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Independent QDR Panel Recommends Buying More of Everything, Increasing Defense Budget

As independent panel reports go here in Washington, D.C., this one just released by the Quadrennial Defense Review Independent Panel, co-chaired by former Bush administration National Security Adviser Stephen Hadley and Clinton-era defense secretary William Perry, is really awful.

It recommends buying more of pretty much every weapon system or at least replacing the current inventory on a one-to-one basis, maintaining ground forces at current levels, expanding the Air Force, greatly expanding the Navy’s battle fleet and to pay for all of that the panel recommends increasing the defense budget.

For an example of how unserious this report truly is, the panel took as its force planning default the 1993 Bottom Up Review. How a strategic analysis conducted in 2010 can look backwards 17 years to come up with a force planning model is beyond me. Has the strategic landscape not changed dramatically over the past two decades?

The problem with so many of these various exercises masquerading as strategic thinking is they do their best to maintain a force that was designed to fight a massive land and sea war against a monolithic, hyper-militarized Soviet Union. Here is an analysis of the 1993 BUR by two of this nation’s foremost strategic thinkers, Andrew Krepinevich and Bob Work contained in A New U.S. Global Defense Posture for the Second Transoceanic Era:

“Although the BUR cautioned against planning for the last war, it proceeded to do just that. In essence, it used Operation Desert Shield/Desert Storm to help explain and justify a regionalization of the Cold War military problem of forward defense along the inner German border and the demilitarized zone that separated North and South Korea.

Regionalizing the Cold War planning problem thus ensured that little substantive change would come to the US defense program beyond shaving force structure and the total numbers of weapons systems. After all, weapons and systems designed for fighting along the inner German border were likely to be just as relevant against regional aggressors fielding combined-arms, mechanized forces like Saddam Hussein’s Republican Guards. More importantly, however, it made US defense planners lazy; they had little new thinking to do other than concentrating on winning regional wars as efficiently as possible.”

Intellectual laziness abounds in this new QDR assessment that should be thrown into the trash faster than most reports of its kind. The report’s drafters even write: “we had neither the time nor the resources to conduct a detailed force-structure analysis.” Well then, what the hell good are you?

For what its worth, here’s a summary of the force structure recommendations the report made without putting in the time to do the analysis to back them up:

• Maintain the Army and Marine Corps at current levels.

• Expand “substantially” the Navy toward the BUR recommended 346 ships and keep 11 carriers, “the reason being the potential challenges in Asia.”

• Make deep strike a priority for the Air Force.

• “Replace inventory on at least a one-for-one basis, with an upward adjustment in the number of naval vessels and certain air and space assets.”

-- Greg Grant

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