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DoD to Unveil Blueprint for the Future

By Linda D. Kozaryn
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, May 1, 1997 – What does the future hold for the military? Will there be further troop cuts? Base closures? These are some questions to be answered May 15.

That's when DoD will unveil its blueprint for the future. It's called the the Quadrennial Defense Review.

Mandated by Congress, the review is an overall look at the military's structure, strategy and resources. Defense Secretary William S. Cohen is slated to report results to President Clinton May 15 and to Congress May 19.

The review "is a blueprint for Congress to see whether we can reach consensus on how we modernize our forces for the future, how we maintain the right strategy for today and well into tomorrow," Cohen said here April 29.

"Everything is on the table" is the catchall phrase Cohen, Deputy Defense Secretary John P. White, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Army Gen. John M. Shalikashvili and other department leaders use to describe the scope of the project that's been the talk of the Pentagon for months.

Since the review was announced in December, service chiefs, agency heads and other DoD officials have gathered for countless briefings and meetings dealing with some tough questions. Can DoD modernize the force for the 21st century and stay within the president's projected $250 billion plus inflation annual defense budget? Can the military cut more troops and remain prepared to meet future threats? Should the civilian side of DoD be drawn down?

As the May 15 deadline nears, speculation grows on what the report will recommend in personnel cuts, base closures and overall restructuring. An April 29 New York Times story predicts DoD may cut as many as 50,000 soldiers and cut Navy and Air Force budgets for high-tech fighter jets. Pressed by reporters, Cohen called early reports of troop cuts "speculative and premature." But he did admit DoD has excess infrastructure.

"It's clear by virtue of the fact that we've had roughly a 33 percent reduction in force structure, but [only] about an 18 percent reduction in infrastructure," Cohen said. "That leaves a fairly significant excess capacity, which has to be addressed. Whether or not it comes in the form of a BRAC [base realignment and closure] or some other process is something we intend to discuss in the next several days."

DoD's overarching goal is to maintain flexible, ready and strong forces, Cohen said in an April 28 speech at the University of Georgia. "They have to be flexible enough to carry out any mission -- all the way from warfighting to emergency evacuations," he said. "They have to be ready enough to respond to any crisis quickly, and they have to be strong enough to dominate any aggressor early on in the battle."

Preparing for future challenges requires a robust modernization program, Cohen said. "We have the world's most powerful military, and our strategy is to keep our forces without any peer. We don't want to engage in a fair fight, a contemporary war of attrition. We want to dominate across the full spectrum of conflict so that if we ever have to fight, we win on our terms."

Cohen said the purpose of the Quadrennial Defense Review is to make a thorough examination of the entire defense structure while asking, "How should we shape ourselves? What kind of role should we play in the world today? And then, devise a strategy and develop the resources necessary to match up to that strategy."

DoD officials are working on seven areas: strategy, force structure, modernization, human resources, information operations/intelligence, infrastructure and readiness.

While defense leaders work within the Pentagon, civilian national security specialists consider the same issues. Cohen appointed an independent panel of nine civilian defense experts -- former military chiefs and civilian department officials -- to assess the ongoing review. The National Defense Panel will also provide an independent report to Congress Dec. 15. Cohen will name a second independent panel soon to look at DoD's civilian support structure and defense agencies.

Throughout the Defense Department, military and civilian defense experts are evaluating how best to protect vital U.S. interests in the Middle East, Asia and Europe. They're considering how to deal with the threat of domestic and international terrorism. They're looking at the role and cost of U.S. forces in peacekeeping operations. They're studying how to maintain mobile forces capable of rapidly responding to regional conflicts. One overriding factor in all the debate is staying within a set budget aimed at helping the nation balance the federal budget.

In April, the National Defense Panel conducted outreach seminars in Arlington, Va., to give panel members a wide range of private- and public-sector opinions on national defense. Defense specialists from some of the nation's top think tanks presented views before the panel. Experts from the Brookings Institute, the Center for Strategic and International Studies and the American Enterprise Institute addressed the first seminar. Experts from the Heritage Foundation, the Center for Defense Information and the Business Executives for National Security addressed the second.

Some outside defense experts told the panel the military should be ready and able to deal with 1 1/2 contingencies rather than the two called for in the 1993 Bottom-up Review completed under Defense Secretary Les Aspin. Others call for an international crisis force rather than U.S. ground troops to handle long-term peacekeeping operations and other contingencies. Many seek ways to reduce high deployment rates -- personnel tempo -- in military units.

Civilian business executives are focusing on the "tail to tooth ratio" of support forces to combat forces. Some business experts say DoD can get better, more efficient services and support at a lower cost by using techniques pioneered in America's private sector.

They recommend DoD continue efforts toward acquisition reform and reducing infrastructure through base closings. They propose civilian contractors provide payroll, fire, police, medical and other support services. They suggest privatizing military family housing and depot maintenance.

The Quadrennial Defense Review is not expected to answer all questions by May 15, said Pentagon spokesman Ken Bacon. But it will serve as a framework for an evolving process, he said. Decisions are being made that will affect procurement, base structure, inventory maintenance, and the number of service members and civilian employees.

"This is a large undertaking that involves a strategic assessment and statement that will guide our thinking over the next 10 to 15 years," Bacon said. "What we're trying to do is decide what challenges face us and how best to organize and fund ourselves to meet those challenges."

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