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Flournoy Details QDR Threats, Principles


It sounds almost Chinese. The five threats. The five challenges. The six principles.

That was how Michele Flournoy, undersecretary of defense for policy, outlined the Pentagon’s approach to the Quadrennial Defense Review. But the key to this QDR: balance. Balancing “current operational needs with an increasingly uncertain future” and balance between the current and future budgets. Flournoy said Defense Secretary Robert Gates was sharply focused on balance, as he made clear in his April 6 budget speech. Among the key decisions in this QDR will be what kind of investments the country will make in the future. “Greater priority should be given to systems that respond to asymmetric challenges,” she said.

Among the key asymmetric threats Flournoy said the country must do more to counter are anti-satellite systems, anti-air systems, anti-ship systems, undersea war and cyber attacks. Of course, dealing with all this means “we are going to be pulled in different directions to deal with the threats of the future.”

The five threats: globalization, combined with increasing poverty and increasing inequality; global climate change and its effects on failing states; demographic changes and the ominous “youth bulges” in the Mideast and other regions where the average age is 20 or younger; increasing competition for oil, gas and water; and finally, the continued spread of destabilizing technologies.

The five challenges: new terror groups; failed and failing states; the spread of weapons of mass destruction; “fundamental shifts in the global balance of power” such as the rising power of China; managing the global commons and maintaining its accessibility.

The six strategic principles that Flournoy said will guide the QDR are:

* It must be “grounded in pragmatism rather than ideology.”

* The US must “remain engaged in critical regions around the world. Neo-isolationism is not an option,” she said.

* “Our engagement has to be smarter,” she said, adding that we have to more proactive in the use of soft power and more discerning in the use of hard power.

* “We have to not only play by the rules but also champion the rules,” Flournoy said. The US, she said, is committed to “open commerce, strong alliance structures, and commitment to international norms that advance our national interest.”

* “Allies and partners are absolutely essential,” she said. But to “rebalance and reconceptualize our alliances” NATO may need to reconsider its consensus rule and allow decisions to be taken by a majority of nations.

* Finally, “we must recognise that in many cases military power is necessary but not sufficient” to solve the challenges to America’s interests.

In terms of the often complex process that will guide the QDR, Flournoy said the department will work hard to reach to outsiders, including the players on the interagency process such as the State Department and intelligence community, allies and analysts at thinktanks and related institutions. For example, I know that Australia contributed at least one staff officer to the QDR last month. Those representing other militaries are doubtless on the ground as well.

Following is a DoD Fact Sheet put out minutes after Flournoy finished speaking:

US Department of Defense 2010 QDR Terms of Reference Fact Sheet April 27, 2009

The 2010 Quadrennial Defense Review (QDR) is a legislatively-mandated (USC 10, Sec. 118 (a)) review of Department of Defense (DoD) strategy and priorities. DoD is preparing now to conduct this review, which takes place every four years and will be provided to Congress in early 2010.

The QDR will assess the threats and challenges the nation faces and re-balance DoD’s strategies, capabilities and forces to address today’s conflicts and tomorrow’s threats.

The QDR is one of the principal means by which the tenets of the National Defense Strategy are translated into potentially new policies, capabilities and initiatives.

The QDR will set a long-term course for DoD to follow and will provide a strategic framework for DoD’s annual program, force development, force management, and corporate support mechanisms.

Other strategic reviews, as well as day-to-day decisions will be carried out while the QDR is underway and will inform its deliberations.

Previous QDRs were conducted in 1997, 2001, and 2006.

The strategic environment we face is complex and the security challenges – both current and those on the horizon – are wide ranging. The global economic downturn adds to the complexity.

Key security challenges include violent extremist movements, the spread of weapons of mass destruction, rising powers with sophisticated weapons, failed or failing states, and increasing encroachment across the global commons (air, sea, space, cyberspace).

U.S. strategy must also increasingly account for a series of powerful trends that are reshaping the international landscape and will dramatically complicate the exercise of American statecraft and overseas relations.

In addition to the current global economic downturn, these trends include climate change, cultural and demographic shifts, increasing scarcity of resources and the spread of destabilizing technologies.

The U.S. must prevail in current conflicts while preparing for future contingencies.

The 2010 QDR will address these emerging challenges and explore ways to improve the balance of efforts and resources between: Trying to prevail in current conflicts and preparing for future contingencies, and Institutionalizing capabilities such as counterinsurgency and foreign military assistance and maintaining the United States’ existing conventional and strategic technological edge against other military forces.

The specific areas of emphasis for this QDR include: Further institutionalizing irregular warfare and civil support abroad capabilities and capacities, to include building partnership capacity, Addressing threats posed from the use of advanced technology and WMD, Global Force Posture, Strengthening DoD support to civilian-led operations and activities, and Managing the Department’s internal business processes to improve their efficiency and effectiveness.

The QDR process embraces a “whole of government” approach. As such, DoD will consult with other U.S. Government departments and agencies and appropriate Congressional committees.

The QDR will be informed by similar reviews being conducted by the Department of Homeland Security (Quadrennial Homeland Security Review), the Director of National Intelligence (Quadrennial Intelligence Community Review), and incorporate guidance from relevant National Security Council (NSC) reviews.

In addition, a series of separate congressionally-directed reviews of the Department’s nuclear, space and missile defense postures will be closely coordinated with the QDR, but still provide separate reports to Congress.

The 2010 QDR process will also include consultation mechanisms with key allies and partners.

The Secretary of Defense has established a governance structure to manage the coordination of the QDR.

The QDR will be led by the Office of the Secretary of Defense and Joint Staff. OSD and Joint Staff leadership will work closely with representatives from the Military Services and Combatant Commands and across OSD components.

Combatant Commanders and Service Chiefs will engage often in helping to shape issues and frame decisions for the review.

Published by the U.S. Department of Defense Office of Public Affairs

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