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DoD Background Briefing

Presenters: Senior Defense Official and Senior Military Official
April 23, 2009

STAFF:  We'll just go ahead and get this kicked off for us.  Good morning.  And thank you for your interest in this particular topic.

               

                I would remind people that what we're here to talk about today is the Quadrennial Defense Review and the Nuclear Posture Review, two important activities of the department that are commencing now and will be going on through this year, with a report due to Congress by early next year.

 

                The event here today is on background, so I would ask that you please refer to our two briefers as a senior defense official and a senior military official, to help us keep the transcript clean.  We will publish a transcript for you afterwards and make it available.

 

                And with that, I believe they're both going to give you a brief overview and then we'll get right into the questions.

 

                SR. DEFENSE OFFICIAL:  Well, good morning.  We wanted to take some time to give you some background on the both Quadrennial Defense Review and the Nuclear Posture Review, as we expect the secretary will be signing out the terms of reference for both of those in a matter of days.

 

                Let me just say a few introductory words about each one, but first the QDR.  As you know, this is really a primary vehicle for the department to set its strategic direction  It's a design to address key emerging challenges, to bring focus to under-emphasized mission areas, to ensure that we align force structure with our strategic realities.  And also it's an opportunity to launch new initiatives that are of importance either to the president or the secretary.

 

                It's coming at a time when we face a particularly challenging security environment, with violent extremist movements, proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, fragile and failing states, changing global landscape, with some powers rising and others declining, tensions in the global commons -- sea, air, space and so forth, and a climate in which we're very likely to see hybrid forms of warfare.

 

                So the question -- a lot of what the QDR focuses is on how do we balance dealing with the full range of these challenges and balance meeting our present requirements of current operations and also the need to prepare for complex challenges in the future.

 

                Throughout the QDR processes, we will be seeking to capture and institutionalize the lessons we've learned from Iraq and Afghanistan and elsewhere, and we're going to seek to further adapt our forces and capabilities to asymmetric and irregular forms of warfare.

 

                We're taking a very whole-government approach to both reviews, actually.  But in the QDR context, we're very mindful that the military is just one instrument of our national power; that security is not only dependent on the military, but really on leveraging the full capabilities of the U.S. government across the economic, diplomatic and other domains.

 

                And so we'll be bringing some of our interagency partners into this review, we'll be bringing a number of our key allies into this review, and also drawing on expertise outside of the government -- from NGOs, think tanks, universities and so forth.

               

                Let me say a couple words about the Nuclear Posture Review.  I think this is slightly narrower in focus.  It is really the first comprehensive review of our nuclear posture since 2002.  It will address the U.S. nuclear deterrence strategy and policy, looking at the role of nuclear weapons, international security strategy, the size and composition of our nuclear forces necessary to support the strategy, and the steps necessary to maintain a safe, reliable and credible nuclear deterrence posture.

 

                As President Obama said in Prague, which -- and his speech there was really a sort of -- a great strategic framework for this review -- we are placing a high priority on reducing nuclear proliferation.  So in the NPR we'll be seeking to ensure that our nuclear policies help deter our enemies, reassure our allies and also further our nonproliferation agenda.

               

                We'll also be conducting the NPR in close coordination with negotiations with Russia to reach a follow-on agreement to START, and those two processes will be tightly interwoven.

 

                So to wrap up, you know, these are very important opportunities for the department to better align our ends, ways and means.  It -- this is going to be a sort of all-hands-on-deck effort, a real focus not only for the department staff but most importantly for the leadership, for Secretary Gates, for Deputy Secretary Lynn and for others.  And we expect that both of these processes will run through the summer and very much be contributing to and framing decisions that will be made in the FY '11 program and budget cycle.

 

                Thank you.

 

                SR. MILITARY OFFICIAL:  Okay.  Just from our perspective, I would just emphasize, you know, a couple points about the procedures, the processes that we'll follow doing -- actually, in both reviews. 

 

                And basically the -- Admiral Mullen, the chairman and Secretary Gates will be providing the direction for both reviews.  We paired the deputy secretary, Secretary Lynn, with the vice chairman, General Cartwright, to provide sort of the direct oversight of QDR.  And then there are subordinate levels below that, which include, you know, services and the combatant commanders' inputs throughout, you know, the processes. 

