Academic journal article Parameters

Army Transformation: A Tale of Two Doctrines

Academic journal article Parameters

Army Transformation: A Tale of Two Doctrines

Article excerpt

JABLONSKY, DAVID

Not since General Hans von Seeckt's efforts with the German Reichswehr in the early 1920s has a military organization so self-consciously set about transforming itself as the US Army today. It is part of an overall process that has been met with enthusiastic endorsements ranging from the Secretary of Defense and the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff to congressionally-mandated blue ribbon panels. Still, specifics concerning the process have been hard to come by, with one defense analyst noting the similarity of "transformation" as a military concept to the Christian idea of transubstantiation: "No one is exactly sure what it means, but most believers have an opinion about it." [1] Generally, however, the concept is linked with the idea of a revolution in military affairs (RMA). The interest in this revolution in the early 1990s led by the end of the decade to a growing acceptance of the need for military transformation if the RMA were to be achieved. Thus, the Quadrennial Defense Review 2001 Working Grou p defined military transformation as "the set of activities by which DOD attempts to harness the revolution in military affairs to make fundamental changes in technology, operational concepts and doctrine, and organizational structure." [2] The process, then, combines the acquisition of new military systems with appropriate divestiture and modifications dealing with doctrine and organization--all focused on maximizing the capabilities of future armed forces.

To jump-start this process, the Chief of Staff of the Army, General Eric K. Shinseki, began in the fall of 1999 to invest in current off-the-shelf equipment to stimulate the development of doctrine and organizational design even as the Army began a search for the new technologies that would deliver the material for a future force. That force would be strategically responsive and dominant across a full spectrum of operations ranging from peacetime military engagement to smaller-scale contingencies to major theater war. The swiftness of the process, General Shinseki acknowledged, would be "unnerving to some." [3] Nevertheless, there was an urgency to the transformation process for the Army, concerned with becoming more relevant in a rapidly changing geostrategic environment in which strategic speed and lethality could no longer successfully exist as separate variables. "All our combat power is useless if we cannot get it to the theater in time or maneuver it tactically," Major General James Dubik, the head of the experimental force at Fort Lewis, pointed out. "Right now our heavy forces have limited strategic deployability and our light forces have limited tactical utility. Transformation will take care of that disconnect." [4]

How well Army transformation is able to deal with that disconnect, however, will depend a great deal on future US policy concerning the use of military force. At one extreme is the so-called Powell Doctrine, a relatively restrictive approach to the subject. At the other extreme is what has popularly come to be called the Clinton Doctrine, a more liberal prescription for the use of force. The purpose of this article is to demonstrate how those two doctrines will influence the transformation of the US Army as it struggles to move forward toward a genuine revolution in military affairs, and how that transformation process can in turn mitigate the worst excesses of both doctrines. In the end, it is the ability of the US Army to use the new technology for the application of military force that will determine the success of the RMA. In this regard, it is appropriate to remember why Thomas Huxley remained unimpressed at the end of the 19th century by all the knowledge, machinery, and power that had extended human c ompetence over the physical environment. "The great issue," he pointed out, "about which hangs a true sublimity and the terror of overhanging fate is, what are you going to do with all these things? …

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