Defense transformation searches for new identity

But uncertainty remains about what realignment means for innovation

The Defense Department’s decision in August 2006 to close the Office of Force Transformation left many people inside and outside the department wondering what would happen to the office’s programs and track record of innovation. Some experts even said DOD’s catalyst for experimentation would be lost.

Now, more than seven months later, those concerns and questions remain unanswered. DOD has folded most of OFT into a reorganized policy office within the Office of the Secretary of Defense. It has shifted OFT’s people and projects into new offices, but it has not finalized the role of the new office.

“We’re starting to settle into the new construct as we move from outside the [policy] organization to a more aligned construct,” said Terry Pudas, former acting director of OFT. Pudas now is acting deputy assistant secretary of Defense for forces transformation and resources in the Office of the Undersecretary of Defense for Policy.

When DOD decided to close OFT, Pentagon officials countered critics by saying transformational thinking at DOD had matured and was engrained throughout the department. They emphasized how network-centric warfare and the emerging Global Information Grid are revolutionizing intelligence collaboration and battlefield command and control.

The decision to move OFT inside OSD’s policy structure was a double-edged sword, Pudas said. On the one hand, former OFT employees are more directly connected to policy development and implementation, which encourages better coordination. But now they now spend much of their time in meetings rather than focusing on new initiatives.

Pudas’ new office houses 20 people, about the same number as at OFT. But staff members aren’t leading any projects yet, he said. Instead, they are focused on collaborating with other offices and overseeing policy concerns of the Joint Forces and Transportation commands.

John Garstka, director of force transformation in the new office, said being inside the OSD policy shop has advantages, but the unique character of the original OFT has been lost.

“It all revolves around the money,” Garstka said, adding that the former OFT leadership pursued project funding without getting specific permission. It remains to be seen whether OFT’s technology concept development activities, now under the director for Defense research and engineering, will remain robust, he said.

Proximity to the policy-making process doesn’t necessarily correspond to increased influence in that process, Garstka added.
The first OFT director, retired Vice Adm. Art Cebrowski, used the office as a pulpit to promote unconventional ideas.

For example, Cebrowski advocated a large, distributed naval fleet composed of hundreds of smaller, cheaper ships serving as nodes on a network. Pudas said he doesn’t see his role as either to endorse or reject a new concept idea but rather to explain it.

Pudas approaches soldier network systems, a hotly debated transformation topic, in a similar fashion. “I wouldn’t want to come down on one side or the other,” he said.

Network-centric operations, a core philosophy of Cebrowski and OFT, is one idea that DOD has embraced, officials say. DOD has applied OFT’s conceptual framework for network-centric operations to a variety of case studies, including research into the use of Blue Force Tracking and the benefit of Stryker Brigade Combat Teams.

Although DOD has embraced the concept of network-centric operations, the military still needs to figure out how to reap a return on the investment, Pudas said.

Meanwhile, DOD gave OFT’s technology projects and research funding, along with four staff members, to the Office of the Director for Defense Research and Engineering, led by John Young. Those projects are continuing as planned, said Alan Shaffer, the office’s director of plans and programs. They are the Wolf PAC initiative, Operationally Responsive Space, the Stiletto marine vessel and the Redirected Energy project.

DOD will rename the part of the office that houses those projects the Operational Experimentation Division, Shaffer said. As those projects reach the demonstration phase, the office will replace them with new, midsize projects that carry higher-than-normal risk.

Overall, DOD must figure out how to make transformation fiscally sustainable by leveraging initiatives that offer returns and losing others, Pudas said. DOD officials must also balance investments in information with investments in other capabilities to close a gap in usability, he added.

The new OFT policy section still can be a catalyst for innovation, Pudas said. “We haven’t lost that charter.”
OFT project updateFour projects of the Office of Force Transformation are continuing as planned, despite the office’s closure, Defense Department officials said. The four projects are:

What it is: An integrated system for operating in a complex urban environment.
Explanation: The prototype Wolf PAC platoon has conducted field experiments with the Marine Corps, Southern Command, and Pacific Command. Those units are focusing on crowd control and other nonlethal capabilities.

Operationally responsive space
What it is: Move toward easily adaptable satellites and launch mechanisms.
Explanation: The project involves sensors and other technologies for tactical satellites. DOD launched TacSat2 in January and will launch TacSat4 in August.

What it is: A lightweight sea vessel that can operate smoothly at high speeds.
Explanation: Stilettos have been redeployed to Norfolk, Va., to participate in a series of exercises with the Navy and Southern Command.

Redirected energy initiative
What it is: Relay mirrors for lasers.
Explanation: The project still is in the conceptual phase. DOD wants to learn how laser relay mirrors could be used in battle operations.
— Josh Rogin

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