Evolving Themes in Defense Transformation
by Lawrence P. Farrell, Jr.
The buzzwords of the day at the Defense Department are “transformation”
In general, when Pentagon leaders talk about transformation, they
are referring to the idea that the military services will not just
have better technology, but will use both new and old technology
in innovative ways, creating asymmetric advantages and reducing
vulnerabilities. The emphasis likely will be in areas such as intelligence,
power projection, information warfare and space. The technologies
involved will focus on information and communications management,
directed energy, propulsion and unmanned systems.
The Army plans to transform gradually into an Objective Force that
will be lighter, more deployable and “soldier-centric,”
instead of “platform-centric.” The Navy has embraced
the concept of “ForceNet” as a guiding principle that
will result in Navy-wide interoperability, where every ship and
aircraft, as well as Marines, sailors and aviators, are part of
a system of systems. The Air Force, meanwhile, is reorganizing itself
into “task forces,” rather than platforms. The idea
is for each task force to create the desired effects, regardless
of the type of systems being used. (This should be the subject of
another article, but you see the effects here of two revolutionary
concepts: effects-based operations, or targeting, and capabilities-based
acquisition). The Air Force also is focusing its systems requirements
on a strategy called, “Kick Down the Door,” designed
to address the anti-access problem. This recognizes the need to
be able to conduct operations in high-threat environments, in areas
never before contemplated as theaters of operations.
The interesting thing is that, although each service has articulated
its concepts differently, there is an amazing convergence in the
fundamentals. That convergence lies in the fact that all of these
concepts have the intelligent human as the centerpiece. Integrated
weapon systems are designed to leverage the intelligence and flexibility
of the human fighting machine. The implication is that the specific
platforms surrounding the war fighter are not defined separately
from the effects delivered by the “system of systems.”
The criteria for success, then, are measured in “battlefield
The system of systems—not individual platforms—becomes
a critical element. The services have explicitly accounted for this
in different ways. The Army has assigned the commander of the Armor
Center at Fort Knox, Ky., to coordinate the overall requirements
process for the Future Combat System. Each platform requirement
must conform to the overall set of requirements demanded of FCS
and the Objective Force. A single office coordinates overall policy
and strategy for the Objective Force. The Air Force chief, not wishing
to work individual platform requirements in isolation, has created
a deputy for integration whose job is to integrate individual platform
requirements to meet the Air Force strategy. The Navy’s adoption
of network-centric warfare explicitly recognizes the need for a
system-of-systems approach. Every service’s approach to transformation
relies heavily on sharing information.
There is no question that the service acquisition corps, the war
fighters who set requirements, the testers and industry have a significant
challenge to make it all work. Industry, after all, should be viewed
as a “fifth service.” To be effective, however, industry
must understand not only what transformation is about, but also
what role it will play in achieving that transformation.
On the requirements issue, it’s worth noting that, with the
adoption of spiral development and evolutionary acquisition, the
Pentagon is hoping to expedite the procurement process and encourage
acquisition managers to be pragmatic. Rather than aiming for a “100-percent
solution” that takes 20 years to complete, they will strive
for an 80-percent solution that can be fielded to the troops faster
and at affordable prices.
Spiral development must be successful for the services to transform,
but the testing community has concerns, for example, that the testing
and evaluation process is not structured for spiral acquisitions.
That problem must be addressed.
It is also important for the requirements process to have a funding
path to which the services will commit, without wavering. By fielding
systems faster, it will become easier to underwrite more commitment
What are some other specific issues that need to be worked on?
The bandwidth problem is one. That should not surprise anyone.
As the Defense Department works on the transformation effort, there
is not enough thought going into the bandwidth crunch that the services
will face in the era of network-centric warfare. The Army, for instance,
is planning to field a Future Combat System whose most powerful
capabilities will be in command, control, communications, intelligence,
reconnaissance and surveillance (C4ISR). The entire logistics system
will be based on information exchange in real time. There is not
likely to be enough bandwidth to satisfy future needs. The Pentagon’s
assistant secretary for C4I, John Stenbit, unveiled a new concept
for a laser-based satellite network that will provide unlimited
bandwidth. That sounds exciting, but it may not come to fruition
Another potential obstacle to transformation is the difficulty
in streamlining the logistics of deploying a force. That is especially
true for the Army. The good news is that the Army’s transformation
plan and its FCS blueprint are precisely aimed at lightening the
force. But until the Objective Force becomes reality in 10-15 years,
the Army must deal with the problem of how to improve the fuel efficiency
of its vehicles and come up with innovative ways to lower the logistics
burdens, such as generating water and fuel in the field.
The challenges ahead are quite formidable.
One final thought on the difficulties. The system-of-systems approach
will require a better focus on capstone requirements. Then, the
platforms themselves will need well-defined requirements that flow
from a high-level blueprint. Furthermore, the individual paths for
each platform need to be explicit and adequately funded. We have
not done this very well in the past. We must achieve improvements
in these areas, so we can ensure that major weapons systems survive
in the long term.