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Building Capability from the Technical Revolution that Has Happened

Building Capability from the Technical Revolution that Has Happened - Cover

Authored by Dr. John White, Dr. John Deutch.

June 2004

15 Pages

Brief Synopsis

The second annual conference on national security transformation confirms the usefulness of an annual appraisal by knowledgeable security specialists of progress on achieving different elements of transformation. But the conference also demonstrated that changing geopolitical circumstances and consequent national security concerns shape which aspects of transformation capture the most attention.

Key Insights:

• Operations in Iraq and Afghanistan and the war on terrorism have slowed the pace of the transformation programs.
• The level of budgetary resources available to DoD during the next several years is uncertain.
• An urgent need exists for a new alliance system that includes some capability for interoperable transformed military forces.
• Transformed military operational capability has proven valuable for offensive operations, but not for defensive or security and stabilization operations.
• Greater reliance should be placed on achieving incremental transformational improvement from field experiments than on more expansive new platforms.
• The long-term impact of military personnel on transformation and the new security environment deserves attention.
• Greater emphasis on transformation is needed for both the intelligence community and homeland security.

The second annual conference on defense transformation was held on November 14-15, 2003, at the Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs (BCSIA) at Harvard University’s John F. Kennedy School of Government. The conference brought together present and former defense officials and military commanders to discuss progress in achieving transformation of U.S. national security; the conference was sponsored, in part, by the Army War College and BCSIA.

The fundamental idea of transformation is that changes in the geopolitical environment and in technology require the United States to change dramatically its defense enterprise to meet the range of new national security threats. This transformation requirement affects both the Department of Defense (DoD) and all other agencies involved in national security.

The discussion at last year’s conference centered on the implication of transformation for defense programs and doctrine. The difficulty of achieving transformation was emphasized for five reasons. First, the process is complex because it affects many different and fundamental aspects of the joint warfighting system. Second, changes always are resisted in favor of the status quo. Third, transformation must compete for both attention and resources with other priorities. Fourth, increased operations tempo over the last decade have placed increasing demands on resources, forcing the U.S. military to shift to what is being called “in stride” transformation. Finally, transformation is a journey, not a destination.

This year’s discussion was quite different even though the same concerns regarding the implementation of transformation were present. The principal difference was the recent experience of the war in Iraq. Experience from the war offers the opportunity to learn from operational success.

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