Net-centric next step: warfighters

Retired Navy Vice Adm. Arthur Cebrowski, director of the Defense Department's Force Transformation Office, this morning told the Senate Armed Services Committee that not enough technology that drives network-centric warfare is finding its way into the hands of those who need it most: the warfighters.

Cebrowski said that although network-centric warfare is about culture as much as technology, the technology is what provides the advantage to those in combat. A change in culture is needed to adopt that technology.

"During the past year, we've seen each of the [armed service] departments begin implementation of network-centric warfare, primarily at the operational level of war," he said. "However, what we're seeing is essentially network-centric warfare for the joint task force commander. The next step is network-centric warfare for the warfighter — reflecting increased jointness at the tactical level of war."

Cebrowski said that transformation and network-centric warfare will first and foremost equip the military with speed, something that has been lacking. Past conflicts, which often called for massive numbers of troops exercising tremendous firepower, will most likely bear little resemblance to the regional conflicts American forces will face in the coming decades.

"In the Information Age, warfare is increasingly path dependent — small changes in the initial conditions result in enormous changes in outcome," he said. "Thus, speed becomes a more valuable characteristic of the entire force because we want to be able to define or alter the initial conditions on terms favorable to our interests.

"The goal is to develop high rates of change that an adversary cannot outpace, while sharply narrowing that adversary's strategic options," he said.

Transformation is a process without an end. There will never be a time when DOD is transformed, according to Cebrowski. The increasing ability to capture, process and act on information will be the driving force behind transformation and will determine the success or failure of the transformed department.

"Increasingly, power tends to come from information, access and speed," he said. "Network-centric warfare will enable the merging of our warfighting capabilities into a seamless, joint warfighting force."

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