 

                So from the perspective of how the department's going to, you know, make recommendations associated with either the QDR or the Nuclear Posture Review, it will incorporate the wisdom of the department's leadership across all the combatant commands.

 

                And really, over to you at this point.  We're just starting to go on this.  The processes are basically resolved.  And we're essentially ready to get going.

 

                So your questions.

 

                Q     (Off mike) -- Can you draw like a straight line in terms of '97, '01 and '06 and now this one?  What are some of the consistent themes you see that will be reviewed?  And then how will this one deviate from those prior three?  What are some of the key break points?

 

                SR. DEFENSE OFFICIAL:  I think there have been a couple of consistent themes over the last several reviews.  One is -- and it will continue in this review -- one is this idea of balance, and particularly the idea of how do we balance investing in the capabilities that today's warfighter needs against investing in the capabilities that tomorrow's might need? 

 

                Sometimes we're lucky and there's good overlap between those two, and sometimes those things pull us in different directions and there are some hard trade-offs and choices to be made.

 

                So I think that that is something we've been struggling, frankly, since the end of the Cold War, as sort of -- as the current operational tempo has gone up and the nature of the security environment has changed so profoundly.

 

                I think, really, further adapting to irregular warfare, asymmetric threats, hybrid warfare -- this is a process that we've begun.  It's an area where we're -- we have a lot of lessons learned from recent years.  But the department is still -- you know, it's still a work in -- the adaptation of the department to those needs is still a work in progress, and I think this review will further that.

 

                Q     One follow-up.  The 1997 QDR had major programmatic decisions in it:  reduce the F-22, reduce the F-18E/F, I think some shipbuilding also.  The either -- the prior -- '01 and '06 really didn't make any major programmatic decisions.  Do you anticipate that this review will result in additional programmatic decisions beyond the secretary announced two weeks ago?

 

                SR. DEFENSE OFFICIAL:  The review is designed to feed directly into the FY '11 program and budget build.  And I -- we do expect that if additional programmatic changes are needed to support the strategy and the rebalancing, that those will be made.  So the QDR is designed to be the strategic frame for the program and budget that goes forward in '11.

 

                Yes.

 

                Q     Secretary Gates has talked about there being a list of a dozen or so issues that you'll look at in the QDR.  Could you just tick off those issues?

 

                SR. DEFENSE OFFICIAL:  I wish it was only a dozen.  (Laughs.)  I -- you know, and I think that, again, we're looking -- a lot of our analytic work will be focused on a number of key areas that are going to be -- that are highlighted in what we'll give out to you here:  as I said, further institutionalizing irregular warfare and civil support capabilities, both at home and abroad, including building partnership capacity, which is a key theme of the defense strategy; assessing threats posed by the use of advanced technologies and WMD; global force posture, how our forces are arrayed around the world; strengthening DOD support to civilian-led operations; and, of course, the perennial:  managing the department's internal business processes to improve efficiency and effectiveness, which is an ongoing process.

 

                So there -- these are the kinds of things we'll be looking at.  You know, we're still, frankly, in the process of sorting through, you know, the binning of which issues we'll address in the QDR and which issues we'll address in the more traditional program build and program review process.

 

                Q     Thank you.

 

                SR. DEFENSE OFFICIAL:  Yes?

 

                Q     On the Nuclear Posture Review -- this question is for both of you -- do you anticipate that it will have as a stated goal elimination of nuclear weapons, Global Zero, do you think?  And do you think that that goal is achievable?

 

                SR. DEFENSE OFFICIAL:  In the president's Prague speech, he referenced that as an ultimate goal.  He also said that until that time, as long as adversaries possess nuclear weapons, we will maintain a robust and credible nuclear deterrent.  And so I think, you know, this NPR is being taken in the context that he lays out in that speech, which is a desire to really strengthen non-proliferation progress, if you will; explore the possibility of further reductions in our own arsenal; while also ensuring that we take the steps necessary, both in terms of the infrastructure and the forces, to ensure that we have a safe and secure and reliable deterrent.  And so that -- that sort of three-pronged approach is really the conceptual frame, the starting point for the NPR.

