Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Alternate QDR: Boost Equipment Modernization, U.S. Force Size

Defense News By JOHN T. BENNETT Pentagon spending plans and cost-saving efforts would fall short of fielding the kind of modern combat arsenal likely needed to fight future foes, including a rapidly modernizing Chinese military, according to a high-level bipartisan group of defense experts. Increasing the size of the U.S. Navy, especially to deal with the volatile Pacific Ocean, is one recommendation of a mandated alternative to the 2010 Quadrennial Defense Review. Above, the amphibious assault ship Essex steams through the Pacific. (MCSN ADAM K. THOMAS / U.S. NAVY) "We are concerned by what we see as a growing gap between our interests and our military capability to protect those interests in the face of a complex and challenging security environment," according to a congressionally mandated alternative to the Pentagon's 2010 Quadrennial Defense Review (QDR). Related Topics Americas Air Warfare Land Warfare Naval Warfare Defense News obtained a summary of the "alternative QDR," set to be unveiled July 29. The U.S. military continues to rely on 30-year-old combat equipment, largely because of the staggering costs of two ongoing wars, including the expense of keeping aging platforms in operational shape for those conflicts, the independent QDR study team concluded. While Defense Secretary Robert Gates has charged each military service with freeing up between $10 billion and $15 billion annually over the next few years, ordering them to roll the "savings" into hardware modernization efforts, the independent QDR panel doubts that will generate enough new monies to build the kind of force America will need for decades to come. "We cannot reverse the decline of shipbuilding, buy enough naval aircraft, recapitalize Army equipment, buy the F-35 requirement, purchase a new aerial tanker, increase deep strike capability, and recapitalize the bomber fleet just by saving $10-15 billion dollars that the Department of Defense hopes to save through acquisition reform," states the summary of the alternative QDR. Last year's defense authorization act tasked the panel with assessing the contents of the 2010 QDR and issuing its own national defense plan. It was led by William Perry and Stephen Hadley. Perry was defense secretary under President Clinton, and Hadley was President George W. Bush's last national security adviser. Lawmakers, congressional aides and defense analysts have questioned the force-sizing construct and future force descriptions contained in the Pentagon's quadrennial review. House lawmakers and aides say the 2010 QDR was too shortsighted, alleging senior Pentagon officials simply chose to ignore the 20-year mandate. For instance, a classified annex to the 2010 quadrennial review acknowledged "a bulk of the analysis only looked five years out," one senior House Armed Services Committee aide told Defense News in March. An unreleased QDR annex reviewed by Defense News confirms that charge. "This QDR is even more shortsighted than the last QDR," the aide said. "We are concerned that the QDR force structure may not be sufficient to assure others that the U.S. can meet its treaty commitments in the face of China's military capabilities," states the summary of the alternate QDR. The Perry-Hadley independent panel also concluded that "the force structure needs to be increased in a number of areas, including the need to counter anti-access challenges." Like the Pentagon's quadrennial study, the independent panel envisions a large U.S. ground force in line with the current sizes of the Army and Marine Corps. But the Perry-Hadley panel also feels the U.S. will need "a larger Navy and Air Force," according to the summary. While the QDR endorses an equipment force structure about the size of today's U.S. air, ground and naval forces, the independent study team thinks modernization of existing platforms should be carried out "on at least a one-for-one basis, with an upward adjustment in the number of naval vessels and certain air and space assets." To the Perry-Hadley panel, "military power is a function of quantity as well as quality - numbers do matter." The independent QDR will also call for a future U.S. arsenal more capable than the one vaguely described in the Pentagon's 2010 QDR. "Perhaps the greater difference between the QDR force and the one that we recommend is qualitative," according to the summary of the Perry-Hadley report. "First, it is a fully modernized force. ... Second, it is a force that emphasizes long-range platforms to a greater extent than the current force." The summary obtained by Defense News also shows the independent panel is concerned the 2010 defense strategy would put in place a force unable to carry out U.S. commitments in the ever-volatile Pacific region. "The force structure in the Asia-Pacific area needs to be increased," states the summary. "A robust U.S. force structure, largely rooted in maritime strategy but including other necessary capabilities, will be essential.

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