A 'train wreck' for transformation

The last decade has seen the Defense Department's budget and resources decrease while its deployments have increased, which has resulted in a "train wreck" when it comes to funding the military's ongoing transformation, according to Rep. Curt Weldon (R-Pa.).

Weldon blamed the Clinton administration for deploying the military more than 35 times in the past 10 years, with only one of those actions paid for: Operation Desert Storm. He added that information technology and research and development funds are the first things that get cut from the budget to pay for the resources and quality-of-life issues associated with those missions.

Weldon, chairman of the House Armed Services Committee's Military Procurement subcommittee, made his comments May 22 at the International Quality and Productivity Center's Network Centric Warfare 2002 conference in Arlington, Va.

"We are currently in the midst of a massive train wreck," when it comes to funding the ongoing military transformation, said Weldon, adding that this leads to "knee-jerk reactions," such as canceling the Army's much-maligned Crusader self-propelled howitzer.

Another obstacle to funding network-centric warfare — which seeks to make data available to those who need it across the organization or on the battlefield — is that most members of Congress do not understand it or consider it a priority because there is not a natural constituency for the concept as there is for building more warships or fighter jets, he said.

"Legacy systems have the attention of Congress; transformation doesn't," Weldon said.

The key to getting Congress' attention is educating its members and making them transform as well, he said. "If we expect to win the battle of network-centric warfare, we have to have a transformation of the Congress as well."

To do that, Weldon said one of his priorities for next year is to build a virtual reality hearing room in one of the congressional buildings on Capitol Hill. The room would be equipped with secure workstations for all the members and enable real-time programming to just about any location in the world.

Weldon also called for greater collaboration among the defense and intelligence agencies, as well as with state and local governments and first responders. He said he was pleased to see that the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency has launched the Information Awareness Office, which is headed by John Poindexter, former national security adviser for President Reagan, and charged with developing a prototype for a national collaboration center.

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