 

                Q     So would that sort of make it a place-holder on the way to eventual Global Zero?

 

                SR. DEFENSE OFFICIAL:  Well, I think that we are certainly looking to, in the post-START negotiations, go towards further reductions.

 

                SR. MILITARY OFFICIAL:  But I don't know that I would speculate to say that that would be a goal.  Right?  I mean, it's -- this NPR, from our perspective, is one about deterrence, how should we deter.  And deterrence involves more than just nuclear weapons.  So there are other aspects of what the department does that need to be brought to bear to deter, you know, a potential adversary from using nuclear capability.

 

                SR. DEFENSE OFFICIAL:  Let me -- this is a really important point that we probably didn't emphasize enough in the opening remarks.  I think something that's different about this round of reviews is the extent to which we're going to try to take an integrated approach across the QDR, the NPR, the Ballistic Missile Defense Review, which is also mandated by Congress, and the Space Review.  Because all of these things, from a capabilities perspective and an effects perspective, they're very -- you have to take a very holistic view of these things.  And I think we're approaching these reviews in a much more integrated fashion than has been done in the past.

 

                SR. MILITARY OFFICIAL:  But that's a new challenge, also.  (Chuckles.)

 

                SR. DEFENSE OFFICIAL:  It is a new challenge.  Makes it harder.  (Chuckles.)

 

                Yes?

 

                Q     How will the QDR take into account the global economic crisis -- (off mike)?

 

                SR. DEFENSE OFFICIAL:  Well, I think it will take it into account in a couple of ways.  First, you know, the global economic crisis is having profound impacts on the security environment.  In some cases, it's sharpening or accelerating certain trends that will affect -- that will drive the demand for U.S. military forces in the future.  It will also, of course, affect our own -- the fiscal guidance that's provided for the review and our own decision-making about how much as a nation we spend on defense.

 

                Q     Is it possible to get specific about, say, two or three issues, specific issues that you will be looking at as part of the -- looking at the economic crisis; for example, whether the department needs to pay service members as much, given their incentive to stay in the service?

 

                SR. DEFENSE OFFICIAL:  You know, I could speculate, but -- and we've asked people to take this into account -- but I don't want to get ahead of the actual results, because we haven't come up with those insights yet.

 

                Yeah.

 

                Q     The Obama administration -- about missile defense, this administration doesn't seem to have quite made up its mind on the future of the third site.  I was wondering if this review might be the opportunity to actually formulate a position -- a pure position towards the future of the third site in Europe.

 

                SR. DEFENSE OFFICIAL:  The future of the third site in Europe will be part of what the missile-defense review addresses.

 

                Q     Hi.  We already have the capstone concept, the Iraq and Afghanistan strategies and the budget the secretary just outlined.  Would you anticipate that the QDR would sort of formalize a lot of that?  Or do either of you anticipate breaking new ground, so to speak, in this document?

 

                SR. DEFENSE OFFICIAL:  We're taking the national defense strategy as our point of departure for the review.  But, as you know, that's a -- that is a document that's usually revised or updated on an annual basis.  So I imagine that insights that come out of the further analysis and work that's done in the QDR may, in fact, contribute to the next version of that document.  But the current NDS is very much the sort of conceptual foundation for this review going forward.

 

                SR. MILITARY OFFICIAL:  I guess I'd add that a lot of the decisions that have been made thus far by the administration are reasonably short-time-frame decisions.  The longest-term were really FY '10.  And so we have to take those decisions and now reflect them across the projection for the future and align that to what we think the -- you know, the strategic environment's going to be.  So there are the longer-term things that have to play out specifically in QDR and the nuclear posture review. 

 

                So picking up on something that was said in the opening, a lot of this is about balance:  balance between near- and long-term risk; balance between exquisite systems and the -- having systems that are high-quality, lower-cost-type systems.  So those types of issues have to be played out yet.

 

                SR. MILITARY OFFICIAL:  Yes.

