Morphing transformation

Nothing about the Army's transformation initiative is more impressive than the initiative's ongoing transformation.

The Future Combat System (FCS) — a decade-long effort to integrate network and information technology into the major combat vehicles — remains an essential goal, with more than $22 billion earmarked for it through 2009.

But in recent days, Army leaders have made the case for a more tactical approach to bringing technology onto the battlefield.

Earlier this year, they saw a number of command and control systems prove their worth in limited deployment in operations in the Middle East. The Army Battle Command System (ABCS) and other applications proved the value of digitization by using networks and systems for sharing and analyzing battlefield data.

Digitization, to some extent, is the FCS' antecedent. These systems do not provide the global coverage envisioned with FCS, but they can be deployed relatively quickly to a large audience.

What's most impressive is that service leaders are taking seriously the lessons learned in Iraq. Any military engagement can produce various lessons for future operations.

Army officials realize they cannot let this experience go to waste. They have been working on ABCS and other command and control systems for years, but they had not had an opportunity to put them to the test in the field to the extent possible in Iraq.

Now that they have seen it at work, they realize that battlefield digitization can make Army forces more agile and better able to fight the unconventional battles they face today and in the years ahead.

Service leaders also are showing some admirable agility. FCS is an impressive concept, but it's still a concept, and one that's a decade or more from realization.

It's worth pushing back this grand scheme a few more years to field technology that can have an impact today. Indeed, lessons learned from future experience with this technology could help the Army morph their transformation strategy yet again.

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