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War Is No Impediment To Transformation

April 2003
By Robert K. Ackerman and Beverly P. Mowery
E-mail About the Author

Changes currently underway are essential to victory in conflict.

The force transformation that is sweeping the U.S. military is an integral part of the global war on terrorism. Rather than being a hindrance to the 18-month-old war, this transformation may be necessary for U.S. forces to prevail both at home and abroad. The transformation is not merely about technology, however. Cultural and organizational concepts must be changed, and all of the services and the Congress must develop new ways of funding and enacting defense changes.

These and many other views were offered at West 2003, the symposium and exposition held jointly by AFCEA International and the U.S. Naval Institute. Taking place on January 14-16 at the San Diego Convention Center, the event was held against a backdrop of local force deployments to the Iraq region.

Featuring the theme “The Next Step: From Change to Transformation,” West 2003 opened with a pair of four-star presentations, one of which aptly demonstrated some of the very technologies featured at the show.

Leading with the kickoff address was Adm. Thomas B. Fargo, USN, commander of the U.S. Pacific Command. Noting that “the old threat paradigm has passed,” the admiral warned that the events of September 11, 2001, brought a new sense of urgency. He described our enemies in the war on terrorism as “undeterrables,” and just as the threat has transformed, so must military capabilities and relationships also transform.

Adm. Fargo described how his command’s adjustments to the new era in many ways mirror those facing the whole U.S. defense establishment. Just as the war on terrorism is global, so too are other security interests. For the command to carry out its responsibilities over half the Earth’s surface, its assets—particularly its command and control structures—must be adaptable and capable of meeting a wide range of activities.

At the top of the admiral’s wish list is a capability to deal with short-range ballistic missiles. This capability must be rapidly deployable, he emphasized. He also lauded the high-speed vessel, or HSV, one of which was used in the joint East Timor operation with Australia, and called for a reconfigurable version. An improved network capability also is key, he added, and he described the command as being “ISR [intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance]-poor.”

The problem with intelligence is not on the analytical side, but in the sensors arena, he continued. Worldwide demands, especially from the U.S. Central Command, have forced moving some of his command’s ISR assets to Southwest Asia. So, the Pacific Command tends to get “less of a look” at what is important to its mission.

The admiral also discussed some of the measures he is taking to ensure that the Pacific Command supports operations in Southwest Asia and the Middle East while meeting its other ongoing obligations. For example, he is considering regular deployment of ISR assets, bombers and fighter aircraft to Guam. The command is working to improve force capabilities by training in actual conflict environments such as the Philippines. Adm. Fargo also predicted that Japan’s role in regional security will increase, and he cited that country’s support in refueling ships for the coalition against al Qaida.

Calling the Defense Department’s Global Information Grid (GIG) “a good start, but needing more rigor,” the admiral noted that the command has developed a framework that maps new solutions on the GIG.

The speaker at the keynote luncheon was Gen. Richard B. Myers, USAF, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. Facing several key tasks in Washington, including a meeting with the president, Gen. Myers took advantage of information technology advances to address the San Diego show through a two-way videoconferencing hookup from the Pentagon. Luncheon attendees were able to see him on two large projection screens and ask him questions at the conclusion of his address.

Gen. Myers addressed the issue of transforming the military while simultaneously fighting a war on terrorism by declaring that, “We must, and can, do both at the same time.” He noted that changes in doctrine, organization, training and logistics made the difference in World War II. The key to understanding transformation is that it is not about a new weapon system but, instead, is a process and a mindset.

For the transformation to succeed, the military must adopt a policy that applies capabilities to an assigned mission. This also may involve a national security strategy that links service and joint concepts. Gen. Myers described this period as “an exciting time for a concept like this” and one that was needed for a long time.

To be successful, the transformation must embrace three key elements, the general declared. The first is intellectual. “The key lies between the ears of the warfighter.” People must have the necessary knowledge to make the transformation work.

The second element is cultural. The military must reward risk-taking. This is not to encourage recklessness but instead to support educated risk-taking—breaking out of conventional operational and thought patterns—that envelop organizations.

