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American Forces Press Service

Facing the Future: Transformation Requires Adaptation

By Gerry J. Gilmore
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, March 25, 2005 Change, Army Chief of Staff Gen. Peter J. Schoomaker recently noted, “tends to indicate an end state,” while military transformation requires “constant adaptation” in response to a changing world.

Schoomaker discussed the philosophy and mechanics of Army modernization within the context of DoD-wide transformation initiatives espoused by Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld during a Pentagon interview with the Pentagon Channel and American Forces Press Service.

Senior service leaders, Schoomaker explained, are working to recast U.S. military forces to become more responsive, flexible and adaptive to better confront 21st-century threats like global terrorism.

This requires “a different set of tool kits,” the four-star general explained, including new-leader training and education processes.

During the Cold War, the Soviet Union presented a readily identifiable threat to America and its allies, Schoomaker recalled. He pointed to the danger posed to Europe and the world by the Russians’ then-vast conventional armed forces and powerful nuclear arsenal.

After the demise of the Soviet Union in 1991 and ensuing rapid globalization, the general noted, lethal technology such as weapons of mass destruction became “more and more available” to rogue states and transnational terrorists.

Schoomaker pointed out the world’s oceans are no longer “the barriers they once were” that had isolated the United States from ethnic, religious and political strife in faraway lands. These geopolitical realities, he noted, are causing the United States to be “challenged in ways that we were not challenged before.”

The Army, America’s largest land military force, must not only be trained and equipped to address potential conventional military threats, Schoomaker maintained, it must also “be very adaptive and agile” to confront the dangers presented by global terrorism.

“That means we need to be more modular, that means we have to have more capability to reach back into the intelligence systems, the communications systems” and joint air and ground fire-support networks, he explained.

The Army is reorganizing itself to field smaller, more capable brigade-sized units, Schoomaker said, that can be deployed much more quickly and perform more tasks than legacy forces under the old-style division system. The Army’s Stryker-armored-vehicle-equipped Interim Brigade Combat Teams embody this transformational thinking.

Schoomaker said the armed services also are making great gains in what’s called joint interoperability, or working together on the battlefield.

In the future, the general predicted, the Army will “count much more on our sister services” for supplemental artillery and air support, as well as logistics needs.

For an example of new agilities offered by joint transformation, Schoomaker pointed to logistics operations in Iraq, where Air Force transport planes are now being used to supplement the re-supply of Army and Marine bases formerly dependent on vulnerable land convoys.

While Army supply vehicles in Iraq are being fitted with supplemental armor to help deter against improvised explosive devices and other insurgent weaponry, Schoomaker observed that you can also “fly over” the threat.

“And so, we’ve worked with the Air Force,” the general noted, to establish aerial supply routes in Iraq to reduce the number of supply trucks exposed to potential enemy attack.

Army, Navy, Air Force and Marine Corps intelligence and reconnaissance assets, Schoomaker reported, are also being pooled in Iraq to help predict and prevent enemy actions.

While acknowledging widespread change can be difficult for servicemembers to embrace at first, Schoomaker asserted it’s important “to maintain the azimuth” of military transformation.

“As you cross each stream, you get better,” he concluded.

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