I apologize for the lack of posts recently, but I've been waist deep in homework assignments this week. Graduation is getting so close that I can taste it. In the meantime, I've refined my original defense transformation info paper to take out some of the jargon.
Military Revolutions and Defense Transformation
BACKGROUND: This memo will define and critique the idea of defense transformation as it relates to the Department of Defense. Specifically, it will highlight the term’s role as tool for with dealing revolutions in military affairs, how it has translated into DOD policy and the limitations of implementing those policies.
DISCUSSION: War is a dynamic enterprise centered around one goal: Control over the production of goods. Agrarian societies fought over arable territory. Industrial societies fought over natural resources and population centers. Post-industrial societies today fight over ideas, information and technology. The methods of fighting war have also shifted to meet these changes in the means of production. Seasonal peasant armies armed with bows and triremes began to give way to conscripted riflemen and ships-of-the-line around the 16th Century. Industrialization gave birth to mechanization and rocketry, but it was radio and the Global Positioning System that fundamentally changed warfare in the 1990s.
These macro-historic changes have been labeled revolutions in military affairs (RMA) and many historians believe they have played a significant role in world history. The DOD coined the term ‘defense transformation’ to break the continental shifts of an RMA into its constituent parts. Each instance of ‘transformation’ is an individual change in defense capability or organization that gestates over a period of a decade or more.
The 2003 Defense Transformation Guidance defines transformation as “a process that shapes the changing nature of military competition and cooperation through new combinations of concepts, capabilities, people and organizations that exploit our nation's advantages and protect against our asymmetric vulnerabilities to sustain our strategic position, which helps underpin peace and stability in the world.” In order to achieve this ‘shaping,’ the DOD has drafted policies intended to array its finite resources against a range of unknowable future threats and vulnerabilities. These policies are designed to balance current and future-spending priorities and competing needs for basic research and system development while avoiding the tendency for path-dependency caused investment in technology.
The advantage of this approach is that it does not commit the DOD to one transformation strategy. It allows for both small, ‘evolutionary’ steps and large, ‘revolutionary’ leaps in military capabilities. Unfortunately, this approach is also fraught with problems. Splitting resources between revolution and evolutionary efforts may yield a military that is a jack-of-all-trades, but master of none. Transforming to maintain a preponderance of power may encourage adversaries to pursue the means to counter maturing U.S. capabilities, creating the technological equivalent of a “self-fulfilling prophecy.”
Two other criticisms can be leveled at defense transformation as well. First is that transformation cannot be pursued in a social or political vacuum. Norms and organizations have placed limitations on the ways in which militaries have been mustered, equipped and used for centuries. There is no reason to believe the nation-state or post-modern society doesn’t share this tendency. The second is that transformation policy creates the mentality that change can be fostered through policy intervention. Transformation only a small part of sweeping social, economic and political change caused by shifts in the means of production. It would be more effective to focus on reducing the factors that prevent endogenous transformation, such as bureaucratic aversions to risk and change.