Magazine article Joint Force Quarterly

The Defense Budget: Is It Transformational?

Magazine article Joint Force Quarterly

The Defense Budget: Is It Transformational?

Article excerpt

In the Presidential campaign of 2000, George Bush often addressed the need to transform the Armed Forces. Once elected, he gave military transformation a central role in defense strategy. The administration presented its defense budget for fiscal year 2003 after twelve months of review. Did that budget support transformation? The initial reaction is mixed.

The Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments, which has been vocal in advocating transformation, registered its disappointment: "[The] new defense plan appears very similar to the defense plan this administration inherited.... Perhaps most questionable is the administration's decision to continue to move ahead with three new tactical fighter programs.... Likewise, the Crusader artillery system seems inconsistent with the goal of having an Army that is light enough to rapidly deploy." (1)

Some other supporters of modernization were more encouraged. The Lexington Institute was optimistic in part because it did not take the DOD budget as a break with the past: "Last year's trendy buzzword for what new management at the Pentagon would mean was `transformation.' In the end they made the right choice, fully funding all three [tactical fighter] programs.... Even the Army's widely criticized Crusader howitzer program ... turned out to be a major improvement necessary for the conduct of future land warfare." (2) But these critiques are focused on only a few programs that will neither bring about transformation nor prevent it.

The Lost Crusader

Modernization is the process of fielding more advanced items of equipment that basically perform the same function as the materiel being replaced. Military innovation, or transformation, means profoundly changing equipment and its operational employment to create a radically new approach to warfare. The effect of implementing such change is a revolution in military affairs.

Modernization is sometimes mischaracterized as an obstacle to transformation, as happened in the case of the Pentagon announcement that the Crusader artillery program would be terminated. Press reports indicated that aborting this program was a test for transformation. It is not, because transformation can succeed with or without Crusader. The fate of Crusader is a choice between enhancing the firepower of Army heavy divisions and accelerating the transition to a future system. Transformation does not depend on this choice; it relies on designing equipment and doctrine for a future combat system.

To gauge the new defense budget, one must accept that invoking the term transformation as a byword--as opposed to modernization or reform--was a conscious choice. It ties administration policy to a school of thought which posits that technology has dramatically changed the world and will lead to a revolution in military affairs.

For example, in the years between World Wars I and II, innovations such as the internal combustion engine and radio, combined with advances in doctrine, produced revolutionary combat units and ways of fighting. This revolution in military affairs produced the Blitzkrieg tactics used by Panzer divisions and strikes by carrier-based aircraft that rendered vulnerable any military force that relied on trench warfare and battleships.

The shift from the industrial to the information age, which radically altered the economy of the United States, has led many analysts to expect an equally profound change in the way we fight. The Tofflers describe how moving from an agrarian (first wave) society to an industrial (second wave) society has transformed the world. They believe the shift to an information (third wave) society involves an equally exciting change: "A true revolution goes beyond [individual inventions] to change the game itself, including its rules, its equipment, the size and organization of the `teams,' their training, doctrine, tactics, and just about everything else. …

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