One of the casualties of the mighty snowstorms battering Washington, D.C. was a now-cancelled strategy and force planning conference at the National Defense University this week that was to have included a number of the key players who put together the 2010 QDR. We were particularly looking forward to hear if there was any pushback from the report’s authors on the largely negative reviews.
Fortunately, on a reporter’s conference call last week, DOD Buzz had a chance to ask Kathleen Hicks, deputy undersecretary of Defense for strategy and force planning and the lead QDR author, about some of the pointed criticism aimed at the QDR. She was clearly more than a little irritated by the critical reviews that have poured in since its release.
We asked Hicks how she answered critics who said the strategy review is not forward looking enough and focuses inordinately on the current wars. “It would be nice if we lived in a world with no operational requirements and we could, as we did in the '90s, simply focus forward. We couldn't do that,” she said. “It would be irresponsible… We have men and women in harm's way, and I don't think the American public or their representatives would very much appreciate our ignoring the realities.”
Hicks challenged critics to cite specific examples of where the QDR authors failed to address the potential rise of high-end threats. “The QDR explicitly spends a lot of time and energy on these longer-term threats, she said. “We have a whole section of the QDR that talks about the evolution of the force. And we have -- again, we have laid out both the pathway and an investment stream that explicitly takes into account the need to deal with those threats.”
She repeatedly said the purpose of the QDR was to “rebalance” DoD’s portfolio to provide more capabilities for the war’s we’re in.
On the now somewhat murky two regional war planning construct that many expected to be dropped in this year’s QDR: “We do not walk away from a two-major-theater-war approach, but we provide a lot more guidance to the services in terms of the particular sets and combinations of contingencies for which they need to be prepared.”
We asked Hicks why the 2010 QDR dropped the phrase “irregular warfare” after it featured so prominently in the 2006 QDR. Irregular warfare “had some trouble translating outside the Department in terms of what we really mean. So we didn't so much walk away from the use of irregular warfare as try to be much more concrete and descriptive in terms of the elements of irregular warfare that we intend to convey… that's why you see specific mention of things like stability operations… counterterrorism, and counterinsurgency, which are three of the major elements of what, inside DOD, we often call irregular warfare.”
NDU says they’re rescheduling the two day conference for early March. Hopefully, we’ll be able to bring you more input from the QDR team then.