Assessment of the May 1997 Quadrennial Defense Review

The National Defense Panel (NDP) believes that the strategy and actions outlined in the Quadrennial Defense Review (QDR) will better position our Armed Forces for success in the security environment of the 21st Century. The QDR is an important step down the evolutionary path that must be taken to reshape our military capabilities to meet the needs of the nation in the next century. The principal points of the Panel's assessment are summarized below:


The Panel views the QDR as a significant step forward in the adjustment of our forces to reflect the demise of the Warsaw Pact and other changes in the world environment. Nevertheless, there are a number of areas where we differ over emphasis or priorities.

Strategy - The Panel believes the strategy presented in the QDR represents an improvement in understanding future threats and challenges. The QDR offers a strategic concept for shaping the geostrategic environment, responding to the full spectrum of conflict, and preparing for future challenges. The strategy provides a much richer view of the challenges facing DOD in asymmetric warfare and Smaller Scale Contingencies (SSCs). In addition to the dangers of Major Theater Warfare (MTW) it also recognizes the significant demands SSCs place on force structure, Operational Tempo (OPTEMPO), and Personnel Tempo (PERSTEMPO). However, in the report there is insufficient connectivity between strategy on the one hand, and force structure, operational concepts, and procurement decisions on the other. This is important, since the QDR addresses an even greater array of challenges than we faced in the past with even fewer resources than were available four years ago.

The QDR strategy opens the door to the revolution in military affairs (RMA), which requires new warfighting concepts and new force structures that capitalize on rapidly improving technologies. For example, the strategy recognizes the value of increasing the capability of U.S. forces to halt or control an adversary in the initial phases of a conflict by incorporating new operational concepts and advanced technologies such as extended-range precision strikes and information operations. However, to the extent that the QDR views major theater warfare as a traditional force-on-force challenge, this view inhibits the transformation of the American military to fully exploit our advantages as well as the vulnerabilities of potential opponents.

Also the Panel wishes to point out that, as a DOD effort, the QDR focuses on the military dimension of our National Security Strategy. However, in the future, greater attention needs to be given to the important role played by other elements of the national security establishment, as well as the critical support provided by our allies. Effective use of diplomacy, involvement of international organizations, foreign assistance programs of various types, as well as economic and trade policy, can make important contributions to achieving our security goals. The Panel urges all elements of the Executive Branch with a role in National Security Strategy to focus on these issues now that DOD has initiated the process. A coordinated and coherent strategy and synergistic plans that look beyond the bounds of DOD will further our national security objectives and ensure more effective use of U.S. military forces.

Attention to the Longer Term - The QDR legislation directed DOD to focus on the 2005 time frame. Moreover, near-term program considerations were necessarily a major factor in the process. However, the QDR strategy also looks beyond the 2005 time frame. Assisting in this look has been the Chairman's Joint Vision 2010 (JV 2010) which provides additional valuable direction, as well as the services' studies of the type forces they will need 10 to 20 years in the future. This focus on the long-term capabilities and challenges is essential, as is the need for military adaptation and innovation. Indeed, one can look back to the 1920s and 1930s - a period of great geopolitical and military-technical transformation - and see the services engaged in bold experimentation within tightly constrained budgets. That culture and process of innovation must be actively encouraged so that our military will emerge at the end of this transformation able to exploit the full potential of the RMA and prepared to address the very different challenges the QDR correctly foresees beyond 2010.

This process will likely witness some "false starts." Major attempts at innovation rarely succeed on the first try. Moreover, while the experimentation process should include integrated joint operations, a healthy competition among the services should be encouraged - efficiency and effectiveness come with competition.

Today's modernization plans should be linked to programs for exploiting the RMA and preparing for new challenges through innovation and experimentation. The systems we are buying today are the foundation of our future force. We were encouraged to see RMA-related issues receive greater attention as the QDR final report matured. Yet it is difficult to find as much connectivity as we believe is required among the specifics of the stated QDR strategy, the service visions, experiments, and studies, and the resultant program and budget recommendations.

