DoD Identifies Key QDR Themes

DoD Identifies Key QDR Themes

The Pentagon leadership has identified at least seven overarching themes it will address during the crucial Quadrennial Defense Review, according to several sources in the building. Alongside these themes, Defense Secretary Robert Gates made it clear in his budget proposal that he will use the 2009 QDR to examine the rationale for a number of major weapons programs, particularly the Air Force’s air fleet and Navy shipbuilding.

The strategic review will run through the summer with the intent to have it wrapped in time to inform FY 2011 defense budget decisions. There is some concern in the Pentagon that the short time line might prove inadequate for a “comprehensive” strategic review and could produce a rushed product, according to sources I spoke with. The worry is that the outcome will reflect the thinking and biases of the newly installed Obama team in OSD without adequately accounting for the views of the services. The QDR will be run out of the office of Under Secretary of Defense for Policy, Michele Flournoy. Flournoy played a similar – though less prominent — role in the Clinton administration so she is familiar with games the services play during a QDR.

This QDR will use the 2008 National Defense Strategy as a point of departure. A big theme in the strategy document, and a point Gates’ emphasizes repeatedly, is the need to achieve “balance” across the military. Gates has clearly decided what the future of conflict will look like and he believes the services are weighted far too heavily towards large scale conventional war and wants to shift their focus towards the lower end of the conflict spectrum. “Last year’s National Defense Strategy concluded that although U.S. predominance in conventional warfare is not unchallenged, it is sustainable for the medium term, given current trends,” Gates said.

He also wants the QDR to capture battlefield lessons from Iraq and Afghanistan and believes those should influence force structure and spending decisions. His call for more aerial drones and his push for big investments in Mine Resistant Ambush Protected Vehicles are examples where battlefield lessons have influenced spending choices; we should expect more of these. Gates says fewer costly, leading-edge weapons are needed to insure against the rise of a great power; greater investment is needed to add troops and buy greater quantities of less technologically advanced weapons for hunting terrorists and waging counterinsurgency campaigns.

Major questions and themes the QDR will examine include:

Irregular Warfare. The 2006 QDR elevated the importance of irregular warfare, calling it the “dominant” form of future warfare, and the 2009 QDR will examine how to further configure the military to better adapt to irregular war and will attempt to institutionalize lessons from the ongoing wars.

High End Asymmetric Threats. This is basically looking at China and Iran and examining how to better deter and counter potential threats from those countries, such as anti-access weapons, anti-satellite weapons, long-range anti-ship missiles, the proliferation of ballistic missiles and, more so in the case of Iran, the WMD threat.

Global Posture. The review will examine how to adapt forward basing and presence to a changing world, including basing in Europe, the Middle East and Asia, naval deployments, and whether there are duplicative efforts among the services in some areas. “If you have bombers in the Pacific, then do you also have to have aircraft carriers, or can it be an either/or for much of the time? Do we always have to have everything in every service?” Vice Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. James Cartwright said this week. The QDR will likely address whether the military should drop the “two major regional contingency” strategy that was supposed to have guided force sizing, but never has.

Business Processes. Gates has repeatedly called for acquisition reform to get control over costs and the need to make “tough choices” on weapons and spending. “We must ensure that requirements are reasonable and technology is adequately mature” before programs go forward, he said. His moves to add acquisition personnel and reduce the role of contractors in procurement is likely just a first step. He wants to reform the acquisition system so it can speed weapons to the battlefield and lessen the need for ad-hoc procurement arrangements, such as JIEDDO, that were created to try and avoid the often Byzantine weapons buying process. On Gates’ comments on the need for acquisition reform, CSIS’ Anthony Cordesman had this to say: “The secretary advanced some key issues and priorities for reform. Unfortunately, exactly the same comments could have been made during the Eisenhower administration – and were.”

Whole of Government. DOD will try to better define its requirements and role in homeland defense as well as the perennial issue of how to better support inter-agency partners in stability operations. While “inter-agency” and “whole of government” have been thrown around a lot, there are still no plans, budgets or measures of effectiveness for integrating State, DOD and USAID efforts, Cordesman said. “It may be impossible to modernize the U.S. security posture until the chaos, lack of focus, and waste in the foreign aid efforts in wars like Iraq and Afghanistan are addressed.”

High Demand Low Density Assets. Gates announced big spending increases for aerial drones, helicopters, special operations transport, “ISR enhancements and experimental platforms” and other critical “enablers” that are in high demand and low supply. Cordesman says that while the additional spending on ISR is welcomed, a “clearer picture” is needed of the “overall architecture,” such as the data communications network and bandwidth issues. He also says major reforms are needed to deal with “massive cost escalation and delays in the U.S. satellite program.”

Cyber War. Pretty much everybody agrees that there will be massive spending on cyber security in this administration.

