- The Washington Times - Saturday, May 26, 2001

President George W. Bush yesterday offered a glimpse of the ultimate transformation in Americas armed forces. If the presidents address was any indication of the future, big changes lie ahead.

Delivering the commencement address for the 2001 graduating class at the U.S. Naval Academy, Mr. Bush gratefully acknowledged the presence of four flag officers from the class of 1951. "The world you´re entering today is different from the one the entered in five decades ago," Mr. Bush told the Navy´s newest officers, adding, "but it´s still dangerous." Today´s world is one of "change and challenge," particularly so because "the world around us is made smaller every day by the powers of science and technology," whose "forces of change are transforming every field, from business and communications to health and culture." Clearly, the military field cannot remain unaffected. Therefore, the leadership challenge for the class of 2001, the president told the graduates, is to "embrace those forces so that you might shape them and harness them to build the security of our country." Only in this way will the Navy´s future leaders be able to "see over the horizon and to develop the new concepts and applications that our Navy will need in the decades to come."

Mr. Bush committed himself to "building a future force that is defined less by size and more by mobility and swiftness, one that is easier to deploy and maintain, one that relies more heavily on stealth, precision weaponry and information technologies." Such a future, he said, may well include Aegis destroyers providing defenses for entire continents against ballistic missile attacks. Indicating what he has in mind for today´s nuclear missile-carrying Trident submarine fleet, some of whose ballistic missiles may be unilaterally eliminated, the president envisioned the world´s most powerful ships one day carrying hundreds of next-generation smart conventional cruise missiles. Taking advantage of the revolution in space-based sensors, Mr. Bush envisioned "global command-and-control systems providing near total battle-space awareness in real time to on-the-scene commanders."

Mr. Bush pointedly acknowledged that this would not be an easy task. "Changing the direction of our military is like changing the course of a mighty ship all the more reason for more research and development, and all the more reason to get started today." He elicited a reaction of sustained applause from the Navy´s newest officers after pledging to foster "a military culture where intelligent risk-taking and forward-thinking are rewarded, not dreaded. And I am committed to ensuring that visionary leaders who take risks are recognized and promoted." Now, that would be truly transformational in today´s climate.

The president´s father, the 41st president of the United States, frequently displayed obvious discomfort with what he called "the vision thing," a factor that undoubtedly contributed to his political demise. Judging by the Annapolis commencement address, the nation´s 43rd president will not have any problems with "the vision thing." Far more likely, to the extent that Mr. Bush is successful in his transformational quest, "the vision thing" will be a problem for America´s future adversaries.


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