Future challenges affect more than just weapons and force structure. The same dynamic characteristics which must be reflected in our operating forces -- speed, flexibility and responsiveness -- should be used to redesign the structures and processes used to manage them. These same dynamics that describe our forces must also be imbedded in the Planning, Programming and Budgeting System (PPBS) as well as the acquisition process. These management tools were created to respond to past needs, and must be rethought to be compatible with current and future challenges. Recent steps to reform acquisition are commendable, and must be continued and in fact expanded. In short, the demands of the 21st Century's competitive environment must be reflected in all aspects of managing and supporting our nation’s military power.

Force Structure/Military Personnel - The Panel agrees that the force structure and military personnel reductions can be taken without creating significant risk. They are modest in number and do not significantly affect those forces that are heavily stressed by today's operational tempo. The nature and scope of the QDR reductions were based in large part on maintaining only those forces deemed necessary for the 2-MTW contingencies and the SSC-driven PERSTEMPO. In the near term, this may be appropriate, but the Panel believes that there is another perspective that should be considered over time.

At this point, it is difficult to assess the effects of other significant changes in our security environment. The increased risk of terrorism to the U.S. (especially the use of Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD)) has received some attention. Less attention has been given to the implications of the emergence of transnational security threats as evidenced by hostile states and non-state actors, to include the commerce in proscribed weapon technologies, the illegal drug trade, and disruption of information systems. These threats pose challenges to us and our allies in new and unanticipated ways. The rise of organized crime operating across borders already is challenging security and stability in key states where the U.S. has vital interests, including Russia. Devising new instruments to counter these risks is an urgent priority which warrants far more attention.

Reserve Forces -- The use of the reserve components has expanded in recent years and indications are that this trend will continue. In some service components, much has already been accomplished in the process of ensuring that the reserve components are sized and shaped to meet the requirements of an evolving strategy. Active and reserve component leaders who have carried out these changes deserve a great deal of credit. However, important work remains.

The most difficult remaining issues relate to the Army Guard. Considerable progress has been made in recent years, starting with the very productive "off-site" meeting in 1993, but further changes need to be made. The Panel supports the QDR recommendation that additional realignments and reductions are needed in the Army Reserve Component force structure. The first step should be a specific articulation of the missions of the National Guard Divisions in order to structure, size and equip them optimally. A dramatically changing environment dictates a fresh look at forces previously maintained as a strategic reserve. This reserve may no longer be needed and the Army National Guard may need to downsize and reorganize to reestablish its relevance in the post-Cold War world. The Panel plans to examine the recommendations of the Commission on Roles and Missions of the Armed Services as well as the results of upcoming "off-site" agreements as part of our assessment of alternative force structures.

Access to and Use of Forward Basing Facilities – Power projection will likely remain a fundamental concept of our future force. Accordingly, the need for close cooperation with our allies is an essential element of our defense and security strategies. For nearly a century, the U.S. military has relied upon access to forward basing and forward bases as a key element in its ability to project power. This has been recently underscored by the Administration's decision to maintain 100,000 personnel in both Europe and Asia, a decision the NDP supports.

However, U.S. forces' long-term access to forward bases, to include air bases, ports, and logistics facilities cannot be assumed. Access may be granted or denied for any number of political or military reasons. Moreover, U.S. forces may find themselves called upon to project power in areas where no substantial basing structure exists. Perhaps most important, with the diffusion of cruise and ballistic missile technology, weapons of mass destruction, and access to space, the capability to hold at risk large soft targets at great range will likely accrue to even regional rogue states. The QDR, in our view, accorded insufficient attention to our ability to project power under these circumstances.

Infrastructure -- The U.S. effort to build a superb force ready to move into the 21st Century is being held back by a Cold War infrastructure. In general terms, DOD has reduced force structure by about 40 percent while Continental United States (CONUS) infrastructure has decreased only about 20 percent. While a pure linear relationship does not exist, the Panel supports the QDR's efforts to reduce significantly DOD's support costs. This will allow the Department to fund anticipated operations and support (O&S) costs and thus stabilize the planned procurement, Science & Technology (S&T), and Research & Development (R&D) programs that are essential to maintaining our technology edge as we move into the 21st Century. Unless this imbalance is corrected, DOD's ability to protect our national security interests may be seriously compromised.

