TCS Daily

Rumsfeld and Innovation Bring Changes for Defense

By Richard Perle - March 23, 2001 12:00 AM

In his March 19 Defense Commentary, Ken Adelman wrote, "Watch for real innovations and dramatic changes" from Team Rumsfeld. Four days later, the front page of The Washington Post headlined, "Rumsfeld Outlines Defense Overhaul."

Defense Central immediately contacted preeminent defense strategist Richard Perle for his take on the changes to come in the Defense Department.

Defense Central: The Washington Post published today an article revealing that dramatic reforms will be seen in the nation's armed forces. What is the most important aspect of this story?

Secretary Perle: Well, I think what makes the story important is that it is the first time since Cap Weinberger took over as Secretary more than 20 years ago that any incoming Secretary of Defense has promised to do anything other than simply taking over. The idea of radical reforms, is something we haven't heard in 20 years. And even 20 years ago, the focus of Weinberger's energy was rebuilding America's defenses along the same lines as he found when he got to the Defense Department.

Defense Central: What will the focus of Secretary Rumsfeld's energy be?

Secretary Perle: I think he understands that the world has changed in some very fundamental ways, but the organization, the training - the doctrine of our armed forces has been slow to respond to that change. And so almost everything needs to reflect this change. When I say everything, I mean the kinds of forces that we buy, the numbers in which we buy them, the way they're trained, their sense of mission. There are issues here of ability, speed with which forces can be dispatched, the level of risk that they will be forced to take on the battlefield. What has happened in the last decade is the emergence of information technologies, which give us opportunities if we seize them.

Defense Central: Will Secretary Rumsfeld's plan capitalize on the U.S. technological advantage?

Secretary Perle: Yes, I haven't seen a plan, but I think I'm familiar with the thinking of the Secretary and other people around him - Andy Marshall certainly has had a major role in helping the Secretary think this through. And it's the revolution in military affairs, which is to say, the application of information technology, that is so promising. This is very substantial. For the first time, we can imagine that any American in combat can see what is going on [across the battlefield], and we can do it with the remote sensors that should give us the capability to outrange the enemy...and that's accomplished in part by the geographic range of weapons and in part by stealth technology. If you're not there, they can't hit you! And these technologies, these emerging technologies give us opportunities to hit the targets most of the time so we can keep a safe distance.

Defense Central: The final question I have for you is that it is quoted in The Washington Post that a senior Pentagon official said "Rumsfeld is about change." What do you think will be the single, most recognizable change coming from the Rumsfeld Defense Department?

Secretary Perle: I think the pace of innovation from the Department of Defense will increase dramatically. And a lot of the internal quarrels, the inertia that protects legacy systems, the notion that things have to be done in the future the way they have been done in the past - all of that is going to give way. There will be a tremendous sense of energy, and people will sense it.

Defense Central: Thank you for speaking with us. 

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