Sunday, January 28, 2007

In defense of transformation

I know there are many soldiers and civilians in the defense community who are glad to see the Office of Force Transformation close its doors. The notion of defense transformation has been redefined and thrown around as a justification for pet projects and boondoggles in each service. Heck, I've spent years studying military anthrology and its relationship to technology and I even tired of all the meaningless techno-babble and flashy Powepoints after a while.

This doesn't mean that transformation is somehow dead though. The endless march of technological advancement will continue to change society, governance, warfare and even life itself. The military will spend most of that time just treading water to keep up, but I imagine they will pull of a few coups in my lifetime. There will always be another Battle of the Teutoberg Forest or blitzkrieg into France or a Persian Gulf War (I or II), we just need to make sure that we're on the winning side more often than not.

To me, the biggest failure of the transformation debate going on in and around the Pentagon for the last twenty years is that too much time was spent on the 'how' of transformation and not enough time on the 'what.' To paraphrase the excellent point raised by Steven Metz and James Kievit in their 1995 study "Strategy and the Revolution in Military Affairs: from Theory to Policy", the future military isn't just shaped by what technology allows it do, it is also shaped by what policy-makers think it should do. Without a coherent sense of mission, the services will just keep spinning their wheels, churning out more of the same, only faster, stealthier, more precise and with a GPS tracker on it.

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