News | July 1, 2004

Alternative Approaches to Army Transformation

By Joseph N. Mait and Richard L. Kugler Defense Horizons 41


Alternative Approaches to Army TransformationOverview

Army transformation is an attempt to provide future forces with enhanced capabilities in lethality, survivability, and mobility, both strategic and tactical. Alternatives to achieving these goals differ in emphasis on weight and reliance on technology. That is, transformation plans differ if the objective is weight reduction as opposed to weight redistribution. In one approach, platform weight is reduced to meet mobility goals. However, shedding weight has implications for platform survivability and lethality; previous attempts to design a single platform that is simultaneously lethal, mobile, and survivable have not done so satisfactorily. Thus, advances in materials are required to insure the survivability of a lightweight platform. Advances in network technology are also required to make the platform more aware of its environment. The immaturity of these technologies increases the risks inherent in transformation based strictly on platform characteristics. 

In contract, weight redistribution considers parameters other than platform weight and networks to meet Army goals. Indeed, due to the weight of support assets, replacing all combat platforms with 20-ton vehicles reduces only marginally the overall weight of a division and corps. An alternative approach to transformation restructures Army forces into small, modular units, pre-positioned across the globe, and deployed in a time-sequential manner.  This approach, with its reduced dependency on technology, is a practical near-term alternative and should be pursued in parallel with technology development.