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QDR Dominated by Uncertain, Unpredictable World

By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Jan. 25, 2006 – The Quadrennial Defense Review, to be delivered to Congress Feb. 6, will be dominated by two words: uncertainty and unpredictability, senior defense officials said today.

"We cannot predict with any certainty whatsoever how our forces may be used in the future," one official said. "We can say with a very high probability that in the next 10 years, U.S. forces will be employed somewhere in the world where they are not today."

Speaking on background, the officials said the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, forced a change in U.S. security and military strategies. While transforming the Defense Department was already a priority, the attacks imposed a "powerful sense of urgency" on all in the department.

The United States is now in the fifth year of a different war, and "we need to shift our balance and (the) capabilities we have," one official said.

Congress mandates that DoD conduct the QDR every four years to ensure the armed forces have the right mix of people, skill sets and capabilities to meet current and future challenges to national security.

The officials said the 2005 review discusses four major challenges. The first is threats posed by traditional foes. "This basically involved major combat ops and state versus state conflicts, and we looked at everything else as a lesser included case to be able to meet that," one official said.

In the future, irregular challenges will be more common. The official cited Iraq and Afghanistan as examples of irregular threats facing the United States, but included operations in areas such as the Horn of Africa, the Philippines and Haiti in this challenge. The enemy in this case would be within the state, but not sponsored by the state.

A third challenge is what he called a "catastrophic set of challenges." These are unacceptable blows to the United States and attacks such as Sept. 11 or Pearl Harbor. "Getting hit by a nuclear (improvised explosive device) in one of our cities would be an example of that," the official said.

The fourth is a "disruptive" challenge. "That is a challenge or threat that would come against us and neutralize the American military as a key instrument of national power," he said.

The review looked at developing military capabilities to address all four challenges.

A second part of the review was a recognition that changing the makeup of forces in the field would mean revamping headquarters. He said the current headquarters setups are not sufficiently agile to command the fighting forces America has already deployed.

This review capitalized on the lessons the U.S. military has learned around the world. Lessons from experiences in the Horn of Africa, Georgia and Africa's Pan Sahel region figured prominently because of the new way America had to deal with allies. Developing capabilities in allies is as important as developing capabilities in the U.S. military, the officials said.

Humanitarian operations are another big area for the American military. The officials said that the "biggest victories to date in the war on terrorism" have been in the U.S. response to the tsunami in the Indian Ocean and to the earthquake in Pakistan. As a result of those operations the "shift away from radical Islam has been very, very significant," the official said.

Building capabilities and agility is more important than confronting specific threats from specific countries.

The review focuses on four areas:

  • Providing defense in depth to the homeland;
  • Hastening the demise of terror networks;
  • Stopping hostile powers or rogue elements from acquiring weapons of mass destruction; and
  • Influencing countries at strategic crossroads.
The review looks to influence three countries that officials believe to be at these strategic crossroads: Russia, China and India.

The review has 12 areas that cover everything from headquarters functions, to partnership capabilities, to recommending "leading edge technologies" that could help warfighters in the fiscal 2007 budget request. The officials stressed that major shifts in acquisition funding must be part of the Future Years Defense Plan.

Finally, the force-planning construct is basically a refined version of the 2001 review. The U.S. military will be able to do two near simultaneous major conflicts, one of which involves regime change, one official said.

"Going forward, we want one of them to be a prolonged irregular campaign," he said. "The analysis we did in the QDR clearly proved that the most stressing thing on the force is not the high-intensity major combat operations, but the prolonged irregular campaign that requires a rotational base to support it."

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