I'm bumping this post from ten days ago back to the top, because of the impending QDR roll-out [UPDATE 12:33 PM: It's online now]. According to today's Washington Post:
The United States is engaged in what could be a generational conflict akin to the Cold War, the kind of struggle that might last decades as allies work to root out terrorists across the globe and battle extremists who want to rule the world, Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld said yesterday.The strategic vision outlined in the QDR has won high marks from defense analysts for diagnosing the problems the U.S. military will likely face. However, it is less successful in translating those concepts into concrete military capabilities, the analysts say...The strategy does call for devoting resources to accelerate a long-range strike capability directed at hostile nations, and for new investments aimed at countering biological and nuclear weapons -- such as teams able to defuse a nuclear bomb. But it makes relatively minor adjustments in key weapons systems, with the biggest programs such as the Joint Strike Fighter and the Army's Future Combat Systems escaping virtually unscathed. This leaves less room for investments in innovative programs and forces to address the types of problems that the QDR identifies, analysts say.For months, now, word has been leaking out about the Pentagon's every-four-years master plan, the Quadrennial Defense Review.Finally, were starting to see some excerpts from the big document itself, thanks to Inside Defense. My quick, subject-to-instant-revision first impression: Rumsfeld & Co. are focusing more on China than they are on Osama.Very roughly speaking, there are two factions jockeying for control in the Pentagon. One thinks that the U.S. military is going to spend a big chunk of the next twenty years hunting down terrorists and stabilizing screwed-up states. The other believes that China has to be smacked down, before it bulks up to superpower status.The first group gets the rhetoric. [P]repar[ing] for wider asymmetric challenges is one of the fundamental imperatives for the Department of Defense. Were in the middle of a Long War, according to the QDR. Iraq and Afghanistan are just part of it.Theres organizational and personnel help, to go along with the lofty words. The Combatant Commanders the guys in charge today of the boots on the ground will get more of a say in how future weapons are bought. The QDR boosts Special Operations Forces by 15% and increase[s] the number of Special Forces Battalions by one-third.
U.S. Special Operations Command (USSOCOM) will establish the Marine Corps Special Operations Command. The Air Force will establish stand up an Unmanned Aerial Vehicle Squadron under USSOCOM. The Navy will support a USSOCOM increase in SEAL Team manning and will develop a riverine warfare capability. The Department will also expand Psychological Operations and Civil Affairs units by 3,700 personnel, a 33% increase. Multipurpose Army and Marine Corps ground forces will increase their capabilities and capacity to conduct irregular warfare missions.These changes are not insignificant. Theyll require billions to back them up. But the China-watchers, on the other hand, get the kind of gold-plated new hardware that costs tens, even hundreds, of billions to make. As Inside Defense notes, the QDR leaves intact all of the military services most prized weapon system programs. In fact, some programs will see significant increases.
Many involved in the review believed at the outset that the QDR might call for a resource shift between the departments -- specifically from the Air Force and Navy to the Army -- that did not materialize.The Air Force, which set as its highest goal for the QDR the protection of the F-22A fighter, managed to extend production two years beyond 2008, which means it can work [on] going beyond the planned 183-aircraft buy.Similarly, the Navy in late November was granted permission to move ahead with its next-generation DD(X) destroyer program, which will consume a big chunk of the services shipbuilding account as the QDR-directed enhanced submarine procurement is set to kick in.As for the Army, the QDR confirms the service has protected its top priority, the Future Combat Systems programThe QDR also leaves intact the Marine Corps top priorities, including the V-22 Osprey and its Expeditionary Fighting VehicleWhat theyve done, in effect, is say, Yeah, Rummy, well make all these promises. Of course, youre not going to be around to hold us to them. In the meantime, we will sustain our programs and build program momentum with Congress and industry, said a source familiar with the QDR findings.The China crowd also gets what looks to be some big-time new, as of yet undefined, weapons programs. That includes a new, long bomber of hypersonic drone that can conduct global strike missions against unruly states.The United States' experience in the Cold War still profoundly influences the way that the Department of Defense is organized and executes its mission, the QDR notes. But, the Cold War was a struggle between nation-states, requiring state-based responses to most political problems and kinetic responses to most military problems. The Department was optimized for conventional, large-scale warfighting against the regular, uniformed armed forces of hostile states [Today] many of the United Slates' principal adversaries are informal networks that are less vulnerable to Cold War-Style approaches... Defeating unconventional enemies requires unconventional approaches.But it does not require, apparently, a wholesale change of direction. Terrorist-type threats will get some new attention. But the Defense Department isnt about to optimize for that threat, the way it did for the Soviet Union. Big money will continue to be spent on fighter jets designed to duel with the Soviets and destroyers designed for large-scale ground assaults. Grunts on the ground wont get much more than they do now. The war on terror may be long. But, apparently, its not important enough to make really big shifts.UPDATE 3:56 PM: The QDR was "toned down by a year of deliberation and not a single signature weapon system has been terminated," ubiquituous military analyst Loren Thompson tells Defense News. That tells you that Rumsfelds team is not so clear about what to do about this new environment."UPDATE 01/24/06 10:36 AM: The WaPo puts the QDR on page one, and emphasizes the growing numbers of Special Forces. Meanwhile, the LA Times (via Laura) says the QDR's direction means that Iraq was a "one-off."
The U.S. military has long been accused of always planning to fight its last war. But as the Pentagon assesses threats to national security over the next four years, a major blueprint being completed in the shadow of the Iraq war will do largely the opposite...For more than two years, Army officials have been fending off questions about whether they have enough troops to complete their mission in Iraq and racing to get armor plates bolted onto Humvees and supply trucks to defend against homemade bombs.But in the Pentagon blueprint, officials are once again talking about a futuristic force of robots, networked computers and drone aircraft. And they are planning no significant shift in resources to bulk up ground forces strained by the lengthy occupation of Iraq...Yet some experts say that failure to draw broader lessons from Iraq is dangerous, especially if the U.S. military suddenly faces a new war in a hot spot such as North Korea or Iran that it has no choice but to fight."There is a logical disconnect between the lessons learned from Iraq and the conclusions that we can live with a smaller ground force," said Michele Flournoy, a defense policy expert at the Center for Strategic and International Studies and a former top Pentagon official.UPDATE 11:59 AM: On his website, Thompson adds:
There are several decisions coming out of the QDR that are hard to square with what the Pentagon says about future challenges. For example, if the global war on terror really is a "long war" as the QDR report contends, why is the administration eliminating brigades from an overextended Army? And if mobility is so critical to military success, why is it proposing to shut down both the C-130J and C-17 lines -- the only airlifters in production?Maybe it doesn't matter -- Rumsfeld will be gone soon, and Capitol Hill has ceased caring what he wants anyway. Congress will probably add money for the lost brigades and airlifters, just as it will reject other bad proposals like the idea of creating a monopoly for fighter engines. But with the clock ticking down on Donald Rumsfeld's tenure, it's a little hard to say what he has achieved in the way of a lasting, positive legacy.UPDATE 3:24 PM: There's a nice little debate going on about this over at Kevin Drum's place.