deliver a complete Marine unit to the beach in an hour. Configured another way, it is a supply ship, and configured still another, it is a hospital ship. The innards of the catamaran ship can be changed depending on the mission. It also travels at 45 knots and "can turn on a dime," Cebrowski said.

Young sailors and Marines can make a career out of that ship and others like it. While the transformation potential is great, it really will take people to make the most of it.

"They will be (the ones who know) how the equipment works," he said. "They will be the ones figuring out how to man the various configurations for the ship. They will be the ones figuring out the doctrine. They will be the ones figuring out the communications and how the different packages fit together."

Those sailors and Marines will then have to figure out how the ship works with joint forces, the rest of the Navy and Marine Corps.

Cebrowski's recommendation to young people serving DoD today is to get all the education they can. "Be diverse," he suggested. Interest in a great many fields will help new officers, NCOs and civilians in helping transform the military.

"That's not to say we don't need experts," he said. Military and civilian personnel will have to be expert in their core competencies. "But this shouldn't be to the exclusion of all else."

Finally, he said, military and civilian personnel can't be wedded to the past. "If you are doing things one way because that's the way it has always been done, then you need to change your attitude," he said. Doing the same thing over and over in a combat situation, he said, means "you're dead."

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Related Sites:
President Speaks on War Effort to Citadel Cadets: Remarks by the President at the Citadel, Charleston, S.C., Dec. 11, 2001

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