[FOUNTAIN]America’s evolving military

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[FOUNTAIN]America’s evolving military

The Web site of the U.S. Department of Defense is overwhelmed by one topic: Transformation. Some say that to win future wars, the whole army must change. The Pentagon began this drive in November 2001, two months after 9/11, when Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld established the Office of Force Transformation.
The first head of the office was Arthur K. Cebrowski, a retired U.S. Navy admiral. He was a vice admiral who commanded the aircraft carrier Midway in the Gulf War and served as the president of the Naval Academy. His work is based on his 1988 paper, “Network-Centric Warfare: Its Origin and Future.” His strategy is to confront foes by connecting all fighting systems such as troops, aircraft carriers, fighters and tanks into one communications network. It was also an experiment of enabling everyone from commanders to the lowest ranking privates to share information using worldwide wireless LAN. Once a target is set, every combat unit would rush over immediately, like a swarm of bees.
What Cebrowski had in mind was first executed in the Afghanistan War. A cavalry soldier would report the situation from the battlefield using a terminal unit. Signals sent to naval and air force fighters through satellite networks would be used for accurate bombing. Leaders could observe the battle’s progress on large-size screens at CIA headquarters. This was possible by using the Predator unmanned aerial vehicle patrol system. Then the leaders would give additional orders. Rumsfeld commented, “The battlefield in Afghanistan was where the 19th century met the 21st century.” Later, the Iraq War and various Al-Qaeda hunting operations were carried out in this manner.
When an empire transforms, there are no exceptions among troops, weapons or allies. Heavy armed divisions will transform into prompt action units and the 70-ton main tank force will become a force of 16 to 20-ton tanks. Foreign bases will change from fortresses to posts for rapid response units. The logic is that lighter is faster, and faster is stronger.
On January 18, The Institute for Defense & Government Advancement established the Cebrowski Award to honor his work. Network warfare has been considered as significant as Karl von Clausewitz’s theories on war and Mao Zedong’s guerrilla warfare.
Cebrowski used to say, “Harder than introducing new ideas to the army is drawing out the old thoughts.” It is time to break the stereotype that security is solid when U.S. forces in Korea are tied to the Korean Peninsula. Allies need to evolve to survive.

by Oh Young-hwan

The writer is a deputy political news editor at the JoongAng Ilbo.
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