Intelligence on President Obama’s Forthcoming Fundamental Defense Review

Charles Knight. Project on Defense Alternatives Note, 12 May 2011.

Word is that two principals in the production of 2010 Quadrennial Defense Review will be charged with producing the “fundamental” defense review President Obama ordered in his April 13th speech on the deficit. They are Kathleen Hicks, Deputy Undersecretary of Defense for Strategy and Force Planning, who was the lead 2010 QDR author and David Ochmanek, Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Force Development, who headed the “analysis and integration cell” which pulled together all the analytical aspects of the last QDR.


Defense News reports (23 May 2011) that “The missions and capabilities review will be led by Christine Fox, director of cost assessment and program evaluations [and formerly the President of the Center for Naval Analyses (CNA)]; Michele Flournoy, defense undersecretary for policy [and the Pentagon official in charge of the 2010 QDR]; and Adm. Michael Mullen, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.”

Editor’s Comment:

Putting the same people who did the 2010 review in charge of producing the new review raises an obvious question of whether we should expect anything much “new” or “fundamental” from this review. QDRs in the past have certainly failed to be “fundamental” in any meaningful sense of the word.

One suspects that the foregone sub-text of what Ms. Hicks writes into the new review will be, “We got this pretty much right when we did it last year. Now, of course, if you are willing to take greater security risks you can cut some pieces out of the force posture, but that is a political decision…”

If the new review makes such a smug presentation it will serve the President and the nation poorly. The 2010 QDR did not make any real effort to set clear priorities among the many military requirements it listed, failing one of the principles of strategy development which is to set a practical path within resource constraints. A new fundamental review must present a variety of low-risk options that can be achieved at various resource investment levels. Its authors should not be allowed to simply push the matter of security risk into the political domain.

President Obama would be smart to solicit ideas from a wide variety of sources, reaching far beyond the Pentagon’s strategy, policy and force planning staff. If a fundamental review is needed, it is wise to hear and consider diverse voices.

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