Hurdles in Army transformation ID'd

Budget concerns, internal and external cultural issues, technological uncertainties, and an aggressive timeline for deployment are all obstacles to the Army's ongoing transformation, according to a panel of experts at the Association of the U.S. Army's 2002 Winter Symposium in Fort Lauderdale, Fla.

Exactly which of the areas posed the biggest threat varied depending on whom you asked.

Lt. Gen. Johnny Riggs, director of the Army's Objective Force task force, said his greatest concern was the Army's need to change its internal processes.

The service must "break the end-to-end mold" of its processes, which should now be "oriented on the product and not done because we've always done it that way," Riggs said. "We can't afford a process for the process sake."

Lt. Gen. Peter Cuviello, the Army's chief information officer, agreed and said that the Army Knowledge Management initiative, which includes the Army Knowledge Online portal, is the environment for the service's evolution into a knowledge-based, network-centric organization.

"If business standards and the warfighter don't revolve around it," there's no hope for the future, Cuviello said. "The technology is at the foxhole level and at the Pentagon level, but it doesn't matter if the people and the processes don't change."

Lt. Gen. Charles Mahan, the Army's deputy chief of staff (G-4), said the service must make sure not to develop a digital divide with its allies, who have voiced concerns about being left behind technologically during the Army's transformation.

Mahan also said that "major efficiencies" could be gained in the acquisition process. To support Objective Force requirements, currently "high risk," significant changes in technology, acquisition practices, sustainment and culture must be made, he said.

Kraig Siracuse, a professional staff member on the Senate Appropriations Committee's Defense Subcommittee, said achieving a resolution on the proposed $379 billion Defense Department budget in the Senate will not be easy, but praised the Army for being a transformation leader within DOD.

"The Army was first out of the gate and we're supportive of transformation by the Army," Siracuse told Federal Computer Week. "We don't intend on deviating from that support."

Siracuse said he looks forward to seeing the Bush administration's "definition of transformation as the budget process continues to move forward."

Despite the numerous potential roadblocks, all of the panelists emphatically supported transformation and said they were confident that the Army would meet its goal of fielding the first units of the Objective Force — envisioned as more deployable than the current armored forces and better able to survive an all-out fight than the current light forces — by the end of the decade.

"The power of the payoff is worth all of the effort we're putting into this program to make it come to fruition," Riggs said.

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