OFT Faces Different Future Without Cebrowski
The Pentagon’s Office of Force Transformation (OFT) is a small shop with a staff of 18 people – 11 military officers and 7 civilians. Its annual budget is just $20 million, amidst an annual US defense budget of over $400 billion. Its mission is to provide alternative views of the military’s future 20 years from now, producing key studies like the Alternative Fleet-Architecture Design (which recommended more, smaller, cheaper ships – see below), Operational Responsive Space Initiatives, a bigger role for blimps, and leading initiatives like Project Sheriff’s vehicle-mounted “pain ray.”
Until recently, OFT could open doors with the sheer force of its director’s name: Arthur Cebrowski, a Navy aviator who flew combat missions in Vietnam and served in Desert Storm, retired Vice Admiral, acknowledged transformation czar, and former president of the Naval War College. DID also notes the implied tribute in institutions like the “Cebrowski Institute for Information Innovation and Superiority (CINFINIS)” at the Naval Postgraduate School in Monterey. Unfortunately for the OFT, Cebrowski is battling health problems and retired in January 2005. Can OFT continue to have an impact on decision-makers without Cebrowski behind it? What’s next for the OFT?
Rep. Roscoe Bartlett (R-MD), chairman of the House Armed Services Committee’s Projection Forces Subcommittee, is a supporter of the OFT who has had continual dialogue with Cebrowski. He’s concerned that the office could now be overlooked if it does not revamp:
“They need to be in a structure where they can’t be ignored. It is too easy to be ignored, and they were not ignored under Art Cebrowski.”
The Hill Magazine reports that the OFT faces recurring pressure from the Joint Forces Command and the office of the Joint Chiefs to move the OFT to Norfolk with the command, or fold it under the office of acquisition, technology and logistics. Whether such moves would represent a solution or a “shuffle to obscurity” remains a matter for debate.
With on-the-ground war needs moving toward center stage, the OFT’s 15-20 year time horizon also means challenges to its relevance. As such, OFT needs to be selective about its involvement and pick a portfolio that will have maximum impact.
In the past couple of years, the OFT has also played a useful procurement role in the defense industry. Major contractors seek the OFT’s advice for ways to streamline, and small businesses use the OFT as a window to the Defense Department. Nor is this its only function. In addition to providing impetus to field Project Sheriff (covered by DID on May 4th & Aug. 19th, 2005), advocacy of increased airship use via the Mobilius Initiative, opening up discussions about the Alternative Fleet Architecture Design for the US Navy, and the Operational Responsive Space Initiatives report, the OFT has looked at the macro role of the USA amidst ongoing global changes.
Echoing the thesis of Thomas Barnett’s influential book The Pentagon’s New Map (see examples & debate at Winds of Change.NET). Cebrowski often spoke of the United States as a “systems administrator,” responsible for keeping the global system humming. Those places not connected to the global system – parts of the Middle East, Africa, South America and parts of Central Asia – were those most likely to see U.S. military engagement at some point. This congruence may not be surprising – Barnett worked for Cebrowski at the Naval War College.
With Cebrowski out of the picture, Terry Pudas is currently the OFT’s acting director. A naval aviator who served in Desert Shield and Desert Storm, Pudas has been OFT’s deputy director and Cebrowski’s right hand since October 2001. Acting Director Pudas said he was not certain whether Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld is actively looking for a replacement.
It would appear that the OFT has matured over the years, and that it retains an agile and solid group of people who can carry its activities forward. Organizationally, however, the saying that “people are policy” remains true in a bureaucracy like the Department of Defense. Maintaining attention-share is likely to require change – either by making structural changes, or finding another person of Cebrowski’s stature to take the helm.
Given the OFT’s role, the course chosen bears watching as it is likely to have ripple effects in the defense industry.
Some OFT/Cebrowski Articles & Thought-Pieces
This selection of peices is designed to give our readers a representative and informative sample of Cebrowski’s ideas and thinking.
- Alternative Fleet Architecture Design study [PDF format]. See also this June 2005 Congressional Research Service Report including the study [Google HTML cache | PDF Format].
- Arthur Cebrowski testimony before the Senate Armed Service Committee’s Subcommittee on Strategic Forces re: operationally responsive space, March 25/04. [Google HTML cache | MS Word format]
- Office of Force Transformation (July 17/04) – Mobilus Initiative: Airships as a New Aerospace Industry Segment–Long Version.
- Office of Force Transformation – Transformation Trends Newsletter archives. For a better explanation of TT archives in the 2002-2003 time frame, the Center for Defense Information has a very good archive with details.
- DoD DefenseLink (Jan 27/05) – DoD Transformation Here to Stay, Cebrowski Says
- Government Computer News (Nov 10/03) – Net-centric Goal: A Different Military
- National Defense Magazine (June 2003) – Survivability Not Just About Heavy Armor, Says Cebrowski
- Aviation Week & Space Technology (May 2/03) – The Pentagon’s Force-Transformation Director Comments On What Worked And What Didn’t In Iraq
- Government Computer News (Nov 9/98) – Cebrowski makes call for bottom-up IT
- US Naval Institute, Proceedings Magazine (January 1998) – Network-Centric Warfare: Its Origin and Future. By Vice Admiral Arthur K. Cebrowski, U.S. Navy, and John J. Garstka.