The third element is the technology aspect. If there is one piece that will glue the entire transformation together, it is the command, control, communications, computers, intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (C4ISR) element, Gen. Myers stated. But, he told technology manufacturers to adjust to the warfighter and not to expect the warfighter to adjust to them.

Winning the war on terrorism will require improving how the U.S. military shares information among warfighters, the general declared. Data must be made into more useful information that enables the warfighter to assess the situation and act faster than the enemy. This includes giving commanders a common picture of the battlefield. In operation Anaconda in Afghanistan, coalition forces were outnumbered three to one. They prevailed in spite of a common picture that was not particularly effective. Accordingly, “We were not as successful as we could have been,” he offered.

After Gen. Myers’ luncheon address, the day’s only panel discussion reviewed some of the events experienced in Afghanistan. The lively panel featured four active-duty officers who related experiences in Afghanistan. Moderated by Adm. Leighton W. Smith Jr., USN (Ret.), former commander, U.S. Naval Forces Europe, the officers discussed lessons learned and contrasted operation Enduring Freedom with other conflicts, including the 1991 Gulf War.

Capt. Robert S. Harward, USN, commander, Naval Special Warfare Group One, described how the presence of terrorists from diverse regions such as Chechnya and China among captured al Qaida forces illustrates the global nature of the threat. He stated that operation Anaconda was a success in that it turned the Taliban and its al Qaida allies from a fighting force to a group of scattered remnants on the run. “It’s where we really whacked ’em,” he declared.

The captain’s choices for the top three types of ISR were the Predator unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV), which allowed personnel in the tactical operations center to watch battles in real time; the U.S. Navy P-3 aircraft, which could communicate directly to forces on the ground; and the ground-based observer marking a target. He also cited the value of 24-hour coverage from AC-130 gunships providing precision firepower from above the battlefield.

Rear Adm. Thomas E. Zelibor, USN, former commander, Carrier Group Three, allowed that tactical air forces could not have done what they did without special operations forces on the ground. Despite language and cultural differences with allied Afghan forces, U.S. special operations personnel achieved their goals in defeating al Qaida.

However, he cited a problem that has emerged with the increasing number of operations that combine U.S. Atlantic and Pacific assets. West Coast forces and East Coast forces are designed for different coalition operations, and they often suffer interoperability conflicts when they combine in a single operation. Add NATO forces, and the problem is compounded.

Capt. Phil Wisecup, USN, former commander of Destroyer Squadron 21, echoed Capt. Harward’s remarks on how the Navy’s P-3 aircraft proved especially useful in support of combat operations. Describing the aircraft as having great capabilities, he stated that it could find and do things in half the time usually needed for such tasks.

Lt. Col. Clark Lethin, USMC, cited the high quality of U.S. personnel active in the Afghanistan operation. His advice to future commanders was, “Trust your instincts; trust your people—you’ve got the finest people in the world working for you.”

Leading off the second day of West 2003 was a breakfast address by Adm. Robert Natter, USN, commander, Fleet Forces Command, and commander, U.S. Atlantic Fleet. Adm. Natter emphasized the importance of supporting change, as long as it benefits the warfighter. Advances in technology are outpacing the military’s ability to choose, develop and field these new technologies, he stated. As a result, U.S. forces are losing out on some capabilities.

“I’m all for change, as long as it benefits the warfighter,” the admiral declared.

Some of the recent priorities for the Navy have been anti-submarine warfare (ASW) and mine warfare, and the early attention that they received has benefited the Navy, the admiral says. Experience gleaned from the experimental HSV is being applied to operational sets and objectives for HSV-2. And, the new cruise missile nuclear submarine—which can fire 154 Tomahawk missiles—is undergoing its first sea trials.

However, the Navy—as with the other services—must choose its course of action carefully to maximize positive effects. Simply advocating all manner of innovative efforts actually is counterproductive. “Being a champion for all investments means being a champion for none of them,” Adm. Natter stated.