 

                Q     Yes, a quick clarification on the missile-defense review, which you said is mandated by Congress.  Is there a -- is there a deadline on that?  Is it the same as the QDR?  Or is it --

 

                SR. DEFENSE OFFICIAL:  I think it's the same, yeah.  My understanding is, it's the same as -- you know, all of these will be sent up to Congress, I guess, early next year, when we send up the FY '11 budget. 

 

                Q     (Off mike.) 

 

                SR. MILITARY OFFICIAL:  I think we will have decisions before that and insights before that.  But the formal write-up won't go up until the budget.  But I expect that we will have some decisions, on the European site issue, far before next year. 

 

                Q     To what extent are you going to have a new national security strategy, before the QDR is done?  And if so, will that inform the QDR?  Is that going to come after? 

 

                SR. DEFENSE OFFICIAL:  I think that again the -- we're unlikely to have a published national security strategy before the QDR is done.  But what we do have is an NSC process.  One of the early policy reviews has been a national security priorities review.  That is sort of the key insights that would be written up in an NSS.  And that process will inform our work, as well as all the other strategy and policy reviews that have been ongoing. 

 

                So I would say that the NSC reviews along with the national defense strategy are, as I said, the sort of conceptual foundation.  I expect that the first -- as is true for every new administration, the first NSS is always late, because it just takes time for people to come in and get organized and put it together.  But I think we'll eventually catch up and be on cycle. 

 

                Q     I understand the QDR is going to look at the Defense Department's need for amphibious equipment, amphibious forces.  Can you describe a little bit about what exactly you will be looking at? 

 

                SR. MILITARY OFFICIAL:  Well, it basically gets into, what do we think the nation requires for amphibious capabilities?  The secretary has talked a little bit about delaying a decision on an LPD, what he wants to do with the Expeditionary Fighting Vehicle, which he has basically allowed to continue, in the review that's done to date. 

 

                And then we've got the MPF (Future) program that he elected to delay a component of, in the FY '10 decisions that he's already discussed.  So we need to not, you know, take that and basically take that FY '10 discussion and determine what we're going to do, across the longer term. 

 

                So again I drop back.  When I think about QDR, it's a balance issue, near/long-term.  How do we want to shape risk? 

 

                Q     For the layman, is it accurate to say the QDR is looking at whether the United States still needs the ability to land on a beach or whether wars will be fought far from the beach?

 

                SR. DEFENSE OFFICIAL:  I would say it differently.  I'd say that we're taking these individual programmatic decisions and considering them in a much more strategic context that thinks about what kind of world -- what's the world going to look like?  What are the challenges going to look like?  What are the military missions going to look like?  How much of what different kinds of capabilities do we need?  Where do we want to -- when we can't do everything equally well, where do we want to accept or manage risk?

 

                So I think that what QDRs do every four years is really give us a chance to step back and make sure that there's really strategic coherence in our defense programs.

 

                Q     What if you conclude that the United States really doesn't need as much amphibious capability?  You're going to be going under the assumption that the wars for the next four years will be far from shore.  Is that accurate?

 

                SR. MILITARY OFFICIAL:  Well, there are other ways to put people on shore.  I mean, you can go in through the surf, right?  So you can have different capabilities to provide similar capacity.  So it's a matter of trying to get --

 

                SR. DEFENSE OFFICIAL:  And I -- the -- your line of questioning suggests we're much farther down the road on this than we are.  I mean, we are taking a fresh look at this.  And there are no conclusions yet.

 

                Q     You talked about future capabilities and looking ahead to see what possible threats may be.  China is a country that, you know -- (a friend of ours ?) at the same time increasing its military capabilities.  Should we look more to dealing with them on a diplomatic basis, like more mil-to-mil relations, perhaps, rather than every now and then it seems we have a blow-up, be it the EP-3 incident -- I think it was early in 2000 -- and then we had the thing going on with the -- we had another incident recently.  And is that something we're going to look at more -- at more diplomatic or more Pentagon-Chinese military interface than in the past?

