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Roles and Missions Review Underway

It was 1994 when the Pentagon last engaged in a seminal examination of what it does, how it does it and why. In Pentagon-speak these issues are known in a neat shorthand as "roles and missions."

At a Pentagon briefing May 9, two senior defense officials discussed how they will approach the new roles and missions work, outlining the seven main areas of focus. The one issue Congress told the Pentagon to study is whether there are unnecessary duplications of capabilities among and between the four services and other arms of the Pentagon. In addition, the officials told reporters that unmanned aircraft systems, intra-theater lift, cyber war, irregular warfare, Pentagon governance issues, and DoD’s roles and missions in the interagency world.

Note that a senior defense official said that the analysis will be done within existing budget constraints. A senior military officer said that the combatant commanders will have a great deal of input during this effort because the department is looking at how the services and other agencies can “work better together” rather than as a food fight between services for resources and responsibilities. For example, Strategic Command will be a key player in the analysis done about cyber warfare and Special Operations Command will play a major role in the look at irregular warfare.

One of the sleeper areas may turn out to be the look at interagency roles. The senior defense official said the military has learned a great deal about how effectively it works with the other parts of the government since the terror attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, noting that the current structure was developed during the Cold War and may need changing.

Congress ordered the Pentagon to do this roles and missions analysis in its 2008 Defense Authorization Act. In addition to the long-standing Quadrennial Defense Review, Congress said that the military should analyze its roles and missions in time for the 2010 budget submission. That would bring it in about a year before the next QDR. Henceforth, the military will perform a roles and missions analysis before each QDR.

The last stab at this sort of thing was the Commission on Roles and Missions of the Armed Forces. The commission took a year to deliver its final report, “Directions for Defense,” to the nation, issuing it in May 1995.

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