THE QUADRENNIAL DEFENSE REVIEW (Senate - May 19, 1997)

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Mr. LIEBERMAN. I thank my friend and colleague and, on matters of defense, my partner, Senator Coats from Indiana.

Mr. President, I want to add a few words to those spoken by my colleague about the Quadrennial Defense Review, which was released by Secretary of Defense Cohen earlier today. It has been my pleasure to work with the Senator from Indiana, as well as with our colleagues on the Senate Armed Services Committee, Senator McCain, Senator Robb, Senator Kempthorne, Senator Levin, and many others in a bipartisan effort that led to legislation requiring the Quadrennial Defense Review and the National Defense Panel.

Our intent in sponsoring this legislation, was to drive the defense debate to a strategy-based assessment of our future military requirements and capabilities, not to do a budget-driven incremental massage of the status quo.

We were motivated by two factors in calling for this over-the-horizon review of our defense needs. First, we did not want this to be just another annual report on what our defense needs are. Second, we wanted to force the Pentagon to look beyond the short range and to understand that many of us inside and outside of Congress believe that the decisions we are making today will affect our ability to protect our national security 10 to 20 years out.

From my first review of the Quadrennial Defense Review I would say while the report issued today does not live up to the high expectations I had for it, it is a step forward in the process that Senator Coats has just described. If we want to make defense decisions effectively, we have to consider two dramatic changes that have occurred in our world, which are influencing our defense needs. One is the dramatic and ongoing change in the post-cold-war world; second is the extraordinary change in technology, the transition we have made from an industrial age to an information age, which inevitably will affect the way wars are fought...

I want to particularly draw attention to significant steps forward that are made in the QDR in three critical areas.

First, I believe the QDR has developed a much more comprehensive view of our strategic future military environment than we had from the two previous studies; that is, the way in which the national security environment, will be affected by unconventional threats to our security, including, of course, terrorism and chemical and biological warfare, but also including the capacity of an enemy to strike at us in what the military calls an asymmetrical way, that is, to find our vulnerability, invest much less than we spend on our military, and then to strike at that vulnerability.

Second, I think the QDR has taken some significant steps forward in beginning to deal with management improvements within the Pentagon and in confronting the need for some reductions in manpower and some reductions in acquisition of high-visibility procurement programs and in recommending, as Senator Coats has indicated, two additional rounds of BRAC, of the base closure process.

To put it mildly, that will not be popular on Capitol Hill. And, yet, the more you look at the reductions that have already occurred in the size of our military forces and the extent to which we have reduced tooth but not reduced tail, it is hard to conclude that, in the interest of our national security, we do not need to further reduce military infrastructure.

Third, although I would criticize the QDR for being more budget driven than strategy driven, the Pentagon has presented some conclusions about reducing forces that they assume can help bring the defense program more closely and realistically in line with the fiscal assumptions that they are operating under.

Nevertheless, why do I say the report, as I looked at it this afternoon, does not live up to my own hopes for it? I find it to be too much of a status-quo document. While it is true we have reduced personnel and force structure significantly since the close of the cold war, the shape and focus of our military remains substantially what it was then. This report represents, as others have said, essentially a `salami-slicing' approach. It is not a dramatic change, nor does it seem to point to future dramatic changes to deal with increased workload for our military forces to respond to the much more complicated geopolitical situation nor to changes in technology, which have created a revolution in military affairs.

Mr. President, as I said a moment ago, the report was more budget driven than strategy driven. Perhaps that is understandable for the Pentagon has to live within the constraints we impose, but I must say, Senator Coats and I and the others did not introduce legislation which called for this Quadrennial Defense Review as a way to cut the defense budget. That might be a result, but a future-oriented review might just as logically lead to an increase in the defense budget, depending on what a strategic review of the world determines that our future defense needs will be. In fact, as you look at the more comprehensive strategic review of the future of the military environment that is in this QDR, it argues for additional capacity to that which the report continues to advocate: Which is the capacity to meet two major regional threats, a series of additional requirements, including terrorism, chemical and biological warfare, missile defense, and peacekeeping. Yet, I don't see the connection between what I think is the more accurately described complicated strategic future we have and the programs the report advocates to meet that future.

The report is not strategy driven. It continues to require that the military be structured to deal with two major regional conflicts but its assessment of the strategic environment raises questions about whether that is an appropriate standard, particularly since one of those conflicts presumably would be on the Korean Peninsula against North Korea, a state that many question will constitute a threat to security very much longer. So, as we look 10 to 20 years out, will our major threat in Asia be on the Korean Peninsula, or will it come from another great power or midsize power that has gained nuclear capability and can disrupt the entire region?...

Mr. President, a final word. There is a brief reference to space and the role space may play in future warfare. Remember, we are talking about 10 to 20 years from now. It is hard to imagine as we see the world depend more and more on space-based satellites that our future enemies will not rely on a wide range of space-based capabilities to fight us. It seems to me this suggests a very, very urgent need for us to consider the implications of that for our future military preparedness, including very controversial questions, which I think we have to consider in the responsible exercise of our duties, whether we should proceed with what might be called the weaponization of space, and what we should do to develop capacity to defend against attacks on us from space.

In summary, I feel strongly that we need to act more boldly and broadly now. We need to stop doing business as usual now so we can better respond to the challenges of the future, and that goes not just for those in the Pentagon, but also for those of us in Congress, because the decisions that we are making today will commit enormous national resources and determine the military forces we will have for decades.

The fact is that the extraordinary victory we achieved in the gulf war was the result not only of the extraordinary military leadership we had and the extraordinary bravery and skill of our troops on the ground, in the air, on the water, but it also was the result of decisions and investments made in the seventies in military technology that came online and were available to be used in the early 1990's in the gulf war.

We have to think, as we make the decisions we do committing hundreds of billions of dollars to defense programs, whether these are the programs we will need 10 and 20 years from now. The fact is, if we choose unwisely and a future opponent chooses more wisely, we may well be jeopardizing not only the lives of our soldiers, but also the lives of our children and our grandchildren. When we discover that, we will have precious little time and perhaps not the resources to fix our mistakes.

So in those ways, I find the QDR to be lacking, but Senator Coats and our cosponsors anticipated this and believed it would be the first step in a dynamic process. I hope that is the way in which the QDR, will be seen--as a first step, an important one--in a series of steps to determine what our future military needs will be. It does, in fact, provide a sound base from which this critical discussion can proceed.

I think Secretary Cohen himself has recognized this is only the beginning--it is the end of the beginning, not the beginning of the end--not only in what he specifically said, but in the fact that last week he announced the appointment of a task force which will now go the next step, particularly in considering reform of the Office of the Secretary of Defense.

We all have high hopes for the independent National Defense Panel, that was created as part of our legislation, to go further and create clear alternatives and to begin to identify the critical unanswered questions that we are left with after reading the QDR. Then, as Senator Coats has said, it will be up to those of us in Congress and to those in the White House and the administration to absorb the recommendations of the QDR we received today; then of the National Defense Panel which will be presented to us in December; and then to push boldly against the status quo.

Our responsibility may require us to make difficult decisions about the weapons we buy and where our forces will be based and how they will be structured so that tomorrow's American military will be ready to meet the security threats of the next century in the most cost-effective and technologically dominant way.

The point is this: Some people will say, `QDR says it all, we're doing well, our security is clear. If it ain't broke, don't fix it.' Of course, we agree our security is strong today and it ain't broke today, but if we don't fix it, it will be broke 10 or 20 years from now, and we will not have fulfilled the fullest measure of our responsibility under the Constitution to provide for and protect the common defense.

I thank the Chair.

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