Changes in the U.S. armed services' force structures and acquisition processes are causing a ripple effect that is rolling into the commercial sector. Company officials are finding that business as usual can't be business as usual anymore if they want to satisfy today's requirements, capture a share of a burgeoning defense budget or expand into the relatively new but potentially lucrative homeland security market. Firms must be as agile and responsive as the new military they are vying to support.
The ongoing defense transformation is making the U.S. Air Force a much more expeditionary force than it was during the Cold War. Increasingly, interoperation with the other services is having a greater effect on defining Air Force missions than on its traditional personnel roles.
Operational demands are motivating the U.S. Army to shift troops from low-demand occupations such as field artillery and air defense so it can field more military police, civil affairs and transportation units. These changes are part of an ambitious effort to transform the service from a division-based force to a more mobile one built around brigade-size combat units. Integral to these efforts are programs designed to reset units to the new requirements, to maintain unit cohesion by letting troops spend more time in one unit and to create a stable, predictable rotation and maintenance cycle for active duty, reserve and National Guard forces.
The U.S. Navy is laying the keel of a human capital strategy that ultimately will make the service more robust and agile while simultaneously offering career opportunities unlike any seen in the past. Success of the initiative depends on the Navy's ability to integrate its active duty, reserve and civilian components; to create and catalog job descriptions; and to match sailors' knowledge, skills and abilities to the tasks at hand. The transformation is putting the Navy in a state of constant readiness to fight the war on terrorism, provide humanitarian aid, defend the homeland and support stability operations.
While the individual armed services continue their march toward change, some forward-thinking military leaders are examining transformation on a larger scale-the realm of operations. Technologies likely to be available in the future will enable effects-based operations, a concept that may not replace conventional warfare but certainly could narrow its breadth.
Military transformation may begin with a vision developed by U.S. Defense Department leaders, but it is in the individual services that the rubber meets the road or-in the U.S. Navy's case-the keel meets the water. All of the service's transformation efforts are aimed at achieving specific goals that will make the Navy more agile and increase strike precision.
Rewarding unconventional thinking and promoting a culture where people have the freedom and flexibility to take risks and try new things is a salient move by the U.S. Defense Department. In seeking to instill an entrepreneurial approach to developing military capabilities, a key element is to encourage people to behave less like bureaucrats.
The U.S. Air Force is embracing force transformation at the operational and organizational levels and moving away from platform-based modernization. To meet its requirements, the service is selecting new technologies and equipment based on the ability to enhance a variety of capabilities instead of a few narrowly defined missions.
Emerging technical capabilities and innovative concepts are turning the intelligence gathering, analysis and sharing process on its head. Tools that facilitate research at the beginning of the intelligence production cycle and reduce compilation time at the end will increase the amount of time available for analysis in the middle of the process. The result will be joint operational intelligence that enhances decision-making.
The sea change occurring in military and government procurement processes today is rippling through large companies and affecting how they conduct business. Capabilities-based acquisition, super-size contracts and a reduction in the government work force are driving factors in a corporate transformation that includes scanning for business opportunities earlier than in the past, then teaming to offer best-of-breed systems.
Sensors will swarm tomorrow's battlefields, allowing warfighters nearly complete situational awareness and denying enemy forces the ability to hide or maneuver without being observed. A recent U.S. Air Force wargame identified several technologies that may revolutionize warfare by 2020. Key to these applications is the use of datalinks in all platforms to create a flexible, redundant network that stretches from infantry units on the ground to satellites in geosynchronous orbit.
At first glance, Hummer sport utility vehicles, more associated with yuppie urban commandos, would seem unrelated to the U.S. Army's radical force transformation plans. Nevertheless, in a highly innovative approach, the service bought commercial Hummers, cut them apart, stretched their length, and installed leading-edge communications and information technology systems.
Futuristic operational concepts are making their way from the laboratory to the warfighter faster through a process that is more often associated with technology than theories. During the past year, the U.S. Joint Forces Command has been focusing on field experimentation with prototypes of concepts that address the unique challenges the joint military environment poses. The experimentation program, known as the Joint Prototype Path, helps identify the pros and cons of proposed concepts and allows military personnel to become familiar with approaches that are being considered for the future.