Cebrowski calls for economic shift in Defense

Cebrowski calls for economic shift in Defense

The Defense Department won't backtrack from its focus on network-centric warfare, outgoing Office of Force Transformation chief Arthur Cebrowski predicted today at a Washington lunch sponsored by the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics' National Capital Section.

'It's difficult to undo the legislative and management changes' wrought by DOD's net-centric emphasis this decade, said Cebrowski, who spent 37 years in the Navy. But he sees the military services 'steaming at flank speed into a budget tsunami' because of the fast cost growth for conventional warfare.

'Any service's investment program has to be completely retooled,' he said.

'Nobody wants to slip back to a less networked, less well-informed age. We are raising up a very large number of noncommissioned and junior officers with combat experience,' he said. 'They are changing tactics. The Marines and the Army have a robust way of capturing this and training.'

In an era when nuclear weapons have given way to weapons of mass destruction and irregular attacks, decision-makers must abandon their 1950s business models, Cebrowski said.

'We need new rules on the economics of defense in the age of globalization,' Cebrowski said. When war becomes more labor-intensive and less capital-intensive, 'it's less cost for [the enemy] and more cost for us.'

Among the shifts he foresees:

  • Different kinds of battlefield systems

  • De-emphasizing expenditures on high-cost arms

  • Shortening the delivery timelines for IT components to less than three years

  • Coupling information systems with physical systems for propulsion and sensing.

'We're entering an era of historic opportunity when the timelines for structural materials, fuels and sensors are shorter because much of the R&D is already done,' Cebrowski said. 'We should cash in on' advances such as molecular engineering of higher-density munitions by supercomputers.

He condemned U.S. defense industries such as ship-building that he said have grown noncompetitive, predictable and slow. 'I say, let's compete on cost and cycle time,' he said. 'Learning comes out of that. Don't down-select to one industry.'

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