washingtonpost.com  > Nation > National Security > Military
Page 2 of 2  < Back  

Scope of Change in Military Is Ambiguous

"Some say it is about injecting new technology into the military," he states on his Pentagon Web site, www.oft.osd.mil. "Others believe transformation is about new ways of buying weapon systems. Still others hold that transformation is about the wholesale change of organizations." The statement then says, "Frankly, I don't care which one is used," as long as it is understood to be a process that keeps the U.S. military changing and competitive in warfare.

Asked to elaborate, Cebrowski said there was a good reason not to dwell on what exactly is meant.

One critic says the Pentagon's commitment to the F-22 reflects a failure to move beyond Cold War thinking. The fighter is shown at Boeing Field, Seattle. (Ralph Radford -- AP)

"I've watched senior leaders get knotted up in the definition of transformation" and lose their focus on substance, he said in an interview in his Rosslyn office. His bottom line, he said, is that "what we're really talking about is changing behavior."

The haziness is a departure from the radical change that Bush outlined in his September 1999 campaign speech at the Citadel in South Carolina.

"The real goal is to move beyond marginal improvements -- to replace existing programs with new technologies and strategies, to use this window of opportunity to skip a generation of technology," Bush said then.

Among the specifics that Bush vowed to pursue once in the White House was making the Army more agile and better able to deploy in units smaller than "cumbersome" 15,000-troop divisions -- a change the service at first resisted, especially when advocated in the mid-1990s by Col. Macgregor, but more recently has embraced.

Bush also said he would "encourage a culture of command where change is welcomed and rewarded, not dreaded."

The record on that promise is more mixed, but surveys of officers and other internal studies have found that there is indeed an atmosphere more receptive to change than there was a few years ago.

"I think Cebrowski has pushed the military to change," said Army Lt. Col. Richard Lacquement Jr., author of a book on the Pentagon's reform efforts since the end of the Cold War. "I would submit that a lot of the changes the services have made have been in response to pressure from him, and through him, from [Defense Secretary Donald H.] Rumsfeld." He said these changes have occurred not in weapons programs but more in how the military is organized and thinks about itself.

Bush, in his campaign speech, vowed to "earmark at least 20 percent of the procurement budget for acquisition programs that propel America generations ahead in military technology."

That goal, however, appears to have been abandoned. Asked about the percentage of the Pentagon budget that now goes to such transformation, Cebrowski said, "I have no idea. I don't care," adding that it is a mistake to focus on a dollar amount.

Critics of the administration's efforts, however, say the effort to modernize the services' major budgetary decisions have essentially failed, leaving the Pentagon's transformation office to focus on other areas.

"There are efforts in transformation in some areas -- like UAVS [unmanned aerial vehicles] and networked Navy battle groups -- but if you look at the overall budget, what you see are the legacy programs," Krepinevich said. Most of the spending, he said, goes to large ships, submarines, fighter aircraft and other programs that he calls "the traditional force structure items."

Even one of the leading congressional supporters of Bush's transformation effort, Rep. William M. "Mac" Thornberry (R-Tex.), gave a lukewarm assessment of its course in recent years, saying he thought the fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan had somewhat distracted top Pentagon officials from such efforts.

"I think it's generally a mixed bag," said Thornberry, a member of the House Armed Services Committee. "In some way it's advanced, in some ways it hasn't. . . . They're moving in the right direction, but it's not enough."

< Back  1 2

© 2004 The Washington Post Company