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Facing the Future: Transformation Means Making New Rules
By Samantha L. Quigley
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, April 4, 2005 – As the military began transforming to maintain its competitive advantage, it was retired Navy Vice Adm. Arthur K. Cebrowski, who until recently served as director of Force Transformation, who was at the helm working to reshape the system.
Transformation is about identifying new areas for competition and new bases for competition, Cebrowski said in an interview shortly before he left his position as director. “It’s about creating new rules by which we live, work and perform,” Cebrowski said. “And it is not just about technology or a change in technology, rather it is the co-evolution of technology, processes and organizations.”

In a culture such as the military, change is a constant. But transformation represents a shift in fundamental rules. That type of shift is not always a comfortable experience for everyone involved.

Once the shift has been recognized and made, however, comfort zones return, Cebrowski said. At this point, the system also goes back to modernization, or changes within the established framework of rules.

“There is a threshold that must be overcome that says, ‘I simply can’t get where I need to go if I keep doing things according to the old rules, no matter how good I get at it,’” he said.

That’s because reaching the higher plateau requires crossing a threshold and accepting new rules, Cebrowski said.

As the military continues to cross that threshold, it moves into an area called “networkcentric warfare.” This area is, as Cebrowski said, the military’s response to the Information Age.

“All of society is moving from the Industrial Age to the Information Age,” he said. “Now the military is as well.”

Rather than thinking of “network” as a noun, the military takes the active view of the word. And the results of putting servicemembers in a “networked condition” have already been seen in both Afghanistan and Iraq.

“We see it at the operational level with new higher levels of jointness,” Cebrowski.

The military services are now operating in a new networked environment, one that allows them a new speed in identifying and responding to a situation.

“By virtue of the fact that they suddenly find themselves in this networked environment, behavior changes and so new processes emerge,” Cebrowski said. “In fact, the new level of jointness can be thought of as a whole new organizational structure, … which has emerged over the top of the existing wiring diagrams that are in the manuals.”

While the networkcentric way of waging war has made aspects of fighting easier and more joint, it hasn’t been quite a cure-all.

Logistics are still a barrier during high-intensity combat operations, Cebrowski said. “Right now information systems are outperforming the physical transportation structure,” he said.

Logistics shortfalls and other barriers, like the traditional vertical movement of intelligence information, must be addressed so the speed of information and mobility can be better synchronized, Cebrowski said.

And, while transformation includes organization, process and technical aspects of the military, it also tackles the wise use of defense dollars. “A major element of transformation for us … is in how do we view the relationship between cost and budget,” Cebrowski said.

Times have changed though, he said, and staying beneath the budget line just won’t cut it anymore. What is needed now is a cost strategy that requires a closer look at individual entity costs right down to the individual systems.

Leaders need to reevaluate their approach to defense spending because the character of warfare is changing. The military is finding that small numbers of large, expensive systems are not appropriate for irregular types of warfare, which are seen more and more, Cebrowski said.

“Rather, we are moving into the age of the small, fast and the many. To do that, we need an entirely different approach to what things cost,” he said. “We need to change the way we shop.

“We have to start shopping for defense the way you shop when you want to buy a new computer,” he added.

The strategy is one familiar to bargain-hunters the world over: If it doesn’t cost less and work better, keep looking.

Noncommissioned officers at the junior and mid-grade level who are returning from the battlefield with real-life experience are also aiding the transformation process. They will be the ones to teach the instructors “how it really works and what it really means,” Cebrowski said.

Another personnel issue up for consideration is whether the “up or out” policy is outdated. The military services have polices that prevent individuals who fail to be promoted within a certain timeframe from being retained.

“Perhaps in consideration of the tremendous talent of these Navy captains and these Army and Air Force and Marine Corps colonels, we need to adopt a different personnel management approach for them,” he said.

Overall, not everything old is bad, Cebrowski said. But leaders have to make careful choices about what to keep and keep looking for opportunities. To that end, he said, experimentation is the means.

DoD will do that through “a robust experimentation program,” he said. “(One) that’s born of a culture that wants to do better, that wants to create the future, not just anticipate the future.

“This is what it’s going to take: general awareness that we don’t want to be victims of a future that someone else creates for us,” Cebrowski said. “Rather, we want to seize the future and create it for ourselves.”