While the QDR gives considerable attention to this critical area, it is the Panel's view that it deserves greater priority and more aggressive execution. We understand that DOD needs the support of Congress to meet this challenge. Given the importance of this matter, we have three specific recommendations.

The Panel also recognizes the many constraints placed upon the Department by legislation which, over time, have seriously degraded the Secretary's abilities to improve business practices. We urge the Department to immediately propose "deregulation" legislation which would permit the Secretary to aggressively pursue the revolution in business affairs (RBA), freeing the Department from unnecessary cost and managerial overhead. The list of needed reforms is long. A few examples of the statutory provisions that should be rescinded are:

-- full public/private competition is required for any function involving more than ten employees before that function can be outsourced,

-- 60 percent of depot maintenance must be performed in government depots,

-- firefighting and security functions must be performed by government personnel.

There is wide understanding of the steps that need to be taken. The Departments and Agencies should be tasked to rapidly implement actions to reduce costs in such areas as base operations, classroom training, and equipment maintenance and overhaul. In our view, the Congress will respond positively to clear statements from the Secretary and the Joint Chiefs of Staff that significant savings in the support and infrastructure areas are essential to funding programs that will protect our nation's security interests in the 21st Century.

Access to and Use of Space -- Space is clearly of great importance to national security and we must maximize the effectiveness of functions carried out in space. Moreover, its value and range of uses will almost certainly increase exponentially over the next two decades. Access to space-based information allows us to better apply the military and civilian systems we currently have as well as those in the acquisition stream. Threats to space access and our space-based systems include computer "hacking", electronic jamming, and future laser and kinetic energy systems. One can expect threats in space to further increase as the technology grows. It is the Panel's view that use of space and vulnerability to space threats received insufficient attention in the QDR. The Department needs to develop a strategy for maintaining access to space. Military strategy and doctrine in the 21st Century will be effective and viable only if space is addressed as a frontier vital to the warfight.

- Strategic nuclear forces remain an essential element of our National Security Strategy. Our strategic forces have been scaled back significantly over the past decade and further cuts are planned and are justified. Currently these plans are on hold awaiting Russian Duma ratification of START II. Should the Duma continue to delay ratification, the U.S. will face very significant costs to maintain START I force levels. Costs in FY98 are modest but increase sharply thereafter. The Panel believes such expenditures would be a serious mistake irrespective of Duma action on START II and a waste of resources that could be put to other uses such as increasing funding for National Missile Defense (NMD) as recommended in the QDR.

We believe the move to START II force levels should proceed even if the Duma fails to act on START II this year. This is not just a DOD issue. The executive branch and Congress must work in concert to remove existing statutory impediments. Other agencies involved in national security as well as the Congress must consider the realities of defense resource needs when START issues are addressed. We also support the Administration's move to initiate START III negotiations promptly.

In addition, the Nunn-Lugar Cooperative Threat Reduction Agreement, aimed at reducing the risk from unsecured weapons in the former Soviet Union, remains an essential part of our overall strategy. This program must remain robust if we are to simultaneously reduce strategic threats while maintaining positive control and accountability.


During the Panel's internal deliberations and in meetings with senior defense leaders, a number of matters were discussed which deserve careful consideration during the Program/Budget review. Some of these are outlined below.

Risk in Defense Resources -- The Panel considers the modernization plan to have more budget risk than is acknowledged by the QDR. The funding necessary to attain the constant $60B procurement goal beginning in 2001 and hence, satisfy the Defense Strategy, rests on several key assumptions either specified or implied:

  • Two BRAC rounds will occur, yield the necessary savings in the outyears, and be affordable,
  • Projected savings will be realized from Infrastructure Reform which faces many legislative challenges,
  • Army Off-site concerning Reserve Components will be successful and not require unplanned funding,
  • Acquisition reform will continue to yield efficiencies and savings,
  • DOD Total Obligation Authority will remain at a constant $250B despite domestic pressures.

    The Panel considers each of these assumptions to be somewhat tenuous. Collectively, they represent a budget risk which could potentially undermine the entire Defense Strategy.

