Tuesday, February 02, 2010

Gates' QDR Envisions a Do-It-All Military

By JOHN T. BENNETT The 2010 Quadrennial Defense Review (QDR) unveiled Feb. 1 envisions a U.S. military that would be very different than the one Defense Secretary Robert Gates found upon taking office in 2006. The much-anticipated review calls for a force shaped for a wide swath of activities in many hotspots, not one only shaped to simultaneously fight two peer militaries. Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Adm. Mike Mullen speaks Feb. 1 at a news briefing at the Pentagon to discuss the 2010 Quadrennial Defense Review and the 2011 U.S. defense budget. Defense Secretary Robert Gates is seated to his left. (JEWEL SAMAD / AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE) The 2010 review keeps a requirement for a force capable of conducting two major contingencies at once, but it "breaks from the past … in its insistence that the U.S. Armed Forces must be capable of conducting a wide range of operations." Related Topics Americas Air Warfare Land Warfare Naval Warfare And it's no short list, ranging from two big operations to "homeland defense and defense support to civil authorities, to deterrence and preparedness missions, to the conflicts we are in and the wars we may someday face," the QDR states. Gates, during a briefing at the Pentagon, told reporters he found the Cold War-era force planning construct "too confining," and felt it "didn't represent the real world" in which the U.S. military will operate for years to come. The secretary prompted the change in the Pentagon's force planned construct months ago. As the QDR process was getting underway, Gates told reporters he asked DoD researchers and planners what would happen if the U.S. military, which already is involved in a pair of major operations in Iraq and Afghanistan, faced another serious challenge. Examples the secretary listed included a major earthquake like the one that destroyed much of Haiti last month and a major domestic disaster. The new construct "stresses the importance of fielding forces that are versatile and that, in aggregate, can undertake missions across the full range of plausible challenges," according to the QDR. "Because America's adversaries have been adopting a wide range of strategies and capabilities that can be brought to bear against the United States and its forces, allies, and interests, it is no longer appropriate to speak of 'major regional conflicts' as the sole or even the primary template for sizing, shaping, and evaluating U.S. forces," the review states. Instead, the quadrennial study calls for a U.S. force "prepared to conduct a wide variety of missions under a range of different circumstances." It goes on to describe operations that "may vary in duration and intensity for maritime, air, ground, space and cyber forces." Some former officials and analysts have raised concerns about the notion of creating a military largely composed of so-called "full-spectrum forces," meaning they are able to do many things. One source who reviewed a copy of the quadrennial study before it was publicly released said he worries it is pushing for a generalist U.S. force. "That notion is a total misnomer," the source said, adding he feels forces should have a clear and strong expertise. The Pentagon seems to have heard such alarms. "Ensuring flexibility of the whole force does not require each part of the force to do everything equally well," the quadrennial review states. "Not all challenges pose the same degree of threat to national interests, rely on U.S. military capabilities equally, or have the same chance of occurrence." The new force-shaping model was derived from what the draft report calls the Pentagon's four defense strategy priorities: "prevail in today's wars; prevent and deter conflict; prepare to succeed in a wide range of contingencies; and preserve and enhance the force." Sources say the priorities are known within the QDR process as "the Four Ps." The study also establishes frameworks that look beyond the five-year DoD budget plan that was rolled out along with the QDR. "Whereas [past] QDRs have often emphasized shaping the force beyond the five-year time frame, this QDR, of necessity, had to focus intensively on present conflicts as well as potential future needs," it states. "Our force-sizing construct therefore takes into account the realities of the current operational environment. In order to shape the force of the future, however, the construct also establishes sizing criteria for the midterm [5–7 years] and long term [7–20 years]." The study also hints Obama administration defense officials agree with many Pentagon observers who have long said past QDRs failed to make a lasting impact because they often aren't implemented within the Pentagon's annual budgeting process. "To ensure a tight coupling of strategic ends to means, the QDR force-sizing construct is defined according to the priority objectives of the defense strategy," the study states. Additionally, the draft QDR says Pentagon officials built the review around six key mission areas: defend the United States and support civil authorities at home; conduct counterinsurgency, stability and counterterrorist operations; build partnership capacity; deter and defeat aggression in anti-access environments; impede proliferation and counter weapons of mass destruction; operate effectively in cyberspace. The QDR calls for steps to ensure success in each mission area that could influence Pentagon procurement and research accounts. For defending the homeland, initiatives include enhancing crisis response forces, speeding development of nuclear and radiation detection tools, and bolstering counter-IED tools to thwart potential bomb attacks inside the United States. Under the counterinsurgency-stability-counterterror goals, the QDR calls for increased availability of helicopters, unmanned and manned ISR planes, increasing "enabling assets for special operations forces." For "deterring and defeating" foes in "anti-access environments," the QDR cites a list of steps: more long-range strike systems; "exploit advantages in subsurface operations"; enhance ISR platforms; and assure access to space. The QDR raises cyberspace operations to the top of the department's focus list. Here, the Pentagon must "develop a more comprehensive approach to DoD operations in cyberspace." Also needed are "greater cyber expertise and awareness," and better organization and command of cyber activities within DoD and across the federal government, it states. Meantime, the QDR also spawned a follow-on study that will "determine what combination of joint persistent surveillance, electronic warfare, and precision-attack capabilities, including both penetrating platforms and stand-off weapons, will best support U.S. power projection operations over the next two to three decades." That study will inform budget plans for long-range strike programs for fiscal 2012 through fiscal 2017. Reaction to the QDR from Capitol Hill has been largely predictable, with Democrats praising the strategic review and Republicans voicing questions and concerns. The top Republican on the House Armed Services Committee, Rep. Howard "Buck" McKeon, R-Calif., said in a statement he is "concerned we are not making the necessary investments in research and development - as well as across-the-board investments in our weapons platforms - that will be required to meet the threats outlined in the Quadrennial Defense Review." Industry analysts say the review will create new opportunities for defense firms in realms like cyber security, giving a boost to helicopter- and unmanned aircraft makers.

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