Critics take shots at net-centric warfare planning

SAN DIEGO'The real take-home lesson from Operation Iraqi Freedom is that, in some instances, insurgents used network-centric warfare better than the U.S. military did, according to one panelist at the AFCEA West 2005 conference here.

The United States had better technology and equipment, but insurgents used cell phones and the Internet to launch an effective counterattack on troops with improvised explosive devices, said Ralph Peters, a retired Army lieutenant colonel and the author of 20 fiction and nonfiction books.

And they are still using such measures to launch attacks, Peters said.

"It's not about the technology you've got, but you're employment of it," Peters said. "Technology still doesn't win wars by itself."

The United States went into OIF with technology second to none, he said. Troops were supposed to prove that technology, coupled with airpower, could win a quick war and guarantee the peace. But the number of troops sent to Iraq was inadequate and that proved to be an insurmountable hurdle for technology to overcome, he said.

Another huge hurdle was the language barrier. Peters said the military needs to do a better job of hiring linguists and analysts who are skilled in local languages where personnel are deployed.

Another panelist, Marine Corps Lt. Gen. James N. Mattis, said another key lesson from OIF is: "Don't patronize the enemy. They mean business. They mean every word they say. They're killing us."

"Where should we be putting our resources as we transform?" Mattis asked.

Peters and Mattis, commanding general of the Marine Corps Combat Development Command, said they disagree with retired Vice Adm. Art Cebrowski's vision and direction of force transformation.

Peters said Cebrowski, who has just retired from the job of Defense transformation chief, put a bigger emphasis on building the technology-laden future force without much consideration of the enemies troops will encounter.

"Don't build the force and then look for enemies to fight," Peters said. "Technology is great, but you've got to avoid becoming a prisoner of technology. I'm not anti-IT, but we're seduced by pure capabilities as opposed to relevant needs."

"I love Adm. Cebrowski, but not one of those [force transformation] technologies could have helped me these last three years," Mattis said, referring to an earlier keynote address Cebrowski gave yesterday morning. "It's not about the technology you got, but your employment of it."

An employee in Cebrowski's office said both Peters and Mattis are "purposely" confusing Cebrowski's true message. "He's more about increasing information, which leads to knowledge," said the employee, who declined to give his name.

The employee said Cebrowski touts the four components of transformation'technology, organizations, processes and culture'but that Peters and Mattis choose to focus on just the technology.

"The critics look at the technology piece and blow that out," he said.

But the critics didn't stop at Cebrowski. Peters slammed DOD's top contractor, Lockheed Martin Corp., as well as others, for being too driven by money and not on developing innovation.

"I don't think the big five [contractors] have done enough to peel back the acquisition system and look outside the box to find the changing nature of war,' Peters said. 'War is changing and I believe there are opportunities for major contractors if they would step out of the box."

Reader Comments

Please post your comments here. Comments are moderated, so they may not appear immediately after submitting. We will not post comments that we consider abusive or off-topic.

Please type the letters/numbers you see above