Training remains a challenge, especially in the face of ongoing efforts to close down some existing target ranges. This is compounded by new capabilities that allow the Navy to place ordinance on a target many miles away. This renders many existing ranges inadequate for proper training. The Navy is looking at simulation to relieve some of the pressure, and the admiral notes that the U.S. Air Force has been “supportive and cooperative” in the Navy’s efforts to solve its training challenges.

The admiral lauded the Navy’s relationship with the private sector, saying that the service’s partnership with industry has given the United States the best and most capable Navy in the world. And, with the Navy experiencing the best rate of retention in years, its personnel are ready for whatever operations are demanded of them.

Wednesday’s luncheon speaker, Undersecretary of the Navy Susan Morrisey Livingstone, presented a picture of network-centric warfare that is as laden with hazards as it is with opportunities. Livingstone’s cautionary notes were built around the concern that an over-emphasis on technology would cause planners to overlook other important aspects that could undo the gains offered by the transformation.

“Don’t forget the basics—sweat the small stuff, because wars may be won or lost on this,” she warned.

The United States never will have all of its sailors, Marines and aviators on the same technology level at the same time, she declared. For example, Seabees still have 1950s equipment, and the USS Constellation ignites its boilers with a Zippo lighter. C4ISR is still limited and undercut by organizational bureaucracy, computer blips and information overload. Citing Vice Adm. Arthur K. Cebrowski, USN (Ret.), she reiterated that transformation is far more than technology—transformation is the co-evolution of technologies, organizations and concepts.

Livingstone described the Navy/ Marine Corps partnership as reaching profound, historic and absolutely transformational levels. The marriage of the Navy’s Sea Power 21 and the U.S. Marine Corps’ Strategy 21 represents the opening of the door to the future for both services.

However, she bemoaned the Navy’s decline in space operations. Citing the many advances in space operations—such as the global positioning system (GPS)—that the Navy brought to the military, Livingstone noted that the sea service has lessened its leadership role in space. While a new naval space policy is in the works, the Navy still has a long way to go before it is a full partner in national security space, she stated. And, the Navy’s transformation will not succeed without space.

Wednesday attendees had their choice of three vital panel discussions. The first, “How Is the Role of Aircraft Changing,” explored the new challenges and capabilities of aircraft in the transforming force.

Maj. Gen. Dennis T. Krupp, USMC (Ret.), former commanding general of the 2nd Marine Air Wing, noted that the matching of current capabilities to new mission requirements has accelerated. However, doctrine is way behind what U.S. forces can do now. With technologies such as forward-looking infrared and GPS, tactical aircraft now are providing real-time or near-real-time intelligence to the ground commander. UAVs are a good addition to the battlespace, but planners have yet to figure out how to get their information to warfighters on the ground.

“We are truly now the airborne artillery to the ground warfighter,” he declared.

Patrick J. Finneran Jr., vice president/general manager of naval aircraft programs for Boeing Integrated Defense Systems, stated that change is about how aircraft perform their missions, not what missions they perform. Three change areas are driving transformation: the political demand for no collateral damage in an air strike, the changing nature of the threat, and acquisition costs that are based on Cold War attitudes.

Among the key acquisition needs is a global strike network that can accommodate everything from a 40-year-old B-52 to the newest aircraft in the inventory, he continued. Networking aircraft into a battle management system while making them communication nodes provides real-time data to the infosphere, he added. Aircraft must take advantage of electronic countermeasures, precision-guided munitions and low radar cross-sections.

Rear Adm. Thomas J. Kilcline Jr., USN, director, Aviation Plans and Requirements Branch, described how technology is providing quantum leaps in naval aviation capabilities. The next generation of nuclear-powered aircraft carriers will see a 25 percent increase in sustained operations and a 30 percent increase in surge operations. Many new and updated aircraft have greatly improved capabilities.

Precision-guided munitions have provided a tenfold increase in the circular area of probability. Right now, he reported, the Navy alone has contracted for 1,000 joint direct attack munitions.

Attendees at the day’s second panel learned that today’s ships must continue to support the long tradition of keeping the fighting away from the United States and keeping the enemy off its shores. The ships must be forward, offensive, dominant on seas and able to secure sea lanes as they support forces going forward, explained Vice Adm. Alexander Krekich, USN (Ret.), president and chief executive officer, Norfolk Shipyard and Drydock Corporation.

