Academic journal article Naval War College Review

Come the Revolution

Academic journal article Naval War College Review

Come the Revolution

Article excerpt

Transforming the Asia-Pacific's Militaries

Defense transformation has preoccupied the U.S. Defense Department for over a decade. In recent years as well, militaries and governments throughout the Asia-Pacific region have begun to pay attention to the promise and requirements of defense transformation and to the emerging information-based revolution in military affairs (RMA). Increasingly, their conceptions of defense transformation, along with their intentions, efforts, and capabilities to transform their militaries, could have a profound effect upon regional stability and security. These activities could particularly affect future American security interests and military operations in the Asia-Pacific-both due to their potential to influence joint operations and interoperability with U.S. forces and by endowing new capabilities upon potential competitors and adversaries-and therefore could inject new uncertainties and complications into the regional security calculus.

Defense transformation is much more than the "mere" modernization of one's armed forces-that is, being able to fight better the same kinds of wars. Rather, it is the promise of a paradigm shift in the character and conduct of warfare. At the same time, it is more than simply overlaying new technologies and new hardware on existing force structures; it requires fundamental changes in military doctrine, operations, and organization. For these reasons, therefore, transformation is an increasingly loaded issue, with many implications for defense and security in the Asia-Pacific. Moreover, for these same reasons, transformation in the region is beset with considerable challenge.

This article specifically addresses the process, problems, and prospects of and for defense transformation in the Asia-Pacific region. Basically, it argues that while several countries there are closely studying and assessing the implications of the emerging revolution in military affairs, they have, for a variety of reasons, made little progress so far in actually transforming their armed forces along its lines. In fact, most countries in the region are unlikely, despite their best efforts, to move beyond "modernization-plus," at least not any time soon. Even this process of innovation, however, could still have many repercussions for regional security and stability, and in ways not currently being contemplated.

WHAT DO WE MEAN BY DEFENSE TRANSFORMATION?

"Defense transformation" is an ambiguous but nevertheless bounded term. No strong consensus exists as to what defense transformation exactly means or entails. Some analysts and proponents of defense transformation view it as simply another name for the revolution in military affairs.1 Certainly the two terms are used increasingly interchangeably. But this still leaves unanswered what we mean by a revolution in military affairs and what the current RMA stands for. To cloud the issue even further, some students of defense transformation define it mainly as a process of implementing an RMA, while others see it as an objective in and of itself.

A revolution in military affairs is generally described as a "discontinuous," or "disruptive," change in the concept and mode of warfare.2 For example, it has been argued that a revolution in military affairs occurs when "the application of new technologies into a significant number of military systems combines with innovative operational concepts and organizational adaptation in a way that fundamentally alters the character and conduct of a conflict. It does so by producing a dramatic increase ... in the combat potential and military effectiveness of armed forces."3 In a similar vein, the RAND Corporation defines an RMA as "a paradigm shift in the nature and conduct of military operations which either renders obsolete or irrelevant one or more core competencies in a dominant player, or creates one or more core competencies in some dimension of warfare, or both. …

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