DOD decides to close Office of Force Transformation

The office's functions will move to other DOD organizations as the department reorganizes its policy office

The Defense Department’s policy office is undergoing its most significant reorganization since 1993 to streamline and coordinate its activities. As part of those efforts, DOD will close the innovative Office of Force Transformation.

Opened in 2001, OFT was a personal initiative of Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld. He intended it to be a catalyst for entrepreneurial and experimental thinking in defense policy and technology. One of OFT’s main functions has been to coordinate network-centric operations across DOD.

Eric Edelman, undersecretary of Defense for policy, announced the changes at a media roundtable Aug. 28 at the Pentagon. “What used to be the Office of Force Transformation, different parts of it are going to different places,” Edelman said.

Although not final, the plan is to move OFT’s study and analysis sections into the revamped policy office. John Young, director of defense research and engineering, will assume responsibility for OFT initiatives and projects, said a DOD official who spoke on background.

DOD might create a new office, to be named Concept Technology Experimentation, to house OFT’s projects, the official said. Those projects include the Stiletto experimental high-speed transport ship, experiments with sense-and-respond logistics, and the Operationally Responsive Space Experiment, which focuses on integrating space-based activities into tactical operations.

Responsibility for coordinating future initiatives in network-centric operations will remain with John Garstka, OFT’s assistant director for concepts and operations, who will work in the capabilities section of the new policy office, the official said.

Terry Pudas, OFT’s acting director, said he views the move as a positive development. “The office was created to be a catalyst…to jump-start the transformation thinking and process, and I think we’ve done that,” he said. The moves will allow OFT’s activities to become more mainstream across DOD by integrating them into larger offices, he said.

But the changes also mean that transformation will lack a vocal, independent advocate.

“The department needs somebody who’s looking out to the future and pulling it back to see how that affects the decisions we’re making today. There’s no one doing that right now,” said Kathleen Hicks, senior fellow at the Center for Strategic and International Studies’ International Security Program. She is a former director of policy planning at DOD.

Hicks added that OFT’s role has been unclear since the departure of its former director, retired Vice Adm. Arthur Cebrowski.

Cebrowski, who led the office from its inception until February 2005, died in November 2005. He was a vocal advocate of Rumsfeld’s vision of a lean, light, agile force for the 21st century. He also emphasized the importance of connectivity to the warfighter in battle. Many military experts say OFT was dependent on Cebrowski’s vision and energy.

“What it says to me is that there was nobody like Adm. Cebrowski,” said Philip Coyle, senior adviser at the Center for Defense Information. “He was the power, motivation and inspiration behind that office.”

The need for such a figure remains, Coyle said. “You can’t count on the military departments to achieve transformation, and the regional commanders have their hands full with day-to-day operational matters,” he said.

The reorganization also downgrades a position that oversees technology security policy. That post is responsible for the Defense Technology Security Administration and some counterproliferation efforts. It has been vacant for nearly a year since the previous official, Lisa Bronson, left and joined the National Defense University.

The policy office’s reorganization will begin on Oct. 1 and is scheduled for completion in March 2007, a DOD spokesperson said.

Cebrowski on transformational culture

Retired Vice Adm. Arthur Cebrowski led the Office of Force Transformation from its inception in October 2001 until February 2005. Often credited with inventing the term network-centric warfare, Cebrowski used his position to push for cultural change inside the Defense Department.

“Transformation is not just about technology and things,” Cebrowski said at an April 2002 hearing of the Senate Armed Services Committee. “Rather, it is more about culture, behavior and the creation and exploitation of promising concepts to provide new sources of military power. A military bureaucracy does not squelch innovation by modernizing its forces; innovation is undermined when experimentation and prototyping of new ideas is prevented, and when newly developed and fielded systems are subordinated to outdated operational concepts.”

Cebrowski died of cancer in November 2005.

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