    Joint & Combined Operations and Training -- Inherent in the QDR's description of the U.S. future strategy is a strong signal that future operations will take on an ever-increasing joint nature. We are concerned about the ability of our forces to work in concert now and in the future. To work together effectively, our forces must first develop a comprehensive understanding of component and joint force capabilities and operational concepts. This understanding can only be developed through a vigorous program of joint training exercises and experiments, a concept the Panel supports. The use of networking and linked simulations, particularly at the Joint Task Force (JTF) level, can be further expanded to maximize training without adverse consequences on OPTEMPO and PERSTEMPO.

    The Panel believes a much stronger reliance on JV 2010 is needed in every facet of future defense planning. However, joint operations alone do not guarantee success. We must continue to work with our friends and allies to enhance our combined capabilities. CINC operations with allies must also be seen as shaping and preparing opportunities as well as for their burden-sharing benefits. The Panel plans to examine the promise of JV 2010 in developing our alternatives for future forces.

    Intelligence - The QDR addresses the need for 21st Century global information superiority which is critical to the successful execution of the strategy. This entire issue deserves more careful study, although we recognize that classification requirements limit what can be covered in public reports. Nonetheless, it is important to note that the strategy makes it imperative to collect, analyze and disseminate strategic and tactical intelligence anytime and anyplace, regardless of weather. This imperative should include Human Intelligence (HUMINT), imagery and Signals Intelligence (SIGINT) as well as ground, airborne and space systems. The integration of these systems to provide a comprehensive assessment of a potential or actual enemy remains a weakness. This is especially true at the strategic and operational levels. It is not apparent that the QDR has assessed the importance of these systems for the future. As the asymmetric challenges of the future increase the complexity of warfare, the importance of HUMINT and other intelligence disciplines will likely grow. Finally the QDR makes a plea for improved and seamless collection capabilities, but programmatic decisions suggest a different direction (e.g. the Joint Surveillance and Target Attack Radar System (JSTARS) reduced buy).

    Analytical Approach - Models and gaming were used extensively in much of the analysis done during the QDR, especially in force structure studies and the Deep Attack Weapons Mix Study (DAWMS) analysis (munitions and platforms). Most of the cases studied were the Korea and Persian Gulf scenarios, with emphasis on conventional force-on-force assaults. But the models used, such as TACWAR, were developed originally for analysis of the NATO-Warsaw Pact Central Front scenario. Ten years ago they were believed to have significant shortcomings, even for that use, because of their reliance on deterministic force attrition concepts and inadequate attention to such important elements of warfare as air power. Moreover, the continued introduction of sophisticated military systems such as airborne surveillance platforms, nonlethals, stealthy platforms, standoff weapons and modern day information systems, into our force structure is changing our conduct of warfare in ways that make those analytic models even less relevant today. This is particularly true for analysis of the 2-MTW and multiple-SSC scenarios reflected in the QDR.

    The Joint Staff's Dynamic Commitment (DC) series of seminars brought needed attention to the impact of SSCs on our forces. The applicability of the DC series, however, lies only within the realm of force availability. It is not a traditional war game, and does not actually "fight" the forces employed in its scenarios. Further, it reflects only today's forces against historically-based vignettes as opposed to preparing for likely future challenges (e.g. urban warfare, weapons of mass destruction, and non-state entities such as organized crime).

    The Department has a plan for introducing both a Joint Simulation System (JSIMS) and a Joint Warfare System (JWARS) to improve both simulations and war games. These models and simulations promise a clear improvement over today's tools, but may be of limited value if they cannot capture the characteristics of the emerging conflict environment (e.g. operations with no clear front lines, space, and the information dimension of warfare). To be of maximum utility, they must also reflect the key elements that give the U.S. significant asymmetric advantage, such as high quality personnel, flexible leadership, realistic and intense training, information operations, stealth, counter-stealth, and precision munitions. New tools are essential for ongoing force structure decisions as well as the next QDR in 2001. We urge the Department to make greater efforts to broaden the range of models and analytic tools it has available and to accelerate their availability.

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    The NDP is now turning its focus to the tasks it was assigned for submission to the Secretary of Defense by December 1, 1997. As we proceed, we will continue to work closely with the Department in hopes our efforts will be of use to DOD as it refines its plans and programs over the course of this summer and fall. In addition, we will endeavor to provide the Department and the Congress with assessments and recommendations that will enrich the ongoing debates on national security.