The USA’s 2006 Quadrennial Defense Review: Report & Reactions
As of Friday, February 3, 2006, the USA’s 2006 Quadrennial Defense Review has been released. As Title 10, Section 118 stipulates, the QDR’s Congressional mandate is:
The Secretary of Defense shall every four years… conduct a comprehensive examination (to be known as a “quadrennial defense review”) of the national defense strategy, force structure, force modernization plans, infrastructure, budget plan, and other elements of the defense program and policies of the United States with a view toward determining and expressing the defense strategy of the United States and establishing a defense program for the next 20 years.
DID has a roundup of relevant resources and links:
- The US Department of Defense has a QDR mini-site, which includes a number of related releases and articles as well as the full 90-page text of the 2006 QDR [PDF]
- DID (Feb 22/06) – US Marines Launch Force Structure Review, Dispute QDR Recommendation
- Congressional Budget Office (Jan 7/06) – The Long-Term Implications of Current Defense Plans and Alternatives: Detailed Update for Fiscal Year 2006 [PDF format]. DID covered this publication and noted some highlights, which goes beyond the budget as given and also looks at the cost implications of alternative transformational and legacy procurement scenarios.
- The Weekly Standard (Feb 6/06) – The Counter-Revolution In Military Affairs. Lt. Col. Ralph Peters (USAR, ret.) has penned his share of influential think-pieces, and this one in the conservative Weekly Standard is grabbing a lot of buzz in the military and beyond. “We are seduced by what we can do; our enemies focus on what they must do… There is, in short, not a single enemy in existence or on the horizon willing to play the victim to the military we continue to build…” Read and decide for yourself.
- (NEW) Intel Dump (Feb 23/06) – Force Structure. JD Henderson has a strong military background, as one can see from his biography. His article begins with a focus on The Economist magazine’s article, but keep going into the comments section for some intelligent debate and shared experiences. I particularly liked JD’s OPFOR experience comment, describing how they crushed regular units who thought technology would grant them victory.
- (NEW) InsideDefense.com (Feb 21/06) – Marines Dispute QDR. They’ve plussed up their service from 175,000 to 180,000 via wartime supplementals, but the QDR wants to remove those extra marines – even as the USMC stands up the new MARSOC and contributes 2,600 Special Forces. The Commandant is launching his own force structure review study…
- (NEW) Center for Defense Information, Strauss Military Reform Project (Feb 14/06) – Briefing on DOD’s QDR and 2007 Budget. Includes slides from their Feb 10/06 presentation. Money quote: “In their depictions of the defense budget, both liberals and conservatives bias their typical presentations to conform to their preconceptions. These days, few consider a depiction of the threat.”
- (NEW) eDefense Online (Feb 8/06) – Few Surprises in US DoD’s 2005 QDR. Wayback Machine archive version; eDefense Online is defunct.
- (NEW) TCS Daily (Feb 6/06) – A Revolutionary Review. In a generally positive article, Melana Zyla Vickers writes: “Special Operations Forces (SOFs), UAVs, long-range stealthy strike weapons — these are three areas of military investment that could have great payoff if more resources were devoted to them…”
- (NEW) US Navy (Feb 6/06) – CNO: QDR “Vectors” Navy to New Skills and Missions, Focuses Effort on Expeditionary Capabilities
- Washington Post (Feb 4/06) – Ability to Wage ‘Long War’ Is Key To Pentagon Plan
- Defense Tech (Feb 3/06) – Bump: China Tops Iraq, Osama in QDR. Lots of links and perspectives from various sources.
- (NEW) Air Force Link (February 2006) – Accomodating the QDR. Describes the changes and options before the USAF in pretty clear terms.
- (NEW) Journal of International Security Affairs (Summer 2002) – Within the Span of Crisis: Shaping our Future Security Relationship with China [PDF format]. Here’s one Noah missed, by Richard J. Dunn III of Northrop-Grumman’s Analysis Center. Reading it makes the strategic thinking behind a number of the QDR’s choices much clearer.
- James Jay Carafano of the conservative Heritage Foundation (Feb 3/06) – First Echoes of a Hollow Force? Air Force Choices Make Little Sense
- Slate Magazine (Feb 3/06) – Rumsfeld Surrenders. Fred Kaplan’s article is subtitled “The QDR dashes his dreams of military transformation,” and argues that the 2006 QDR is Rumsfeld’s final surrender in his bid to change the US military’s force structure and procurement profile.
- Baker Spring of the conservative Heritage Foundation (Feb 2/06) – Congress Needs To Focus on the Big Picture in Defense Acquisition Reform takes a structural look at spending, and has some interesting figures in the changes over the last 20 years re: the Pentagon’s modernization vs. operations budgets.
- The left-wing Center for American Progress (Feb 2/06) – A Progressive Quadrennial Defense Review. Offers an “alternative QDR.” Over at Military.com, however, Joe Buff rips them for some basic lapses of fact checking. Caveat reader.
- Armed Forces Journal (February 2006) – What the QDR Should Say. Michael G. Vickers is director of strategic studies at the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments, an independent, nonpartisan, public policy research institute in Washington, D.C. He served as a senior adviser to the current QDR.
- Armed Forces Journal (February 2006) – Kill the QDR. Thomas Donnelly writes: “After four attempts… it is fair to conclude that the process has outlived its utility… It’s time to call an end to an exercise that isn’t producing the desired result…” Thomas Donnelly is the resident fellow in defense and security policy studies at the conserative American Enterprise Institute, and the author of AEI’s National Security Outlook. His most recent book is The Military We Need (AEI Press, 2005).
The Libertarian-leaning Cato Institute had no immediate reaction to the QDR, but a couple of its earlier documents written in 2001 provide benchmarks for the maximum expectations from the transformation and QDR process.
- Cato Institute (June 11/02) – Empty Promises: Why the Bush Administration’s Half-Hearted Attempts at Defense Reform Have Failed. The introduction argued that: “Merely throwing money at a bureaucracy whose efficiency even Secretary Rumsfeld compares to Soviet central planning effectively kills any chance of transforming the way the Pentagon will fight future wars.”
- Cato Institute (Dec 20/01) – Reforming a Defense Industry Rife with Socialism, Industrial Policy, and Excessive Regulation
Postscript (NEW): Ivan Eland of the isolationst-libertarian Independent Institute surely deserves some form of award. In his February 7, 2006 article “More Defense Dollars, Less Security,” he offers up this howler: “Now the main threat to U.S. fighter aircraft is not aircraft from other nations, but ground-based surface-to-air missiles that can be avoided by flying around them.” Wow, too bad the US Air force never thought of that – just imagine how much easier things could have been. Frighteningly, in some circles this guy is considered to be a military expert.
We strove for greater diversity of opinion in this article, but it has been difficult. Neither the liberal Brookings Foundation nor the New America Foundation had publications covering the QDR at the time this article was run, for instance (a situation that remains unchanged as of February 10, 2006), and they were not unique. This results in a conservative/libertarian weighting to the responses. I also looked for articles that were positive as well as critical, in order to provide a range of perspectives. Unfortunately, that proved something of a Diogenesian search – the 2006 QDR’s early “buzz meter” is distinctly unfavourable, even among entities usually supportive of the military.
Finally, the role of the US Congress and senate in contributing to both the defense procurement cost spiral and the gridlock around military transformation in the QDR remains a vastly under-analyzed field. Critics of the “military-industrial complex” need to update their thinking, and at least refer to the “military-industrial-political complex.”
The DefenseLINK site, and the full text of the report, will have to make their case themselves – though readers are encouraged to broaden my horizons and submit good materials from all perspectives.