Leading off the panel “What Do We Want Our Ships to Do,” Adm. Krekich stressed that the numbers do count, and a 290-ship Navy is too small. Dr. Scott C. Truver, panel moderator and group vice president, National Security Studies, Anteon Corporation, agreed. To reach the 375-ship goal, the Navy will need to acquire 11 ships per year, but in the near term only five or six per year are likely.

Maj. Gen. Larry H. Livingston, USMC (Ret.), former commanding general of the 2nd Marine Division, contended that the challenge is not only about ships, explaining that it does no good to have 700 ships if the fleet only has a force structure for 200 ships. “The only way to get money and troops is to wed ships to a viable national strategy,” Gen. Livingston said. This needs to be articulated to Congress and driven from the top down, he stated.

Adm. Krekich said that, to determine affordability, the decision makers must wrap their arms around the true cost of manpower. There are different ways to achieve affordability through automation and manpower reductions, he added.

Gen. Livingston agreed that these issues have been out there for a long time. He sees three key elements of ship acquisition. Ships have to be versatile, reliable and survivable. “We need ships to project, even without allies,” the general related. Everyone wants a big deck carrier, he added, but a lot of other ships need to go along. This must sell in the halls of Congress, he emphasized.

The ships the Navy deploys need to patrol, provide signals intelligence, offer close-in support, allow special forces insertion, aid casualty collection, support unmanned aerial vehicles and assist with underwater construction, noted Rear Adm. George R. Worthington, USN (Ret.), former commander, Naval Special Warfare Command. He also stated that ships must win wars at sea and protect the shores.

As directed as that panel discussion may have been, it drew some criticism from members of the day’s longest panel. Headed by Adm. Archie Clemins, USN (Ret.), president of Caribou Technology Incorporated, the panel of international experts examined recent experiences and considered innovative approaches in its critique of efforts to achieve interoperability.

Adm. Clemins began by declaring that “we dropped back 10 years” in the previous panel. Statements made at that panel did not take into account, for example, that the littoral combat ship will be built around the Web services environment, or else it will not work.

Rear Adm. Charles L. Munns, USN, director of the Navy/Marine Corps Intranet (NMCI), noted that advances in network-centric warfare are “happening around us—we are riding the tide.” NMCI is the answer to the change now underway, and it will provide unprecedented security.

Cdre. Jon Welch, RN, deputy assistant, Supreme Allied Commander, Atlantic (SACLANT), emphasized three themes that address international interoperability. The first is to “remember your allies—you’ve already got them organized.” The United States should think about allied interoperability before coalition interoperability, he emphasized. The second theme focuses on the importance and value of SACLANT. The third theme is that the United States has the strongest voice among its allies in standardization, and it ought to use it. “Don’t give up before you start,” he admonished.

Cdre. Jim Stapleton, RAN, Australian naval attaché to the United States, allowed that, “The technology is there—we just need to use it.” Countries with smaller forces, such as his, can tap this technology if it remains cost-effective. The commodore also noted that some coalition interoperability fixes in operation Enduring Freedom were more a case of learning to live with the problems.

Cmdr. Greg Glaros, USN, Strategic Studies Group, Office of the Chief of Naval Operations, declared that the changing face of warfare is the manner and magnitude in which complexity appears. In the information age, the weapons are information, the energy is information, and the variable is the network. The rates of change and the complexities of operations are colliding at an increasing rate, he reported.

The final day of West 2003 began with a congressional perspective on transformation. U.S. Representative Susan A. Davis (D-CA), whose district includes part of San Diego, noted that the word transformation is threatening to become the latest cliché, as was “paradigm” a few years ago, and this tends to obscure its real issues. “Transformation is an uncompromising and unending goal,” she said.

Rep. Davis told the audience that she was no stranger to military concerns, citing her experience as a military wife and representing a district that has considerable military assets. She stated that the Space and Naval Warfare Systems Command and the various companies in her district form the nucleus of technology for transformation of the Navy.

