DOD's Office of Force Transformation to close

The Defense Department’s Office of Force Transformation (OFT) will close as part of a greater reorganization of DOD's policy office.

Opened in 2001, OFT was an initiative Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld led personally, and he intended it to be an agent for entrepreneurial and experimental thinking in defense policy and technology.

Eric Edelman, undersecretary of Defense for policy, announced the move during an Aug. 28 media roundtable. “What used to be the Office of Force Transformation, different parts of it are going to different places," he said. No single office will replace it, he added.

The first and only director of OFT was retired Vice Adm. Arthur Cebrowski. Cebrowski was a vocal advocate of Rumsfeld’s vision of a leaner, lighter, more agile force for the 21st century. Cebrowski died last November.

Terry Pudas has been OFT’s acting director since then, but DOD did not choose a new permanent leader. Experts said OFT was dependent on Cebrowski’s vision and energy.

“What it says to me is that there was nobody like Adm. Cebrowski,” said Philip Coyle, senior adviser at the Center for Defense Information. “He was the power, motivation and inspiration behind that office.”

Cebrowski is often credited with crafting the term network-centric warfare, and OFT concentrated on coordinating network-centric operations inside DOD. He often emphasized the importance of connectivity to the warfighter in battle, Coyle said.

Faster-moving forces depend on getting information to the battlefield and pushing it down to the lower levels. But during the 2003 invasion of Iraq, communications systems could not keep up with the moving units, Coyle said. “That was the kind of thing Cebrowski lamented and wanted to change,” he added.

Cebrowski also pushed for an expansion of the U.S. Naval Fleet, with a focus on lighter, less expensive ships. For example, OFT was pioneering the Stiletto, an experimental transport craft for high-speed special operations use in the littorals.

But OFT’s mission was difficult because of DOD’s bureaucracy, Coyle said. The small size of OFT’s staff and budget also hindered its ability to effect change. OFT had 18 employees and an annual budget of only $20 million.

“It’s very hard to get anything done without real money, and even then, it’s not easy,” Coyle said.

OFT’s other initiatives included the Operationally Responsive Space Experiment, which sought to integrate space into tactical operations and experimentations with sense-and-respond logistics.

OFT’s closing does not mean the end of transformational efforts, DOD officials said. “Transformation is foremost a continuing process. It does not have an endpoint,” according to the OFT Web site.

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