Posts Tagged ‘QDR’

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.

Pentagon review must aim for more than modest cuts in defense spending

Project on Defense Alternatives, Briefing Memo #49, 25 April 2011.

There is good reason to welcome a strategic review, as promised by President Obama on 13 April. For nearly 14 years, US defense policy has been guided by the “QDR consensus” – a set of axioms and imperatives that won adherence among defense planners in the course of four Quadrennial Defense Reviews, beginning in 1997. In retrospect, this consensus has produced a syndrome of profligate and desultory military activism. It has fed the dysfunctions of our military procurement system and helped drive the Pentagon’s base budget to unsustainable heights. Certainly, it is time for a fresh start. But will the promised review deliver?

Will the review be more open and critical than the QDRs it aims to rectify? How deep will it dig? Will it even aim to “rectify?” Or will it serve a more narrow purpose: a revised bargain among the Commander-in-Chief, his defense secretary, and the chiefs of the armed services to exchange modest new constraints on budget growth for a strong rationale, a bulwark, against any further cuts.

What the President seeks is only $400 billion in savings over 12 years – about 6.5% of planned base budget expenditures. Last year, the President’s Fiscal Commission and other independent task forces identified more than twice as much in potential defense savings over a period of just ten years. And it is unclear whether the President intends to extract the $400 billion from the Pentagon’s budget alone or from the larger “security basket,” which includes International Affairs, Homeland Security, and Veterans Affairs.

Also, it is not encouraging that the President applauded Defense Security Gates for having “already saved” $400 billion in previous years, when most of those “savings” never left the Pentagon’s coffers, nor dented the government’s deficits. What the nation needs now are “savings” in the colloquial sense of an actual decrease in defense spending.

A serious strategic review should enable considerably more than a 6.5% retraction in planned future expenditures. It should do more than limit future growth. And maybe it will. But we should recognize at the start that what the President has proposed is not itself substantial enough to actually necessitate a strategic review. Yes, we need one – but not because the President hopes to modestly dampen Pentagon growth.

To be meaningful, such a review must look well beyond $400 billion in savings, and even beyond what the Fiscal Commission and other task forces have proposed. Of course, Secretary Gates and Admiral Mullen disagree. They have already publicly derided any substantial new constraints on their spending as putting the nation and its armed services at risk. The strategic review should be more than a conciliatory concession to their concerns, which are tendentious.

We can gain needed perspective by comparing recent budget submissions and proposals in historical context. This table prepared by PDA converts recent plans and proposals into average annual Pentagon base budgets, expressed in 2010 dollars. It shows that the President’s requests and proposals, including his recent one, would produce average annual budgets that occupy a narrow band of spending. They are all close cousins.

Even the more ambitious proposal by the Sustainable Defense Task Force does not go far afield.

All of the President’s requests and proposals produce average annual budgets that, in real terms, exceed previous spending, exceed Reagan-era levels of spending, and substantially exceed average spending during the entire Cold War period. (And, notably, the budget average for the Cold War years includes war spending, while the more recent averages do not.)

We should gladly accept the opportunity for a review of defense planning and work to make it worthwhile. But we need not and should not accept the idea that modest revisions in budget planning give good reason to hit the “strategy panic” button.

“Red Team” Report in 2009 Raised Concerns about Fiscal Constraints

Sebastian Sprenger writing in Inside Defense on 21 April 2011 reports that the QDR Red Team headed by Gen. James Mattis (USMC) and Andrew Marshall, director of the Office of Net Assessment, raised concerns in 2009 about the fiscal restraint effects of the deep recession on military plans to be represented in the QDR.

The Red Team report was not made public. When the QDR was published in early 2010 it did not include a presentation of the effects of fiscal constraints.

Last week, a little more than a year later, President Obama asked Secretary Gates to find $400 billion in additional security budget cuts over a twelve year period and called for a new review of military roles and missions.

The effect of this development will be an update of the 2010 QDR which will likely now heed the concerns of the 2009 Red Team concerning fiscal constraints.

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.”

Forward Observer: QDR is a Quite Disappointing Report

George C. Wilson. Government Executive, 05 March 2010.


I spent months in 1997 going behind the scenes at the Pentagon and Congress to find out about all the wheeling and dealing that went into the writing of the QDR that year. “I had high hopes for the QDR,” Gen. Ronald Fogleman, former Air Force Chief of Staff, told me. “In my view, for the QDR to be a success there was going to have to be some fairly significant realignment among the [armed] services.”

But Fogleman said his hopes for meaningful reform were dashed when the then-chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Army Gen. John Shalikashvili, sent a two-star general to Fogleman’s office to deliver this message: “The chairman would like to have the QDR turn out to be as close to the status quo as we can make this thing work. His message is: ‘We don’t need any Billy Mitchells,'” the general said, referring to Army Brig. Gen. Billy Mitchell, who revolutionized the use of air power by demonstrating in 1923 how bombers could sink Navy warships.

Assessing the QDR and 2011 defense budget

Gordon Adams. Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, 02 March 2010.


…there is a core assumption in the QDR and defense budget that near-term missions are going to last forever, particularly counterinsurgency, counterterrorism, and stability operations. The case for this projection seems to be based on the idea that Iraq and Afghanistan are the model for future U.S. military operations. Here the QDR and defense budget miss the point completely. Iraq and Afghanistan were wars of choice, designed to overthrow a regime and rebuild those countries. Which other countries will we need to invade and rebuild in the future? Neither the QDR nor the budget provides any answers, calling into question the logic behind this premise.

Nuclear Posture Review to Reduce Regional Role of Nuclear Weapons

Hans Kristensen. Federation of American Scientists blog, 22 February 2010.

Nuclear Weapons in Europe 2010

If You Could See America Through China’s Eyes

Steve Clemons. TPM Cafe, 13 February 2010.