In his budget proposal, Gates said the QDR would determine the fate of a number of weapons programs. As he put it, “these programs that I described as being delayed in many cases are in fact going to be programs that are examined in the QDR to see whether there is a — what the need is going forward.” These include:

Army Ground Vehicle Modernization. Gates cancelled the vehicle part of the Army’s FCS program that were intended at some point in the future to replace legacy systems such as the M-113, M-109 Paladin Howitzer, Bradley Fighting Vehicle and M-1 Abrams tank. Gates said he intends to re-launch the Army’s vehicle modernization effort and that the new designs must “meet the needs of the full spectrum of conflict.” He also made it clear that he wants a return on investment from the $25 billion DOD spent over the past few years buying MRAPs, and expects the Army to find a place for the vehicles in its future formations. The ultimate design of those formations would appear to be under review as well, according to comments from Cartwright. Oh, and as Cordesman pointed out there was no mention of “reset” in Gates’ rollout, a rather important set of near term decisions on what war worn equipment to replenish and replace and what to scrap.

The Air Force’s Long Range Bomber. The 2006 QDR said the Air Force should develop a new long range bomber by 2018. This week Gates put an end to that effort before it really got much traction. Not to presuppose the outcome, but Gates sounded pretty skeptical that anybody would come up with a terribly convincing justification for a new bomber. The bomber cancellation along with the accelerated buy of the F-35 JSF, “will produce an Air Force that is best able to operate over short ranges with small payloads,” a decision that should be debated in the QDR, CSBA said of Gates’ proposal. If the need for a new bomber doesn’t come out of the QDR then it’s highly likely that any future long-range strike program will be unmanned, because then you’re getting well into the 2030s or 2040s before you would see a new airframe.

Navy Shipbuilding. Because Gates delayed the next generation cruiser program (CG-X) and outlined only a “tentative” plan for destroyers, the QDR must “rationalize future requirements and create a sustainable long-term building program,” for major surface combatants, CSBA said. The decision to slow aircraft carrier builds was not a surprise. The QDR will examine the need for new amphibious warfare ships, Gates said, and the sea-basing concept needs further fleshing out before the Navy starts buying offshore platforms.

Cordesman said Gates’ budget proposal “raised at least as many questions as it answered,” and “only began a series of massive adjustments to the U.S. defense posture that will play out over at least a decade.” He doesn’t have particularly high hopes for the QDR: “it is far from clear as yet that it will be any better tied to a clear force plan, procurement plan, and future year defense program and budget than its largely meaningless predecessors.”

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The great theme here seems to be: live with what ya got and hope that the next Administration replaces your worn vehicles. As I recall, we prioritized low intensity conflict, delayed armored vehicles, and so went into Iraq and Afghanistan with Hummers. No armor! Vulnerable to anyone with a pistol. Suddenly we needed vehicles that could stand up to bomb blasts (gee, we had never run into mines before!) and people were attaching “Hillbilly Armor” to their vehicles, and people were coming back in plastic bags. Now we are, even more, concentrating on irregular war and delaying purchase of armored vehicles. We are also gonna fly our old F-15Es until maybe the next Administration buys us some F-35s (they are the follow on to the multi-service F-111, a problem-free program!) if they money is there starting in 2010.

You can’t always get what you want
And if you try sometime you find
You get what you need

Reading this article and others on the new changes I see that the critics of the right path are those employed in, or, are associated with, the old way of doing business. Currently we outspend China 4 to one and Russia 8 to one. The money comparision is one way to determine what we need to counter the “major conventional” war if they occur. The other is compare their arsenal of hardware and software against our arsenal of capabilities. America over powers them both 100 to one!!! Yes we need our ships, bombers, fighters, transports, missiles, bombs, heavy Abrams tanks, troops, seaman and airmen. But do we need power point slides makers and tens of thousands of oversight and subject matter experts? The defense industry needs a major restructure in how they do business with the government. Many of the defense contractors know that they are building redundant duplicative systems for the DOD. The software code writers and hardware builders, engineers, etc., are working the same products but charging time to different programs. They hire retirees to “manage” the variety of redundant programs claiming expertise and former contacts. This needs to be stopped. The contractors working under the FCS program are doing this. Hopefully this time the QDR will flush out those redundancies. Billions of dollars can be saved, and we will be able to fight any future enemy rogue states, and a band of zealots hiding in mountains with programs designed without interference of lobbyists and retired military who are making money using the Pentagon’s name. The taking of Kabul away from the Taliban was done by the CIA not the military industrial complex. Lessions hopefully are learned and Mr. Gates is doing his job and will go down in history as a great SECDEF. Congress please do not mess it up.

The common theme is obama blames America first and any weapon system for serious power projection is to be curtailed, hence, no F-22, No next gen Bomber, no FCS, no MKV, no ABL… a military that only Russia, the ChiComms, and obama could love….

