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Quadrennial Defense Review

The Quadrennial Defense Review (QDR) is a legislatively-mandated review of Department of Defense strategy and priorities. The QDR will set a long-term course for
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Whither the Forward-Basing of U.S. Forces?

Vice Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff General James Cartwright
As Delivered to the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS)
June 4, 2009  Bio | Printer friendly version

I appreciate this opportunity.

This is a bit of a difficult presentation from the standpoint that what you would like are answers and what I'm supposed to give you is process. And we'll see how close we can come to each other's needs here. But there are certain restrictions here as we try to work our way through QDR and some of the force posture issues.

I was asked to talk about force posture and force projection, which I will do, but I'll do it in the context of the Quadrennial Defense Review, and we're working our way through that right now as a department, as most of you know.

A little bit different this year - which is the standard caveat for almost anything you want to talk about - but fundamentally Quadrennial Defense Review, we go through each time we do an administration change or the four-year period, whichever one drives it.

We also have this time around a Nuclear Posture Review, which is not that unusual but is very, very important as we start to understand because we're about to enter into the negotiations for START, and there are several other treaties that are really starting to emerge that we have to understand how we're going to move forward. We really have now kind of come through the catharsis and, no kidding, are not in the Cold War anymore. The question is, so what's different? What's different about our force; what's different about our strategy; how are we going to approach the world; what does it look like? Being forced by the questions in QDR; being forced by the realities of the wars that we're in; being forced by having to negotiate now with the START reviews and whatnot, what were prior enemies that we say we have a different relationship with - so where's the material reality of that and what's it going to look like? And probably for me the most important question is, what does deterrence, as we go into the 21st century, look like? What's our relationship out there and how is that reflected then in our priorities of basing and posture and availability - all activities that I'll try to talk to here a little bit as we move forward.

Some of the realities that we're trying to deal with that I think will be centered to the discussions of the Quadrennial Defense Review - and I'll put this in military parlance; you can translate it - but we often plan generally against two types of standards - most likely and most dangerous. And normally we will bias our planning, and have for many years now, to most dangerous, and then letting everything else hopefully be a lesser included case. That was the two - MRC, MTW - you pick your alphabet - but that was the general approach - two, because you don't want to be blackmailed as you enter into one - but the reality here is two very high-end activities on the conventional force side to ensure that we could handle those things that we called most dangerous, the highest regret factors, however you want to look at that, and then let everything else be a lesser included case.

The realities of the world that we live in today, whether you're talking what we used to refer to as the high-end of conventional force - and we would think of armies against armies and maneuver warfare and all of those types of things - versus what would be at the other end of the spectrum, which we thought about as non-nation states, groups, individuals, those types of activities. The reality that we're dealing with - particularly when you start to think about the nexus between weapons of mass destruction and extremists - the lethality is about the same at both ends. You can talk about scale, but the lethality is starting to blur across that range of operations.

So when we look at the operations that we are in, the operations that we are likely to be in for the next five to 10 years, and this idea that the lethality is not necessarily anymore associated strictly with nation-states, what does your force planning construct start to look like? How do you size against that construct, and what availability do you want to have? Planning being, these are the things I want to be able to do; sizing, these are the things - these are the resources that I'm likely to have, and therefore there is going to be some risk because the first one does not necessarily directly correlate to the resources available in the second one; and then availability talks to, what are those things that I'm going to put at the top of the list against which I will position my force globally to respond to, and under what construct - how fast, whatnot? We talked for many years about regional contingencies; two major ones having some separation in days, which early on, several years back, tended to equate to the speed at which we could move shipping. I mean, that was the real driver in the separation between the two fights.

So what does that look like in the world that we're actually moving toward, the world that we're likely to be in? It is clear that we have a conflict whose character is not the same as we used to plan for, mostly from the standpoint of the temporal. In other words, we're going to be in conflicts or there is the likelihood of being in conflicts that exists for five to 10 years, maybe longer. That's fundamentally different than the planning constructs that we were in in the past. So that a reality that forces us to change. And so how do we start to think about that; how does that reflect in your planning? Is that the most dangerous? Is it the most likely? And are we going to shift the balance off of the high end of the conventional to deal with the most likely?

Opinion? (Laughs.) We're going to have to address that. (Laughs.) We're going to have to adjust the balance. You've heard the secretary talk - my secretary - often, about making sure that the institution understands and fights the war that we're in, not necessarily the war we'd like to be in, that we planned for. And historically we rarely fight the wars that we plan for. We're always tend to be surprised. The question is, have you put yourself in sufficient strategic agility to be able to handle whatever it is that comes up in front of you? That's the piece that keeps me up at night and, you know, that you're worrying about.

