DOD faces transformation skepticism

Senators voiced skepticism April 9 about the Pentagon's transformation effort and whether the Bush administration was serious about making broad changes to the armed services.

The lawmakers seemed concerned that the pace of change was not fast enough.

"The budget you have sent up here takes care of the legacy defense, and not much else," said Sen. Jim Bunning (R-Ky.) during a hearing before the Senate Armed Services Committee.

Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz said DOD is seeking $21 billion for technology procurements and nearly $25 billion for other transformation efforts. Overall, the Pentagon plans to spend $136 billion on transformational technologies and systems during the next five years. Of this, $76 billion is in new investments to accelerate or start transformation programs, Wolfowitz told lawmakers.

Sen. Carl Levin (D-Mich.), however, asked Wolfowitz to provide the committee with a list of transformational programs that the Defense Department will be funding and for a definition of what constitutes transformation.

A phalanx of DOD transformation leaders told senators that Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld's broad effort to change the nation's defenses is critical to how soldiers will fight in the future. The armed services need to be more effective in getting equipment into the hands of warfighters, the officials said.

"We cannot wait for another Pearl Harbor or [Sept. 11], either on the ground, in space or in cyberspace," Wolfowitz said. "Our ability either to deter or defeat aggression will continue to demand unparalleled capabilities, from technology to training to decision-making. That is why we must develop the transformational capabilities that will provide our critical advantage a decade or more from now."

Retired Navy Vice Adm. Arthur Cebrowski, director of the Pentagon's Office of Force Transformation, said that this effort goes beyond technology. "It is more about culture, behavior, and the creation and exploitation of promising concepts to provide new sources of military power," he told lawmakers.

"To maintain competitive advantage in the Information Age, transformation must achieve a cultural change," Cebrowski said.

Marine Corps Gen. Peter Pace, vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said that the challenge will be balancing the effort with ongoing requirements.

"Whether transformation comes in incremental steps or radical leaps, it must be balanced with the standing requirement to maintain readiness for today's conflicts and treats," he said.

About the Author

Christopher J. Dorobek is the co-anchor of Federal News Radio’s afternoon drive program, The Daily Debrief with Chris Dorobek and Amy Morris, and the founder, publisher and editor of the DorobekInsider.com, a leading blog for the Federal IT community.

Dorobek joined Federal News Radio in 2008 with 16 years of experience covering government issues with an emphasis on government information technology. Prior to joining Federal News Radio, Dorobek was editor-in-chief of Federal Computer Week, the leading news magazine for government IT decision-makers and the flagship of the 1105 Government Information Group portfolio of publications. As editor-in-chief, Dorobek served as a member of the senior leadership team at 1105 Government Information Group, providing daily editorial direction and management for FCW magazine, FCW.com, Government Health IT and its other editorial products.

Dorobek joined FCW in 2001 as a senior reporter and assumed increasing responsibilities, becoming managing editor and executive editor before being named editor-in-chief in 2006. Prior to joining FCW, Dorobek was a technology reporter at PlanetGov.com, one of the first online community centers for current and former government employees. He also spent five years at Government Computer News, another leading industry publication, covering a variety of federal IT-related issues.

Dorobek is a frequent speaker on issues involving the government IT industry, and has appeared as a frequent contributor to NewsChannel 8’s Federal News Today program. He began his career as a reporter at the Foster’s Daily Democrat, a daily newspaper in Dover, N.H. He is a graduate of the University of Southern California. He lives in Washington, DC.


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