Merely maintaining a navy is not sufficient, she continued. She offered that she did not need to remind people that Congress is slow-moving. That is good, because people must learn, she added.

Rep. Davis noted that Congress tends to have an affinity for legacy systems, and she called for reducing spending on legacy systems and increasing funding for future or transformational programs. Some debate may ensue in Congress as to which programs are legacy and which are transformational, she noted.

One question she raised is whether there is sufficient consensus on the definition of transformation. A related issue is whether the transformation is being used to push specific programs or kill others. And, above all, questions remain about how it will affect congressional oversight.

Proposed legislation would open the way for aggressive moves toward equipping first-responders with Defense Department technologies that they would find useful. An executive agent would facilitate this process, and a panel of experts would evaluate small business technologies for use by the Defense Department.

Adm. Walter F. Doran, USN, commander of the U.S. Pacific Fleet, told attendees at the Thursday luncheon that industry must develop the systems and technology to enable military personnel to transform the force. Describing the partnership between industry and the military as more important today than ever before, he told the audience, “You really do hold the key to a successful transformation.

“Today, we have the best and brightest, in our young sailors and civilian engineers, working toward one goal—keeping our great nation safe,” the admiral declared. “That is our asymmetric advantage.”

Adm. Doran stated that the Pacific Fleet is at the center of the Navy transformation with its dual challenges of time and distance. In the past, sheer numbers could ensure that the fleet carried out its missions. Similarly, it was easy to identify an enemy and define its borders. Now, those aspects do not apply, and the fleet is adapting to gain the ability to surge in response to a crisis.

The admiral described how the Pacific Fleet has established some priorities to hasten the transformation. First are efforts to improve readiness in the command’s volatile strategic environment by providing a surge capability. He cited changes to pre-deployment training and maintenance schedules as one way of enabling battle groups to deploy quicker. The USS Fletcher is swapping out its crew in Australia to address time and distance challenges, and the USS Peleliu is being deployed as the lead ship of an experimental Expeditionary Strike Group.

Another effort underway is to rejuvenate ASW, which the admiral describes as having atrophied since the end of the Cold War. Diesel-electric submarines have improved their capabilities significantly since then, and the Pacific Fleet is reinvigorating training—“raising the ASW bar,” he said. Advanced sonars and sonobuoys are on the admiral’s technology wish list, along with a common tactical picture among all ASW assets.

The final day’s only panel examined the straightforward question, “How will the services fight better?” Moderated by Capt. Peter M. Swartz, USN (Ret.), director, strategic and operational history studies, CNA Corporation, the panel featured officers from the U.S. Army, Navy, Air Force and Coast Guard.

Col. Tom Hyde, USAF, head of the Air Force Checkmate office, declared that planners and programmers have been making the decisions on which systems to buy. To rely on operations personnel instead, the Air Force created seven task forces to examine mission needs. The most important element is the coalition air operations center. Other vital items are stealth technologies and small-diameter bombs, he added.

Col. Keith Walker, USA, Army DAMO-SSP (G3), looked ahead to the 2015-2020 time frame. He foresees forces built around a system designed to strike an enemy without being struck first. This force will strike an enemy’s critical nodes, and being an independent joint force, it will require less logistics support. This jointness will extend to much lower echelons than today, he added.

Rear Adm. Jim Olson, USCG, director, operations capabilities, Coast Guard, noted that the new threats will not change the Coast Guard’s core competencies significantly for the foreseeable future. The key to meeting the challenges posed by these threats is maritime domain awareness. He described the Coast Guard as a “military multimission maritime service.”

Rear Adm. Doug Crowder, USN, Navy Deep Blue program, said that the Navy tends to be “hit or miss” when it applies historical perspective to plan for the future. Some lessons learned can be applied, however. The 1991 Gulf War taught adversaries not to permit the United States time to mass forces in a theater. So, the Navy must do its part to be able to project into an area quickly. Similarly, enemies are not likely to take on the United States force-for-force. So, special operations forces may be needed to bring about theater goals, as happened in Afghanistan. Adm. Crowder called for the Navy and special operations forces to get back together, calling their work in operation Enduring Freedom “a powerful combination.”