Evolving themes in Defense transformation. (President's Perspective).
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 vulnerabiliries. 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 cont emplated 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 effects."
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 to funding.
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 C41, 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 for decades.
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.