QDR: It’s Over, Barring Surprises

The QDR is pretty much finished and the major decisions made by Defense Secretary Robert Gates on April 6 are likely to comprise most of the review's major decisions. "It appears to be essentially over:" that's the judgment of a Pentagon official with detailed knowledge of the review. "There appears to be no appetite for anything bolder than the 6 April decisions," this source said.

The QDR is pretty much finished and the major decisions made by Defense Secretary Robert Gates on April 6 are likely to comprise most of the review’s major decisions.

“It appears to be essentially over:” that’s the judgment of a Pentagon official with detailed knowledge of the review. “There appears to be no appetite for anything bolder than the 6 April decisions,” this source said.

The wrenches that could get tossed in would be new budget guidance from OMB, or a disaster of some sort in Iraq or Afghanistan.

That amphibious study, which could lead to the Marines seeing their central mission stripped away, appears highly unlikely to go anywhere. Is the vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs, himself a Marine, likely to countenance such a move? Not likely. Is the chairman, Adm. Mike Mullen, likely to approve such a move when the Marines are so closely intertwined with the Navy? Well, no. If Gates didn’t kill the Expeditionary Fighting Vehicle on April 6 — and it certainly would seem to have met many of the same criteria for termination as did programs such as FCS — why would he take such a drastic action now?

Meanwhile, the 2011 budget process rumbles ahead, with meetings of the Defense Advisory Working Group (DAWG) having started last week and continuing for the next week at least. The DAWG is comprised of the Deputy Defense Secretary, the undersecretaries for AT&L, policy, comptroller, personnel and readiness, and intelligence, vice chairman of the Joint Staff and the service undersecretaries and vice chiefs. Deputies from policy, PAandE and other shops regularly attend. These meetings are going on to ensure that the draft POMs — which are classified — meet the secretary’s guidance and to make any basic decisions that can be made at this point if there are questions. The Marines and Navy are scheduled to go before the DAWG this week and the Army is ready to go next week. I believe Special Operations Command and the Air Force have already gone through the wringer.

Bear in mind that OMB Director Peter Orszag issued a memo in June telling all government departments to come up with at least five “significant” program terminations or trims in their 2011 budgets. That could mean a surprise or two in the POM or in the QDR. But our source doesn’t think that’s likely given Gates’ earlier decisions.

As for the earlier estimate by David Ochmanek, deputy assistant secretary of defense for force transformation and resources, that there is a $60 billion hole that needs filling to come up with capabilities gaps identified in the QDR, our source says that estimate is wildly inflated, putting the number closer to $!5 billion over the five years of the review. Ochmanek said the US had to come up dough for missions like “U.S.-led counterterrorism and counterinsurgency operations” and confronting “regional adversaries.”