Review Looks to Strike Balance Between Current, Future Needs
By Fred W. Baker III
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, June 25, 2009 As the nation fights two protracted wars and North Korea rattles off war-like rhetoric, officials working on the 2010 Quadrennial Defense Review are striving to strike a balance between the needs of the current fight and preparing for future threats.
The review, mandated by Congress, provides the underpinning for the National Defense Strategy, and this time it will address tough changes in how the military is manned, equipped and funded.
Traditionally, the Defense Department has used a two-war scenario as the baseline for its force structure. Now, though, military leaders are preparing for the possibility of facing a number of hybrid wars --– those that demand a mix of conventional and unconventional warfighting skills --– in the next two decades.
“What [Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates] has asked us to do is … balance between succeeding at what [we’re] doing today but also … hedging against future challenges,” Amanda Dory, deputy assistant secretary of defense for strategy, said in an interview at the Pentagon yesterday.
Key in this review will be institutionalizing within the department the needs of fighting irregular wars, such as those in Iraq and Afghanistan. The needs of the military to adapt to irregular warfare first came to light in the 2006 review, even as military commanders were finding that conventional methods of fighting, funding and force structure were not working in Iraq.
Since 2007, Gates has led a battle against a decades-old Pentagon bureaucracy to get equipment and troops on the ground faster with proper training. His philosophy that the needs of the future cannot come at the expense of today’s warfighter has had a pervasive effect across the department.
But Gates’ efforts were accomplished mostly through ad hoc methods of acquisition and funded through supplemental requests to Congress. Now Gates wants those efforts to be built into the department’s processes so that when the two wars end, the department does not slip back to “business as usual,” Dory said.
Gates has had somewhat of a home-field advantage in accomplishing this in the upcoming review. Because he served in the previous administration, Gates enters this review process on solid footing, and has, in effect, already signaled a shift in this direction with his fiscal 2010 budget recommendations. Those recommendations provided funding for a growing Army and Marine Corps, cut programs that had significant cost overruns, and favored equipment acquisitions that were more flexible in their capabilities.
Conversely, even as the military has ramped up its nontraditional warfighting skills, that has come at the expense of some its conventional warfighting training. Gates has expressed confidence that the military can fight and win a fight against a more conventional threat, such as North Korea, but Dory said the review is looking to balance the training needs of both kinds of fights.
While the priority for the review is to institutionalize irregular warfare for the department, Dory said, it also will take a hard look at four other areas.
New to this review will be a focus on the ability of state and nonstate actors to acquire and use advanced technologies ranging from weapons of mass destruction, long-range missiles and cyber tools, Dory said. Also, the review will examine the department’s support of civil authorities, with a heavy emphasis on its relationship with the Department of Homeland Security.
The review will examine the U.S. military presence across the globe, both permanent and nonpermanent. It will line up each troop presence within the overall defense strategy. And it will review how the military is shaped and manned overall, within the scope of the threats it predicts.
“We can’t do everything in the world that others may want us to do. We can’t do everything that we may want to do,” Dory said. “There’s a sense of prioritization, and there’s a sense of where will you take your risk. If that top-line [budget] is not going to grow, what trade-offs do you make within the resources that you’ve been allocated to do your best?”
Besides how the military fights wars, the broad-brush, cross-cutting review will look at how the department does business, looking for ways to save money that can be diverted to other programs.
Dory said the review is looking at a couple of major areas that are “cost drivers.” Health care, for example, is growing at a rate that will squeeze out funding for other programs if it is not funded above the rate of inflation, she said. The review will examine where it can constrain that growth, she said.
“The bottom line in terms of the economic environment is really that, in that kind of resourced picture, you’re forced to make hard choices,” Dory said. “We think the secretary has already made some of those hard choices in terms of the  budget, and there will be additional hard choices made in the [Quadrennial Defense Review] process.”
The review is due to Congress by February.