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A Revolution In American Military Affairs Part One

File image.
by Lawrence Sellin
Washington (UPI) Oct 23, 2008
On Feb. 3, 2006, the U.S. Department of Defense announced a new organizational structure under the Office of the Secretary of Defense called the Business Transformation Agency. Its mission was to guide the transformation of business operations throughout the Department of Defense to deliver enterprise-level capabilities that align to war fighter needs.

The BTA provides a much-needed service to effect improvements and accountability within the Department of Defense and already has produced laudable results. However, until such efforts address the most fundamental business issues that plague the individual soldier on a daily basis, there will be no transformation worthy of a BTA.

The man who started IBM on the path to recovery during the early 1990s, Lou Gerstner, has provided some useful advice for organizations undergoing transformation.

As reported in Fortune magazine on July 17, 2008, he said: "It's very important to distinguish between a transformation and a turnaround. A turnaround involves a company that has fallen off the rails and has executed poorly. It takes a driven executive, but it's not that bad. A transformation is truly difficult. The company must fundamentally change its model. It's very, very problematic.

"It's all about culture. You have to transform the culture, not just the strategy. Culture is what people do when no one is watching," Gerstner said.

The following is at least a partial list of military transformation inhibitors occurring every day at the subordinate command or unit level.

Absence of urgency can be a synonym for "business as usual." Excuses for inaction can include "not my responsibility," "I have other things to do," "it's a training holiday" or "fill in the blank for not doing something." Nearly always you will not be informed that nothing was done unless you inquire. In that case, you will be asked to resend your email. You will then need to repeat this procedure several times. Evolution works faster.

Motion masquerading as progress is a phenomenon that exists as a kind of fatal organizational myopia, which is the inability to distinguish between process and productivity.

The fact that an operation is running smoothly does not necessarily make it effective. Meetings that do not end with a list of action points and owners of those action points usually spawn follow-up meetings covering the same territory, if not the exact same 92-slide presentation.

The digital counterpart of the purposeless meeting is the blast e-mail sent to Avogadro's number -- 6.02 x 10 to the 23rd power -- of recipients. This generates lengthy discussion threads approximating the diameter of the solar system, where all opinions are given equal weight and the value of which subtracts from the total sum of human knowledge. PCS -- Permanent Change of Station -- or retirements usually intervene before anything can be done.

(Part 2: Creating a military culture of leaders, not yes-men.)

(Lawrence C. Sellin, Ph.D., is a U.S. Army reservist and an Afghanistan veteran.)

(United Press International's "Outside View" commentaries are written by outside contributors who specialize in a variety of important issues. The views expressed do not necessarily reflect those of United Press International. In the interests of creating an open forum, original submissions are invited.)

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Russia To Build Second Missile Frigate For Indian Navy By March
Kaliningrad, Russia (RIA Novosti) Oct 23, 2008
A Russian shipyard said on Thursday it would complete the construction of the second of three missile frigates for the Indian Navy by March 2009.

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