Defense transformation czar touts progress

The official tasked with the visionary aspects of transforming the military into a network-based environment said Friday he was surprised to find the transformation going quite well among the lower ranks.

"A funny thing happened on the way to transformation," said retired Adm. Arthur Cebrowski, director of the Defense Department office of force transformation. "It's happening from the bottom up. It's really taking place."

Cebrowski said he witnessed the take-up of transformation at the tactical, or soldier, level during visits this week to Western training ranges with Defense Deputy Secretary Paul Wolfowitz.

"I saw our stodgy, hidebound Army transforming before my very eyes," Cebrowski said at an American Enterprise Institute event. "It was marvelous." He said the "wholesale change" in what the troops are doing has come within the past few months.

Cebrowski also saw the "desire to push interoperability" or the ability for different systems to communicate with each other down to the tactical level. Communications were "traditionally guarded jealously" by the various armed services but "not any more."

"They're saying the things I always hoped I would hear," Cebrowski said. Nevertheless, he acknowledged that problems still exist and that there is "a long way to go." Barriers he identified are the internal Defense processes, including acquisition, requirements, budgets and personnel management, and physical barriers, such as the speed information can travel.

He also cited cultural barriers within the military but said that depends on officers. "The fact of the matter is culture [is] all about leadership. That's the heart of it." Cebrowski also predicted that attacks on information systems would be as great as those on weapons systems in the future.

Cebrowski highlighted some changes that reflect transformation, such as the high-level expansion of national security beyond strictly a defense matter to homeland security as well. Also, there has been a shift from defense as a response to attack to a focus on prevention, which is a "massive change," he said.

Another key change under way is the move from dependence on military intelligence, such as where the enemy's weapons are, to cultural and societal intelligence. He referred to the changes as the "civilian-ization" and "internationalization" of defense. The focus on new types of intelligence reflects the changing nature of the enemy, which is less centralized and readily identifiable.

In the future, greater focus will be placed on "non-lethal" capabilities, not just weapons targeting human lives. Logistics also will have to change to reflect the greater need for adaptability in fighting, he said.

In addition, space will receive more emphasis for defense, he said. "No one can compete with us in space," Cebrowski said. The cost of using space remains high, but the capabilities are "soaring," he said, making it possible for new business models such as "microsatellites" that allow new types of movement and surveillance.

"We're moving into the age of the small, the fast and the many," Cebrowski said.

He also predicted more machine-to-machine integration and new types of transportation.

Stay up-to-date with federal news alerts and analysis — Sign up for GovExec's email newsletters.
Close [ x ] More from GovExec

Thank you for subscribing to newsletters from
We think these reports might interest you:

  • Going Agile:Revolutionizing Federal Digital Services Delivery

    Here’s one indication that times have changed: Harriet Tubman is going to be the next face of the twenty dollar bill. Another sign of change? The way in which the federal government arrived at that decision.

  • Cyber Risk Report: Cybercrime Trends from 2016

    In our first half 2016 cyber trends report, SurfWatch Labs threat intelligence analysts noted one key theme – the interconnected nature of cybercrime – and the second half of the year saw organizations continuing to struggle with that reality. The number of potential cyber threats, the pool of already compromised information, and the ease of finding increasingly sophisticated cybercriminal tools continued to snowball throughout the year.

  • Featured Content from RSA Conference: Dissed by NIST

    Learn more about the latest draft of the U.S. National Institute of Standards and Technology guidance document on authentication and lifecycle management.

  • GBC Issue Brief: The Future of 9-1-1

    A Look Into the Next Generation of Emergency Services

  • GBC Survey Report: Securing the Perimeters

    A candid survey on cybersecurity in state and local governments

  • The New IP: Moving Government Agencies Toward the Network of The Future

    Federal IT managers are looking to modernize legacy network infrastructures that are taxed by growing demands from mobile devices, video, vast amounts of data, and more. This issue brief discusses the federal government network landscape, as well as market, financial force drivers for network modernization.

  • eBook: State & Local Cybersecurity

    CenturyLink is committed to helping state and local governments meet their cybersecurity challenges. Towards that end, CenturyLink commissioned a study from the Government Business Council that looked at the perceptions, attitudes and experiences of state and local leaders around the cybersecurity issue. The results were surprising in a number of ways. Learn more about their findings and the ways in which state and local governments can combat cybersecurity threats with this eBook.


When you download a report, your information may be shared with the underwriters of that document.