Independent QDR Panel Calls For Increasing Size Of Navy, Bolstering Procurement

Jason Sherman, Inside Defense, 26 July 2010.

A bipartisan independent review of the Obama administration’s 20-year blueprint for the Defense Department calls for increasing the size of the Navy to a 346-ship fleet and increasing the U.S. military’s posture in the Western Pacific to counter China’s growing influence in the region, according to a draft report of the Independent Quadrennial Defense Review Panel. obtained a draft copy of the report titled “The QDR in Perspective: Meeting America’s National Security Needs in the 21st Century.”

The 20-member blue-ribbon panel — co-chaired by former Defense Secretary William Perry and Stephen Hadley, former national security adviser to President George W. Bush — also finds a significant increase in funding is needed to bolster capabilities necessary to counter anti-access challenges, strengthen homeland defense; and to deal with cyber threats.

The panel’s report argues that a centerpiece of the 2010 Quadrennial Defense Review — a force-planning construct that downplayed the significance of preparing to fight and win two, nearly simultaneous major wars, a bedrock of defense planning since 1993, in order to prepare U.S. forces to deal with a wider set of possible contingencies — is unreliable. Instead, the independent panel recommends the Pentagon adopt force levels required by analysis conducted 17 years ago.

The “panel recommends the force structure be sized, at a minimum, at the end strength outlined in the 1993 Bottom-Up Review,” an assessment prepared by then-Defense Secretary Les Aspin, which Perry then worked to implement during his 1994 to 1997 term as secretary. “We further recommend the department’s [weapon system] inventory be thoroughly recapitalized and modernized,” states the draft report.

Funding to pay for these capabilities, as well as to recapitalize equipment consumed in operations in Iraq and Afghanistan, will require resources beyond the $100 billion efficiency savings recently directed by Defense Secretary Robert Gates, according to the report.

The “panel believes that substantial additional resources will be required to modernize the force. Although there is a cost to recapitalizing the military, there is also a price to be paid for not recapitalizing, one that in the long run would be much greater.”

Tasked by Congress — and composed of members appointed by lawmakers and Gates — the panel’s report delves into nearly every dimension of the U.S. military enterprise — from personnel policy to weapons acquisition to defense policy formulation — and offers an “explicit warning” about the shape of U.S. weaponry after a nearly a decade of persistent conflict.

“The aging of the inventories and equipment used by the services, the decline in the size of the Navy, and the growing stress on the force means that a train wreck is coming in the areas of personnel, acquisition, and force structure,” states the draft report.

The draft document argues that the Pentagon’s force-structure plans “will not provide sufficient capacity” to deal with a major domestic catastrophe while also conducting contingency operations abroad. The panel also asserts that the recently established U.S. Cyber Command should be prepared to assist civilian authorities in defending this domain “beyond” the Defense Department’s current role, to support civilian agencies.

The Pentagon’s 2010 Quadrennial Defense Review did not include a force-planning construct that explicitly quantifies the number and type of contingencies for which the U.S. military must prepare, removing a formula the Army, Navy, Air Force and Marines have relied on since the end of the Cold War to justify their force structures and their investment plans, an omission the independent panel laments.

The Pentagon’s 1993 Bottom-Up Review, the first major assessment of the the U.S. military’s needs after the fall of the Berlin Wall, advanced a requirement to fight and win two major-theater wars nearly simultaneously, a construct that was incorporated in the 1997, 2001 and 2006 QDRs.

“The 2010 QDR, however, did not endorse any metric for determining the size and shape of U.S. forces,” states the independent panel’s draft report. Rather, it put diverse, overlapping scenarios, including long-duration stability operations and the defense of the homeland, on par with major regional conflicts when assessing the adequacy of U.S. forces.”

The current size of U.S. ground forces “is close enough to being correct,” according to the draft report.

In addition, the panel argues that the Army is “living off the capital accumulated” during the Reagan administration. “The useful life of that equipment is running out; and, as a result, the inventory is old and in need of recapitalization,” states the draft report, which calls for inventory replacement on a one-for-one basis “with an upward adjustment in the number of naval vessels and certain air and space assets.”

A larger Navy and Air Force, according to the panel, is needed to protect U.S. interests in the Pacific region.

“The force structure in the Asia-Pacific needs to be increased,” states the draft report. “The United States must be fully present in the Asia-Pacific region, to protect American lives and territory, ensure the free flow of commerce, maintain stability, and defend our allies in the region. A robust U.S. force structure, one that is largely rooted in maritime strategy and includes other necessary capabilities, will be essential.”

The panel advances recommendations to reform the structure and organization of both Congress and the executive branch in order to improve oversight of national security matters. The panel also advances suggestions for the Defense and State departments to shore up “institutional weaknesses of the existing security assistance programs and framework.”

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