@mike — just a couple of points 1) Yes we “outspend” China and Russia in actaul dollars but while we spend something like $80k to $100k/soldier they spend hardly anything by comparison. Absolute dollars is meaningless.

I agree with your capabilities based argument could you provide a link to the study that analyses these nations capabilities and concludes we are 100 times more capable.

And my personal two cents worth about Gates. What in his background allows us to believe that HE IS THE FOUNTAIN of all wisdom when it comes to the types of opponents we will face from now to the end of time. As I said above I would like to see (Hey, maybe it exists I honestly don’t know) all those studies authored by Gates — say in the mid or late 90’s — that said the next ten years will see the US fight only COIN and SOLIC wars.


Yes, the Russians like a military that has its all to surpress the South Ossetians.

China is intimidated by Tibetan Lama’s. They know the best deal is not to bankrupt themselves in continuous long wars. (See Sun Tzu)

Who do you think our $ trillions are needed to tilt against?

North Korea? Omar of the Taliban?


“Absolute dollars is meaningless.” True!

It is meaningless whether the US spends a billion or a trillion.

Nothing is useable!

See MV 22, F 22 etc.

The reason the US spends so much is that it can, because congress uses it as jobs and to pull in PAC $.

No one asks: what better use of the resources?

If the F 22 were so important how come the US survived it being 15 years late, too expensive and failing to perform?

If the F 22 were so important how come it’s not being feilded in current combat?

The comparison of budgets of the US and Russia or China has some nuggets of truth. Remember first that Russia and China pay their soldiers poorly, and the support infrastructure is negligible in comparison to the US. China does not have libraries and dependent facilities or even mail delivery like the US has! US weapon systems are not comparable — our systems operate day or night, have far better occupant protection, etc etc. We also have global power projection and both Russia and China have problems supporting their militaries when they are on the frontiers of their countries. In Desert Storm — our systems outperformed comparable Soviet era systems easily. The Abrams tank drove at night and still could kill T-72s at max range, while the T-72s were blind. How many comparisons do I have time to list?
Anyway — our budgets should be compared to our strategy.

In the supplemental: some $800 million for the Palestinian Authority ($556 million in Economic Support Funds, $125 million in Migration and Refugee Assistance, and $109 million in International Narcotics Control and Law Enforcement funds). Keep in mind, we could have had another eight F-22s for that price. Which, even if you think the F-22 is useless, it can’t possibly be as useless as giving nearly a billion dollars to a corrupt and incompetent Palestinian Authority — oh wait if obama will bow to the saudi king anyone think he considers Hamas a better “investment” than the f22?


You think the Chicomms are just misunderstood and need a hug?

Ask the Taiwanese if they think 1000+ missiles pointed at them is just some mutlti-cultural misunderstanding…

F-22 are useless compared to letting Grandma starve. The SS surplus went to paying for it so that taxes would be reduced, then it becomes the deficit when the SS trust looks for cash. Generational inequity from the F-22.

It is not PLO or a few alternative uses it is the big one, the US poor and old you take from.

The Buddhists and Daoists the vast majority on the island we called Formosa do not care about missiles pointed at them. Why should you?

Ask yourself, ‘what does Red China get from trying what Bomber Harris did to Germany?’

Did Bomber Harris win? Or did Harris and Arnold win WW II?

What if Red China believes that it will get it way through Wei Wu? Why spend all the money?

Long war bankrupts the kingdom.

We can argue about hardware forever. Whatever the hardware, why can’t we integrate the services a bit more and save millions instead of USAF doing it’s thing and USN/USM Air Wings doing their things. Don’t use Army troops and USAF FO’s as an example of integration, let me know when a F-22 pilot takes orders from a USN E-2 Hawkeye Battle Management team.

I1m mad as hell about obama taking money from social security. aig, goldman sacks, madoff, are just ponzi schemes. So now we the tax payer are paying off crooks. Now obama says he‘ll cut the military budget. The russians, and the chinese don‘t have the money either. We live in a world of global deception.

Loggie20 : “F-22 are useless compared to letting Grandma starve.”

what “brilliance” — unreal..

The Military budget is not even 4% of GDP and barry will cut 8 Billion more to pay for his stupid social welfare programs and reward his good-for-nothing ACORN/Union/welfare dependents…

How about eliminating HUD, Medicade, Medicare, SS, the department of Education, etc, and all the truly wasteful big government welfare programs which are better served by the private/religious sector and not scrimp on the Military..

I am tired of Democrats doing what the always do: raise taxes and cut the military.

arthur — SS is the ultimate ponzi scheme…

What percent of GDP should the “Military budget” be?


What did Alfred Thayer Mahon say in the 1880s?

Between 6% (Reagan) and 8.5% (JFK).


I am sure Mahon never said something as idiotic as: “F-22 are useless compared to letting Grandma starve.”


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