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QDR Must Assess Different Risks, Official Says

By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, June 21, 2001 – A senior defense official said June 20 he believes a transformed U.S. military probably will stay about the same size it is today, but it will be configured differently.

The reason, he said, is the U.S. military will be constructed not to face a specific enemy or scenario, but to combat a range of "vaguer" threats planners believe the United States could face in the next 20 years. The official said these are his initial feelings.

Conclusions and decisions must wait until completion of the Quadrennial Defense Review in September. Preliminary results will be available in mid-summer so DoD officials can use them in building the fiscal 2003 defense budget.

The senior official said DoD needs to move beyond the risk assessment policies of the past decade. Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld and other department leaders need to evaluate all risks affecting the military and want to use the QDR to help do that.

The official said planning for the new strategy "requires a different way of viewing the future." He characterized 1990s thinking as "scenario-based, threat-based planning which is incorporated in the idea of two major regional contingencies."

He said the construct was useful when adopted 10 years ago, but is less so today. While it's not clear who U.S. adversaries might be, their threat capabilities can be forecast. He mentioned terrorism, ballistic missile attacks, cyberwarfare and "anti-access" policies as some U.S. vulnerabilities.

To him, the "candidate lists" of potential enemies made by some people are immaterial. "The United States needs to focus on the capabilities we need rather than specific threat scenarios or specific enemies," he said.

U.S. military force planning has focused almost exclusively on the operational risk of not having the forces needed to carry out current war plans.

The officials said this neglects three other dimensions of risk. The first derives from the fact that the United States uses its forces on a day-to-day basis for an extraordinary number and range of small-scale contingencies, he said. These contingencies create enormous burdens on the force and the risk that good people will be driven away through overuse. Equipment and materiel overuse are also dangers.

The next risk planners need to assess is that the United States "won't have what we need in the future for one of these much harder to define emerging dangers."

The final dimension is what he termed an "efficiency risk." That is, the American public comes to view the U.S. military as bad stewards of resources and wasteful and loses confidence in it.

The official said DoD should "force these risks up on the table so they can compete with one another." The process would allow the president, Congress and other senior leaders to decide conscious trade-offs about these various risks.

"Someone said there is today, tomorrow and the day after tomorrow," the official said. "We have tended to focus rather heavily on tomorrow … without realizing how much we're expending on today and how important it is to invest in the day after tomorrow. Up until now, we have been neglecting the future. We need to put more emphasis on it."

Rumsfeld does not want "warmed-over status quo" from the QDR or "conventional results" the DoD bureaucracy probably would deliver if left to itself, the official said. The secretary is working with the chiefs and civilian heads to develop guidance for the QDR research teams, he said.

The official said intense senior-level meetings are building consensus on the direction DoD needs to go. Without such consensus, he said, "Major change isn't going to stick.

"We're not turning a hot sports car on a dime, we're turning a great big vessel."

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