So as we enter into the analytic activities, one of the pieces that I was asked to focus in on here with you all is basing, strategic posture. Where are you? And that generally most closely correlates to availability of the force. In other words, what do you want to be ready to do and how quickly do you want to be ready to do it, matched up against the severity of the consequence of not being ready to do it. And historically the analytic underpinning of this is - kind of falls into about five or six bins. You want to be out and be able to respond to at least what you think are the most likely consequences out there and the most dangerous. So we have permanent basing. We call it Permanent Change of Station Basing - but where you take your family, where you go for some extended tour, a place that has a building and a flagpole in another country. And that basing is one of the elements of the force and the capability that we project out to be able to respond to whatever might happen out there. And those forces associated with that activity, whether it's a BCT or an air wing or whatever it is, are generally accepted to be ready easily within the first three or four days of a conflict - and that's assuming that we had no warning and it just started. They can be ready to go probably the quickest of anybody.

The second force posturing activity tends to be associated with those forces that are rotational. They may be rotational to a specific base; they may be rotational to a theater - naval air tends to be a little more flexibly and broader ranging - but they are brought forward and their attribute is, one, they are able - they are generally more trained and more ready just because they go through an extensive training and they go out and they stay there for some period of time, three months to a year. They also are unencumbered. They didn't bring the families. They can go wherever you tell them to go, within the region or beyond. The downside tends to be that it takes three to make one. When you PCS a unit over, it's there. It doesn't have to rotate so there's nobody back in the states training to replace it so you get a - you kind of get a three-for out of a PCS organization. But they tend to come with encumbrances. They come with families, which, don't tell any of the families I called them encumbrances but - (laughter) - but they come with - they come with families. They come with caveats associated with the basing construct. You may not be able to leave that country; you may not be able to leave that country for a certain mission. All of these caveats tend to apply to these types of forces. That's the double edge on permanent basing.

For the rotational forces, they tend to be wider ranging, more flexible, probably higher on the training scale because they had access to ranges that probably are not available in the overseas locations. The cost associated with PCS is the infrastructure cost which - I mean, it should be no surprise to anybody - is extremely difficult to get funded. We don't like to build infrastructure in other people's nations when it competes with infrastructure in the states. We don't have that many senators and congressmen that are representing those other countries. It's harder to get the money associated with overseas basing, just - it just really is. Hence - I quip about this every once in a while, but really our bases are where we fought the Indians, the Japanese or the Germans. That's where we are. And then we adapt. And the real question is, can we change from that? Are we really disadvantaged by that? If so, how compelling is that argument as to get resourcing to be based someplace different at the end of the day?

So, permanent basing, rotational basing. The third one is the pre-positioned forces. This is where we put the equipment forward but disconnect it from the force and then roll the force in on top of it if we need it. The good part about this is that you can have a heavier force and respond more quickly because you don't have to move that entire force forward. You're moving the people and a few of the enablers, but you're not trying to move the enter force. That's the good side. The downside is you may not have trained on the same equipment you fall in on. If - the equipment you fall in on may not have all of the upgrades of what you got in the home training equipment. It tends to be in a physical location, so hopefully that location is the right location for the conflict. It certainly is the right location for the conflict you anticipate; it may not be the right location for the conflict you actually find yourself in and therefore the timeline gets extended. And the other piece is, you're buying two sets of equipment for every soldier. I mean, that's just a fact. Now, that leverage is important enough that we do it in certain cases, but we do it with an understanding that the cost is pretty significant.

The other side of the pre-positioning discussion and the character of the pre-positioning force is that you get the equipment that's there. It is generally positioned for a mission. We would call it "combat loaded." In other words, I roll in and I jump into the tanks and the ammunition is there and you're ready to go. But if you didn't need the tank first, what you need are the light mobility, that may not be out of the cave, out of the building, out of the ship first, and you've got to wait for that. We're starting to adjust that to do more of what we would call an administrative load so that you can tailor this activity, particularly with our mobile pre-positioning stocks. So if what you're dealing with is an earthquake and what you need is the water and the hospital and the - and all of those types of things, you can actually get to that stock without having to unbury it so to speak. But we're toying with what's the right balance between an administrative mission loading versus a combat loading and how much of which should we have and where, and what's the right balance between a fixed location and a mobile capability for pre- position stops.

The next one in categories is probably - it has been one we have been working on. I would tell you that it's in much better shape today than it was five years ago, not because, you know, of any avoidance but because the capabilities and the technologies are starting to emerge, but it's called global strike. And global strike is the acknowledgement that there are certain forces that really do have global regard, so to speak. They can move to global scale very quickly.

Now, historically we have fought in terms of conventional bombers. The reality today is conventional bombers for global strike - probably not creditable. They're too slow. They're too slow; they're too intrusive; they require too many "Mother, may I's" to get from point A to point B - airspace cooperation, weapons passing through other countries- all of these types of things tend to limit this activity. What we're trying to understand is, what are the characteristics and attributes of global strike? Can we in fact generate that - those capabilities and deliver them in a credible way?

So in global strike the two things that I would put there - and I've said this many times in public and got the scar tissue to prove it - but the reality here is the low end of global strike is probably any place on the face of the Earth in an hour. The high end of global strike is any place on the face of the Earth in about 300 milliseconds. And that's cyber. And the other one is some sort of conventional long-range hypersonic - whether it's exo-atmosphere or endo-atmosphere - type of capability, which would drive you in scale to only those targets that you really feel you need to address because that's expensive. So there is a scale issue associated with global strike, and you cannot be frivolous with that.