 

                SR. DEFENSE OFFICIAL:  This is really -- this is a larger strategic question.  But I think that this administration has started out with a very serious engagement with China, a clear-eyed engagement, also taking into account of their investments in military capabilities and so forth.  But we are looking to enrich that relationship and open up different areas, including, you know, defense talks, mil-to-mil and so forth.  So I think that is something we'll be exploring.  That certainly informs the QDR, but it's certainly way beyond the QDR.

 

                SR. MILITARY OFFICIAL:  But it is a perspective for -- in the QDR, that we're going to try to bring the interagency, the other capacity of the rest of government into the discussion.  So we're not looking at trying to look at this from a perspective of only DOD capabilities; it's what the whole of government can do to influence a situation.  Relationships with other nations are clearly a piece of that.

 

                Q     There are certain missions that are sometimes associated with irregular warfare, like a cooperative security.  And you have people now saying maybe you shouldn't refer to that as irregular warfare all the time, because allies get irritated by that term; interagency folks don't really like it.  Do you see the review maybe taking missions like that a little further away from that irregular warfare moniker?

 

                SR. DEFENSE OFFICIAL:  There's lots of terminological debate.  (Laughs.)  I think what we're really trying -- one of the, you know, things we'll -- we're going to take a very pragmatic approach that says, you know, whatever you call this, building the capacity of partners and allies is a critical component of U.S. strategy.  How do we do it better?  What do we need to do it better?  I'm less concerned with what you call it or whether which concentric -- you know, which part of the Venn diagram it falls on.  We're about how do you create the authorities, the capacities, the capabilities to do it better.

 

                Q  (Off mike) -- means, you know, changing the language a little bit to make the mission go forward, so be it.

 

                SR. DEFENSE OFFICIAL:  Well, I just -- again, I don't want to speculate on that.

 

                Q    The terms of reference.  What, in layman's language, will the terms of reference consist of?  And will you be able to provide an unclassified version of it?

 

                SR. DEFENSE OFFICIAL:  We have a fact sheet on the terms of reference, both of them, QDR and NPR, that we'll provide to you, which has the sort of core substance of it.  But it includes some sense of, you know, the threats and challenges that we're facing, how we see the environment, what are the specific focus areas; you know, the governance for the process, who will do what.  They're fairly telegraphic.  I mean, I think --

 

                Q     (Off mike.)

 

                SR. MILITARY OFFICIAL:  (Laughs.)  In past QDRs, they have been encyclopedic.  (Laughs.)  You know, I don't know, 57 pages or something.  This one is -- you know, it's a handful of pages.  It's very -- it just lays out the process and the focus areas and really leaves the rest to be articulated in the actual review.

 

                Q    This is an NPR question.  The 2002 NPR outlined the need for a non-nuclear deterrence capability; i.e., the conventional B-5 missile that Congress shot down two or three times when it was proposed.  Will the NPR be -- were you looking at that in terms of whether there is a valid need or a non-nuclear Trident-launched missile?

 

                SR. MILITARY OFFICIAL:  Whether or not it looks at it, the idea of how we're going to do a strike -- conventional, nuclear, whatever -- is going to be part of this review.  And I don't -- I said "this" review because I don't know if that will go to the QDR or the Nuclear Posture Review, but it's something that we will look at and try to determine, you know, where we want to go.  But when we think about the Nuclear Posture Review, it is really about the larger deterrence issue.  So things like conventional strike can provide capabilities that deter, you know, other adversaries.

 

                Q    One of the arrows in the quiver of deterrence.

               

                SR. DEFENSE OFFICIAL:  Right.  Exactly.

 

                Q     Okay.

 

                SR. DEFENSE OFFICIAL:  Exactly.

 

                STAFF:  Okay, folks.  Let's wrap it up here.  We do have a news release that you'll get on the way out the door.  The fact sheets that our senior defense official was talking about we will make available, I think, as soon as the (TOR ?) is signed, so it may be a day before that -- a day or so before that comes out. 

 

                Q     (Off mike) -- signed.

 

                STAFF:  But as soon as that is done, we will get those to you also.

 

                Again, just as a reminder, this has been a background briefing attributable to a  senior defense and senior military official.  And thank you for coming today.

 

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