Magazine article National Defense

Defense Department's Transformation Pegged to Technology Leaps Ahead, More Base Closings

Magazine article National Defense

Defense Department's Transformation Pegged to Technology Leaps Ahead, More Base Closings

Article excerpt

Probably the best roadmap available for marching the Defense Department smartly into the next century comes from the National Defense Panel (NDP), a blue ribbon industry, government, and military assemblage headed by Philip A. Odeen, president and chief executive officer of BDM International.

By way of introduction, the panel was chartered in 1996 by Congress to assess both the Quadrennial Defense Review and the future security requirements, including weapon systems, of the Defense Department.

Transformation Strategy

At the heart of the NDP report is a transformation strategy that addresses the "military, and national security structures, operational concepts and equipment, and the Defense Department's key business processes." Odeen and colleagues astutely suggested that acquisition and doctrine must be predicated on the long term-a gambit that implies a degree of immediate risk.

The short-term implication is that the Defense Department would retreat from its nearly simultaneous, two major regional conflicts strategy that in fact cannot be supported by current funding.

They also recommend that Pentagon planners back away from legacy systems, a decision that would permit the research and subsequent development of weapons that will be needed in the second and third decade of the new millennium.

Before offering a tantalizing glimpse of these remarkable weapons, an observation is in order:

Odeen and company noted that this transformation would come at a price. On the one hand, it would require a $5 billion to $10 billion a year "wedge" from Congress, or on the other, comparable funding that could be secured from at least two more base closing rounds, outsourcing and privatization, and further advances in acquisition reform.

Defense Secretary William S. Cohen observed, "I especially support the NDP's view that fundamental reform of the Defense Department's support infrastructure, including two additional [base closing rounds], is key to an effective transformation strategy."

In In making a case for transformation, Cohen added that the "old philosophy was the bigger eat the smaller. Now, it is the fast eat the slow. We're going to be fast and we're going to be lean. We're going to be very competitive."

The dilemma is that at this point Congress, if anything, will reduce Defense Department spending. Members also have made it clear that they are in no mood to support further base closings. Outsourcing in the context of depot work sharing, likewise, has proven to be a tough nut to crack. Contributing to this do-nothing mindset is the realization by House and Senate members that the United States remains the only super power and that consummate position probably will not be challenged for 15, 20, or 30 years. …

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