Net-centric goal: a different military
- By Dawn S. Onley
- Nov 04, 2003
Arthur Cebrowski, Defense's change agent
J. Adam Fenster
Arthur K. Cebrowski's job is to develop technological concepts that will revolutionize the culture of the military and warfare.
As the director of force transformation'a post created by Defense secretary Donald Rumsfeld a month after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks'Cebrowski's job is to challenge the status quo in the Defense Department and the military services.
Among his primary responsibilities, Cebrowski monitors military and joint experimentation programs and makes policy recommendations to Rumsfeld and to the deputy secretary of Defense about new processes and technologies that show promise.
Born in Passaic, N.J., Cebrowski is a 1964 graduate of Villanova University. He attended the Naval War College and has a master's degree in computer systems management from the Naval Post Graduate School.
Cebrowski was a naval aviator and commanded Fighter Squadron 41 and Carrier Air Wing Eight. He commanded the assault ship USS Guam, the aircraft carrier USS Midway and the USS America battle group.
Cebrowski retired from the Navy in October 2001, after more than 37 years of service and combat tours in Vietnam and the Persian Gulf.
He formerly was director of command, control, communications and computers for the Joint Chiefs of Staff and president of the Naval War College in Newport, R.I.
GCN staff writer Dawn S. Onley interviewed Cebrowski at his office in Arlington, Va.GCN: What is the mission of the Office of Force Transformation?
CEBROWSKI: Our objective is to ensure the sustained competitive advantage of the nation in the military domain. We intend to link force transformation to key elements of military strategy because transformation is first and foremost a strategic process. And that process should be linked to the strategic elements of dissuading competition, assuring allies, deterring opponents and, if need be, compelling behavior consistent with the national interest, using violent means if necessary.
The objective is also to develop innovative concepts to leverage America's great advantages. We also want to create elements of transformation that do not now exist and to identify and develop new pathways and linkages for implementation.
Transformation is a difficult and awesome undertaking, and the entire departmental leadership is falling behind the secretary and president in transforming our military. And this is the only office in the Defense Department that is dedicated solely to supporting these leaders in their transformation efforts. Our job is to help them. But we're also authorized to work outside the normal course in doing so.
So, for example, we can either buy or develop operational prototypes being used in experimentation. We have no particular institutional allegiance except the success of the department in contributing to the security of the nation.GCN: Can you elaborate on some of the prototypes you find interesting?
CEBROWSKI: In the war itself, one of the things that we saw was the emerging use of Personal Role Radios.
The thing that's really neat is that previously exercise tactics were confined by how far you could shout and be heard, or a hand signal seen. In the din and confusion of combat, frequently that's not far.
But when you go to these radios, suddenly you can try tactics that you couldn't use before, and you know that's the same thing that's happening in the world of business, when firms started to connect. All of a sudden they found out they could compete in ways that they couldn't before. Firms created new tactics.
We said a long time ago that that is what would happen in the military, but the military people said, 'No, no, no. You can't take a lesson from business and apply it to the military because we're different.'
Well, they were wrong. Of course they're different, but that doesn't mean you can't apply the lessons.
The Personal Role Radios came into the force because they were needed to support our warfighters in Iraq, not as part of the acquisition process. That constitutes an example of transformation in conflict. Conflict does not hamper transformation. Conflict accelerates transformation.GCN: Are there special rules that let the services speed the acquisition of such systems during conflicts?
CEBROWSKI: In the case of these radios, somebody just went and bought them. It's just that simple. It's just like so many of the Global Positioning System receivers that the forces use. The services didn't go through the acquisition system. They bought them.
The Personal Role Radios were already being used by the Brits. They were being used safely to ferry civilians around the world. We didn't have to go through a separate test.GCN: Why does the military need to move beyond interoperability to interdependence? And has the military achieved true interoperability yet?
CEBROWSKI: We do not have a requisite level of interoperability within the department. We will never achieve perfection in this area, but it's a goal to which we must continually strive. Because we are in the Information Age, the great source of power is in sharing situational awareness and understanding.
Someone who is incapable of connecting with someone else is not participating in the Information Age. They're not benefiting. They're not contributing. So they're wasting money.
If someone is not going to be interoperable, we ought to take their money away, cancel their programs and put those resources to use where they can benefit and contribute.GCN: How do you define network-centric warfare?
CEBROWSKI: This is not about making the Industrial Age military better. This is about creating a different military.
This is not about the application of IT so that we can conduct large-scale conventional war better. Rather, it's about making us able to perform whatever missions the nation requires, in whatever context, for however long it takes, to the benefit of national security.
And so, concepts such as network-centric warfare are not about large-scale conventional war, high-end tech war. They're about all levels of competition, both violent and nonviolent.
Whether one is involved in a high-intensity firefight or doing peacekeeping in Baghdad, the same principals apply. There's the same need for interoperability. There's the same need for tactical doctrinal agility, organizational flexibility. There's the same need for leveraging the power of shared awareness.GCN: With DOD's increased reliance on systems, do you think the threat of cyberattacks will increase?
CEBROWSKI: Yes. Whenever something of value is introduced to the battlefield, you can expect it to be attacked. Therefore defense in this capability is important.
The error that many people make is to assume that increased use of information systems increases our vulnerability. Just the opposite is true. The fact of the matter is, the more we use it, the more robust it becomes, the more resistant it'll be to attack, the better we will be able to determine attack.GCN: What role will intelligence agencies play in a transformed military?
CEBROWSKI: Bigger. Bigger by a lot. The nexus of domestic and international security policy is intelligence.
The key to relationships between the Defense Department and Homeland Security Department is intelligence. The key to a more responsive military force is intelligence. The key to defeating weapons of mass destruction is intelligence and surveillance.
We are moving'I heard someone say once'from an era where a small amount of intelligence and surveillance supports a large force to an era where a very great deal of intelligence and surveillance supports a small force.
A logical extension of that is that as the physical component of the force diminishes, the information component increases vastly.GCN: Do you see DOD eventually moving to one fighting force?
CEBROWSKI: No. The relationships will change, the roles will change, the responsibilities of the service chiefs will evolve over time, but the services will remain. They will not, however, remain the same. They will be different.
There is a growing need for manpower in the military, but that doesn't mean that the number of recruits should become much larger. The services should use them in different ways.
There's tremendous power in IT to reduce our logistics footprint, which would then free up personnel and associated funding for other things. So I don't see a need to return to conscription for military services. We might want to consider conscription for national services.