You can argue about - and plenty of people do - about the ambiguity. We'll go through all of those issues, but at the end of the day we need something to reach out. And why do we need something to reach out for that capability; why is that now becoming compelling? Because of the proliferation of ballistic missiles - short, medium, and long-range ballistic missiles. If what we're trying to deal with is a conflict that could be over in minutes, then you have to have something that deters that conflict, and it probably needs to be more than nuclear. In other words, you've got to have a broader range of choices beyond just a nuclear response to something like that. And that conflict, because of the proliferation of ballistic missiles, is becoming more and more credible.

So what is it that we have? And I'm going to step back now to the PCS. PCS generally should be ready, able to engage in about three days. This is the availability side of the construct. Rotational forces - probably somewhere in the one to two days, if they are positioned correctly. If they are as far out of position as they can be - let's take an aircraft carrier is at one end of the Pacific AOR and the conflict's at the other - we're stilling dealing in probably four or five days. Pre-po - think more in the terms of two weeks.

And so when you move out of that into global strike, what gets the unprepared, the bolt out of the blue, the ballistic missile to somebody to your neighbor or farther away - what's the timeline associated with doing that? Nothing in those first ones gets at the problem of minutes, and that's why we're trying to understand what we need to have in availability and how much of your resource and what's the regret factor of not addressing these types of threats. And inside now of global strike we also put missile defense. So it should not be - you should never think of these constructs in offense- or defense-only approach because that leaves you vulnerable to somebody trying to beat or defeat your single approach. So missile defense for me is part of global strike. It has to be. You don't want the only approach here to be, "I'm going to hurt you." They ought to believe it, but you don't want that to be your only approach, nor do you want your only approach to be a defensive-only, because that's generally what's called the Maginot line. It only works to a certain extent and then it loses its credibility because there is no penalty for the attack. And this is just kind of art of war stuff, but it is what we think about as we try to work ourselves through this.

There's one other character or quality here that I'd like to just spend a couple of minutes on. It is a construct that quite frankly came out of the Cold War but has in my mind credibility today, and that is extended deterrence.

In other words, what is it you're willing to do for your ally through some agreement to protect their interests and therefore shape their force in a way that you think might be more stabilizing to the region? In the Cold War we thought about this as nuclear weapons. Should you have nuclear weapons, or will I promise you that I'll come to your aid and take care of you and therefore you don't need these weapons? What should that look like as we go to the 21st century? Is it credible that it is only nuclear? I don't believe that it is. So what parts or what elements of global strike also significantly contribute to extended deterrence? What capabilities would we like to have to assure our allies that we would be there and that when we come it will be credible, it will be on time, it will be compelling to the adversary and therefore they don't need to go in that direction? Is it more of a burden-sharing activity or is it a technical capability and quality that someone else either can't afford or can't generate? What does extended deterrence start to look like as we go to the 21st century?

If a country in the world that we're going to - and let's go back to the nexus of extremism and nuclear weapons or weapons of mass destruction or in cyber - the world that we're moving towards, attribution is not what it used to be. Everything doesn't come with a home address. So how do we start to put in place those kinds of capabilities that give our allies comfort, don't start an unnecessary arms race, can address issues of challenged attribution - in other words, we don't know for sure right away who did this - how do we start to build that? That is part of the debate that we are trying to push into the Quadrennial Defense Review, that will in fact have an impact on our availability constructs and our basing constructs.

The last one - and then I'll let you pick on me - there are basing activities that go on that have very little to do where we physically are that are absolutely critical to our ability to be global - we're seeing this in Afghanistan right now with what people are referring to as the Northern Distribution Routes - but a series of agreements and basing constructs, whether they be forward operating locations, cooperative security locations that allow us in particular to logistically sustain a fight and to move to that fight and back. We don't necessarily have to have a flagpole there; we don't necessarily have to live there day in and day out, but without the access - you know, it's that logistics, logistics, logistics. You've got to have some capability to move this stuff globally, wherever you end up.

Now the good part about global strike is it takes very little of that. The bad part about global strike is the scale is not enough to sustain a fight. You've got to be able to move to the sounds of guns. I mean, at the end of the day you have to be able to do that. And putting that infrastructure together globally and the caveats and whatnot that you have to negotiate your way though about how you can and for what you can use these sites are critical to our ability to move around the globe and sustain what appears to us at least to be extended or persistent engagement. Whether that be a shooting war or something close to it, how do you get to that construct?

So those attributes to me are what we are analytically going through to understand what we need to do and how we need to be positioned globally, whether where the Indians and the Japanese and the Germans were is okay or whether we need to adjust from that to handle things like Central Africa, to handle areas that we know we're going to have to be able to move to as we look to the future. How do we manage that and what is the right lay down to project force for this nation globally?

Thank you.