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Looking for Technology, Doctrine to Transform the Face of War

By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Dec. 3, 2003 – The chief of the DoD Office of Force Transformation wants to ensure that some future leader does not look back on today and regret the decisions made.

Retired Vice Adm. Arthur Cebrowski told the Fletcher Conference today that there are areas that need attention now to transform the face of battle. "These opportunities, which if not pursued, will result in regrets at some future date," he said. No one can know when that date would occur, but with the rate of change in the world today, Cebrowski said, it could be soon.

Cebrowski said he is not interested in incremental change. This is the matter of taking existing systems and, in small jumps, making them better. He said the services are doing this.

Rather, he is looking for the technology or doctrine that could change the face of war. He said the U.S. military has already done this in the past and is prepared to do this in the future. He cited nuclear-tipped ballistic missiles and the Polaris submarine-launched ICBM as two examples of weapons systems that changed the face of war.

Stealth technology and global-positioning satellites have also changed the face of war. Sensing and communicating from space had an impact not only on war, but also on society. "There are several such items that changed the character of war and indeed had a profound impact on society itself," he said.

These are easy to see in retrospect, but where should DoD place its "big bets" today?

Cebrowski lists several overall combat-related issues. These are areas where, he believes, there is a potential to change the way the military works.

The first is the area of fires. He said DoD currently invests about $50 million per year in research on nonlethal fires. "This is inadequate," he said. "What this means is soldiers at checkpoints have to act in a binary mode of applying lethal force or accepting intolerable risk. We should be able to do better by our soldiers."

Directed energy is another type of fires. Lasers and other directed-energy sources can be used for combat or communications. He said there are research efforts in this, but they are not funded well enough to produce breakthroughs.

The second area is maneuver. Cebrowski said there has to be a triad of options for commanders. He is very interested in sea-basing as an addition to the current preference for forward basing. He also said that more maneuver over strategic distances will be necessary in the future. He said the model in Iraq was forward basing that is, U.S. units landed in Kuwait and attacked from that forward base. One exception was the 173rd Airborne Brigade that dropped in northern Iraq directly from its base in Italy.

Part and parcel with maneuver is an increase in airlift capability to support all options.

The third area is protection, and a large part of that is operations in an urban environment. "We're not talking about taking a city. We're not talking about destroying a city," Cebrowski said. "Rather, what we're talking about is moving into an urban environment and keeping the social structure, the economic structure, the political institutions up and running."

There is also the issue of battlefield medicine. Cebrowski said that until the 1930s and the advent of antibiotics, more service members died from disease than from enemy action. Today, disease as a cause of death, has been virtually eliminated. But U.S. service members are still vulnerable to genetically modified diseases, an area that must be addressed, he said.

Command and control and computers is another area that could change the face of war. "We've always been concerned about interoperability, but now we see that perhaps a more viable path to that is developing interdependencies," he said.

Intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance is another area of growing concern. Cebrowski said there is a need to shift focus to "demand-centered" intelligence. "If one looks around at the various (private) firms and you want to make some judgments on where to invest one of the rules you could use is whether or not that firm is demand- centered or supplier-centered," he said. "Supplier-centered firms tend to go out of business."

In this area is the whole idea of space. DoD must become more adaptable in space. He noted that there were 38 launches of microsatellites in the last few years and that the United States did not participate in any of them.

Finally, DoD needs joint demand-centered logistics.

Cebrowski said the list is not exhaustive, and some may not work at all. "But certainly several of those have the potential for changing the character of war, changing how power is developed, and, indeed, changing societies," he said.

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