Academic journal article Defense Horizons

Managing Change: Capability, Adaptability, and Transformation

Academic journal article Defense Horizons

Managing Change: Capability, Adaptability, and Transformation

Article excerpt


The Bush administration defense review is pointing to an era of far-reaching change in military strategy, forces, and technology. To succeed, this effort must be guided by a new set of strategic precepts. Since 1997, the precepts of shape, respond, prepare have helped guide how national security policy has approached change. In the coming years, capability, adaptability, and transformation can perform a similar function. The first and third precepts are well documented. The second, however, needs greater attention--not only because adaptability is important although easily overlooked, but also because it is a bridge between the other two precepts. These three precepts incorporate the main characteristics needed by the Armed Forces:

* A core military capability to win wars today and support peacetime goals--a near-term concern.

* The adaptability to modify that existing core capability to meet new strategic conditions--a mid-term concern.

* A wise transformation that reorients the military to take advantage of new technologies for the long term.

These precepts are compatible but must be pursued in a balanced and integrated manner that reflects their interconnection. The pursuit of near-term capabilities should be accompanied by enhanced efforts to create broader options for the mid term, in ways that establish a sound strategic foundation for longer-term visions. The near-term capability of the military can be preserved by keeping them sufficiently large and ready and by improving them in selected areas. In the mid term, their flexibility can be strengthened by adopting broader employment plans, reengineering current organizational structures, and fielding emerging technologies. In the long term, they can be transformed not only by modernizing existing weapons, but also by acquiring new types of platforms and technologies. Even in an era of tight fiscal constraints, this threefold challenge can be met if a balanced approach is followed--thereby preserving the hard-won strategic effectiveness of the military not only in the coming years but the distant future as well.

New Requirements and Technologies

U.S. defense strategy and forces are entering an era of major change partly because the globalizing, turbulent world is producing new threats, requirements, and missions. Equally important, new military technologies are emerging far more quickly than they did over the past decade. Information technology is one example, but parallel developments are taking place in several other areas, for example, missile defenses, precision deep-strike weapons, ultra-smart munitions, robotics, stealth aircraft, new naval ship designs, long-range artillery, lightweight armor, and nanotechnology. As these new technologies arrive at an accelerating rate, they will interact with new threats and strategic requirements to create opportunities for U.S. military forces to innovate in responsive ways or risk being left behind the future's power curve.

An era of new technology raises the prospect of creating new and better forces for the early 21st century. But as change is pursued, it must be balanced with continuity so that existing, still-important assets are retained. New concepts must be carefully studied to separate the good from the bad. These considerations necessitate that change be carefully managed. Although shape, respond, prepare--or concepts like them--will continue to be needed for national security policy, a separate set of defense strategy precepts also will be needed to help guide the critical task of configuring U.S. forces for the coming era.

Some analysts call for keeping current U.S. forces highly ready and capable to handle global strategic challenges over the next few years. Others deemphasize the near-term, instead urging a vigorous transformation focused on the distant future, 15-20 years out. Often lost in the clamor is the need to be flexibly adaptable for the dangerous mid term, when strategic conditions can change radically but entirely new U. …

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