It is official. The two major theater war strategy -- blueprint for American power for almost a quarter century -- is no more. In the long run, that is likely to be the most significant change outlined by the Quadrennial Defense Review
This QDR likewise acknowledges the need for a robust force capable of protecting U.S. interests against a multiplicity of threats. But it is "no longer appropriate to speak of major regional conflicts as the sole or even the primary template for sizing, shaping and evaluating US forces." Instead, the U.S. must ready itself to deploy to several conflicts at once, some of them hot, some of them warm and some of them just heating up.
Meanwhile, the U.S. "remains the only nation able to project and sustain large scale combat operations over extended distances." that, and the range of threats faced by the United States and its allies, means that "more than ever before the United States requires joint military forces able to function and succeed across a wide and expanding spectrum. Moreover, military forces must be capable of working in seamless integration with a range of civilian and military partners."
To cope with this range of vibrant and complex threats, especially Al Qaeda, the country needs special operation troops and intelligence capabilities, "designed to seek out, identify and eliminate al Qaeda leadership, dismantle their networks,,, and an enduring effort to build the security capacity of key partners around the world, where improved indigenous capability and capacity can gradually reduce the size and number of Al Qaeda's safe havens."
To cope with the challenges posed by these threats, the U.S. must focus on a tight group of technologies: next-generation over-the-horizon radar; rapid reaction tunnel detection; quick development of "standoff radiological/nuclear detection capabilities;" and better "counter-IED training, intelligence and exploitation teams" and improved centers in the U.S. to integrate information gathered as part of the effort to clear IEDs.
While those technologies are being developed the U.S "must also reset equipment lost through combat." But, the draft QDR says that does not mean wholesale replacement: "In many cases this will not require the wholesale replacement of our current generation of military platforms. Rather, it will necessitate more practical and efficient procurement processes and programs and hard choices about our future capability needs."
Of existing capabilities, the country must buy more helicopters and improve how helo units are organized and maintained to ensure more of them are in theater at any one time and able to fly.
It must buy more UAVs and use them more intelligently. It must improve "intelligence, reconnaissance and targeting capacity," bolster the number and of electronic warfare platforms and boost their capacity, and deploy more "enabling capabilities" such as gunships for special operations forces. More broadly speaking, ensuring the U.S. military can operate in denied areas -- space, cyberspace and the other commons in particular -- looms large. The one specific example mentioned in the QDR is telling. "Chinese military doctrine calls for pre-emptive strikes against an intervening power early in a conflict and places special emphasis on crippling the adversary's ISR, command and control, and information systems," the draft says. To illuminate the issue and put this in stark relief, the draft mentions the 2007 Chinese anti-satellite test.
Among the concepts to help the Pentagon operate in denied areas is the expansion of our "long-range strike capabilities." Among the ways to achieve this is the new air-sea battle concept hammered out between the Navy and the Air Force. Among the capabilities needed to put meat on the conceptual bones is the Navy’s unmanned carrier aircraft and the Air Force's "penetrating, persistent surveillance and strike aircraft" (known to some as a bomber).
On top of those, the Navy should continue to focus on developing more underwater unmanned vehicles. And, since the Chinese ASAT test highlighted our vulnerabilities in space so starkly, we must improve our space situational awareness and "assure access to and use of space assets," as well as more jam-resistant satellite communications, backed up by UAVs with comm links.
The official QDR will be briefed on Monday by Michele Flournoy, undersecretary of Defense for policy, along with the budget.
Kudos to our colleagues at InsideDefense.com who obtained the draft of the QDR.