Cebrowski sees transformation change

A funny thing happened on the way to transformation.

Retired Navy Vice Adm. Arthur Cebrowski, the director of the Force Transformation Office of the Defense Department, said a recent demonstration of network-centric warfare in action left him confident about the military's path to transformation.

"It's happening faster than leadership expected, and it's happening from the bottom up," Cebrowski said, speaking today at a forum of the American Enterprise Institute for Public Policy Research. "I saw a stodgy, hide-bound Army transform before my eyes."

Cebrowski had just returned from a multiday tour with Assistant Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz to Nellis Air Force Base, Nev., Twenty-nine Palms Marine Air Ground Task Force Training Command, Calif., and Fort Irwin, Calif., which house some of the Joint National Training Centers. There, he said he witnessed troops networked together, aware of their position and situation and those of their comrades. He said he saw far-flung troops requesting data to help them perform more effectively as never before.

Cebrowski said he was told the experience "was so realistic, it caused flashbacks."

"This is a capability that did not exist last year," he said. "In a matter of months, we have seen a wholesale change in what the troops are actually doing. I saw a desire to push jointness to the tactical level and saw troops reaching back for data. This has been traditionally the purview of the services and guarded jealously."

In the past, battlefields are often cut up and parsed to different services, as the Army, for example, will be responsible for a geographic area and a different service covers an adjacent area.

"These are not generals, but captains and sergeants that are demanding this change," he said. "That is something I always hoped I'd hear, but never thought I would."

Cebrowski warned that transformation "still has problems and has a long way to go," but the desire to change exists in the junior officers and the noncommissioned officers who actually lead the troops into battle.

Cebrowski said there are four barriers to transformation, each of which will have to be overcome as a separate problem:

Process barriers: The internal processes within DOD, including budgeting and personnel.

Physical barriers: Information, even in the form of atoms, can only move so fast.

Fiscal barriers: There must be a willingness to let programs devolve when they lose value.

Cultural barriers: The services must believe in transformation and then follow that belief to the changes DOD is looking for.

"One of the things that has emerged out of the study of war is that to beat an enemy's complex system, you require a system that's more complex," he said.

Featured

  • FCW PERSPECTIVES
    sensor network (agsandrew/Shutterstock.com)

    Are agencies really ready for EIS?

    The telecom contract has the potential to reinvent IT infrastructure, but finding the bandwidth to take full advantage could prove difficult.

  • People
    Dave Powner, GAO

    Dave Powner audits the state of federal IT

    The GAO director of information technology issues is leaving government after 16 years. On his way out the door, Dave Powner details how far govtech has come in the past two decades and flags the most critical issues he sees facing federal IT leaders.

  • FCW Illustration.  Original Images: Shutterstock, Airbnb

    Should federal contracting be more like Airbnb?

    Steve Kelman believes a lighter touch and a bit more trust could transform today's compliance culture.

Stay Connected

FCW Update

Sign up for our newsletter.

I agree to this site's Privacy Policy.