Academic journal article Military Review

Perpetual Transitions

Academic journal article Military Review

Perpetual Transitions

Article excerpt

Some see the Army's Transformation to the Objective Force as a new venture. The reality, however, is that the Army has undergone many transformations. Brown draws on his 50-plus years of Army Transformation experience to assess how the Army is doing in its current transition from a forward deployed force to an agile, adroit force-projection army that can meet the challenges of today's contemporary operating environment.

We will experience the same level of technological change in the first decade of the 21st century that we experienced in all of the 20th century.

-Colonel Kip Nyguen1

SUCH CHANGE IS a formidable prospect, even if it might be only half-correct. What does pervasive, unrelenting change mean for an Army already consumed in what appears to be global operations?

Of course, the U.S. Army endures as it has for decades-an enormous institution undergoing continual changes. Many changes seem externally directed, not internally stimulated. As a conservative organization charged with landpower national security, America's Army predictably seeks relative stability and certainty, but in actuality, it seldom finds either as it experiences perpetual transitions in policies and programs.

The Army is uniquely shaped by processes of transition, but often it appears surprised by change, at significant physical, spiritual, or professional cost to the institution. Yet, there is no "time out" to regroup and readjust. Clearly, if the Army is to continue to prevail in defense of the Nation, enduring change must be accepted and fashioned to build and rebuild, not resisted, which frequently erodes responsiveness to new requirements. Change must be accepted as the beneficial, sustaining lifeblood of a vital organization, not resisted as an unwelcome frustration to sustaining readiness. How can the Army welcome and mold change so that the institution grows physically and spiritually, thereby sustaining the warrior ethos?

First and foremost, change is the Army's steady state; the Army is always in transition. To illustrate, I draw on my own experience. From 1952 to 1989, I served in five distinctly varied armies: the post-- Korean war army; the early Vietnam war army; the late Vietnam war army; the all-volunteer army; and the Reagan rearming army. More recently, I have been witness to the following manifestations: the Just Cause/Desert Storm army; the Clinton peace dividend army; the Transformation army; and the 9-11 army. If one considers the parallel changes that took place in reserve and civilian forces over the same time, more than eight or nine distinctly varied armies have existed, each affecting personnel in numbers greater than the entire strength of the U.S. Marine Corps (USMC).

All these armies were characterized by various changes in policies and programs from one army to another: war to peace, affluence to impoverishment, public disdain to public acclaim, draft to volunteer, unilateral actions to coalition warfare. Today, the Army conducts global operations that rely on combined forces in varying coalitions. Associated threats, such as nonstate enemies or weapons of mass destruction (WMD), are becoming increasingly ambiguous. Some changes are transitory, such as coalition partners who can come and go as global security interests change.

The Army's collective perspective about the merit and inevitability of change within the Army sets the nature of the institution's response. Are changes perceived as threats to be minimized, ignored, or avoided, or are they perceived as beneficial opportunities to be embraced? The Army clearly benefits if it can assimilate change more rapidly than can other armies. The goal should be a culture that thrives on molding change to better serve America's landpower security objectives. The Army must make change beneficial and shape it to advantage.

When acknowledging the abiding presence of change, it is useful to think through how best to take advantage of the many transitions taking place. …

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