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Allies! Take Heart During QDR

Persistent rumors from the allied community in Washington had the Obama administration dropping a key concept from this QDR -- building partnership capacity. So I checked with the policy folks at the Pentagon and was told essentially that the Obama administration views this as a central principle to US strategy and it will guide all policy analysis during the Quadrennial Defense Review -- and not stand separately as a goal.

"Current DoD leadership believes partnership is fundamental to pursuing U.S. national security objectives, so it's wrong to assume that BPC is being dropped or de-emphasized in any way," OSD policy shop spokesman Lt. Col. Almarah Belk said in an email. Given the usual opacity of Pentagonese -- especially on tricky policy issues -- I checked back with Belk and offered my understanding of what was said -- So building partnership capability will be a fundamental part of this QDR for analytic purposes and will guide related policy? Belk said this is correct.

This marks a fundamental shift from the Donald Rumsfeld days, when allies were fundamentally seen as supplements to US power, as opposed to crucial elements of US power around the world. During the last QDR Rumsfeld created a separate execution roadmap for building partnership capacity.

So when that appeared to disappear during this QDR the allies started to worry. And that nervousness over just what path the Obama administration might take began to manifest itself in questions about what capabilities the allies will get in their versions of the Joint Strike fighter. DoD and the F-35's own PEO continue to claim that allies will get the same plane as is delivered to US forces. With Japan continuing its push to get some version of the F-22 this QDR's handling of US policy regarding allies will be key. And that doesn't even touch on integrating allies on systems such as the son of FCS network, sharing of intelligence data and how to handle how we work with unique allied capabilities such as the Czech's chem-bio troops.

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