The New Quadrennial Defense Review (QDR) – 2001

[Editor’s note: This is an archive of papers and comments prepared in conjunction with the 2001 QDR. It is depressing how much is still applicable to the 2005 QDR.]

The new QDR has been published. As with the previous (1997) QDR, the purpose is a top-down look at US defense strategy, taking into account the world environment, threats, current forces and programs, and the resources likely to be available. The last QDR failed to address three interrelated problems that are responsible for the “defense death spiral” (to use Undersecretary of Defense Jacques Gansler’s description of DoD’s condition). These are:

A modernization program that, because of the cost of our Cold-War era weapons programs, cannot modernize our forces;

A deteriorating readiness posture driven by the increasing costs of maintaining both aging current systems on the one hand and their considerably more complex replacements on the other; and

A corrupt and unauditable (by DoD’s own admission) accounting system that fails to provide the information needed to fix the first two problems. Because it is impossible fix matters without first correcting the bookkeeping problem, we have a special section that goes into more detail on this arcane subject.

This section will host a debate to highlight these problems and examine how the new QDR and its alternatives deal with them.

Quick update on the new QDR by Noah Shachtman of DefenseTech

A Swift, Elusive Sword, What if Sun Tzu and John Boyd did a National Defense Review? By Dr. Chester W. Richards, Fall 2001 Boyd Conference. (PDF 380.60KB)

Quadrennial Defense Review Report, September 30, 2001. (450 KB PDF File)

The New QDR: All You Need to Know in One Painless Page, exclusive to Defense and the National Interest by a seasoned veteran of DoD campaigns in Congress.

Key Review Offers Scant Guidance On Handling ‘4th Generation’ Threats,” Elaine M. Grossman, Inside The Pentagon, October 4, 2001, Pg. 1. The parts dealing with 4GW were pretty much bolted on after September 11, and it shows.

Reforging the Sword, Col. Daniel Smith (USA Ret.), Marcus Corbin, and Christopher Hellman. An alternative better aligned to the needs of the 21st Century. (PDF file on the Center for Defense Information’s Military Reform Project site.)

What Went Wrong and How to Fix It,” Chuck Spinney’s analysis of the 1997 QDR in the September 1997 Strategic Review. Originally submitted as an OSD staff study and remains unrebutted to this day. MS Word (97/98/2000) document, 150 KB. Also available as an Adobe Acrobat file (.pdf 59K) An updated and expanded version of this report is the last chapter in Spirit Blood and Treasure (1.7 MB PDF file)

The Shell Game,” by David Segal, Washington Monthly, July/August 1993. “With no other superpower on the horizon and the Soviet Union three years in the grave,” Segal wrote in 1993, “it’s time to ask not only the annual what-do-we-need-and-can we-afford-it questions, but why is it we are ponying up for so much stuff that we clearly can’t afford.” Change “three” to “eleven” and you can see how far we’ve come in eight years. They don’t call it the “iron triangle” for nothing, folks. (1.5 MB .pdf file) Click here for the latest defense spending chart.

Special Section on Financial Management Issues. Real warfighters often want to leave these matters to the bean counters. However, history has shown that in large organizations, real power often goes to those who take time to understand the details of finance and administration. Every visitor to this site should fore-arm by at least scanning the documents in this section. Savvy visitors will do considerably more than that.

Secretary Rumsfeld’s priorities, in testimony before congressional authorization committees, June 21, 2001. Lots of hardware; no recognition of the threat posed by fourth generation warfare. (From HILLINT)

Defense Planning: Opportunities to Improve Strategic Reviews, GAO-01-514R, March 20, 2001. Excellent (and brief) overview of systemic problems in the institutional defense planning process. For the 1993 Bottoms Up Review, for example DoD had already decided on a 2 major regional conflict strategy and made “questionable” assumptions so the analysis would fit. As for the 1997 QDR, “It (DoD) did not examine trade-offs or fundamentally reassess modernization needs in light of emerging threats and technological advances.” Which one would have thought was the whole point of the review. The GAO also reiterates the debilitating effects of power games and flawed accounting on readiness. (76 KB .pdf file)

Breaking the Phalanx,” COL Doug MacGregor’s look at the relationship between “organization” and “effectiveness” in land forces for the 21st Century.

Chief of Staff’s Leadership Survey. (or .pdf version) Deep seated dissatisfactions with leadership are causing many of the Army’s brightest young officers to leave. These are fundamental issues that must be addressed in any attempt to improve the effectiveness of US forces, although hardware issues will likely dominate the QDR process. (for the latest numbers, see the 19 Oct 2000 DCSPER Report)

The Tillson Report, October 1999. John Tillson, West Pointer, Vietnam combat vet, and analyst at the Institute for Defense Analysis examines the reasons for low retention among the Army’s best and brightest. It’s not just, or even primarily, the deployment rate or low pay and benefits (although these do matter). Warriors and true leaders resent an antiquated personnel system-long ago abandoned by the best corporations-that treats people like interchangeable cogs in a machine and rewards those who master the arts of bureaucracy and careerism. (416K .pdf file)

The Vandergriff Report. MAJ Don Vandergriff, USA, takes on the twin evils of careerism and lack of unit cohesion. After reviewing in detail how the Army evolved to its current low state in these areas, MAJ Vandergriff proposes specific remedies that would do more to increase Army combat power than any multi-billion dollar weapon system. (Also available as three PowerPoint briefings. On chetrichards.com filed under Belisarius.com)

Taking Charge: A Bipartisan Report to the President-Elect on Foreign Policy and National Security. Pretty dreary, even by the standards of 40 “national leaders in foreign and defense policy” (“We live in a complex and demanding age, full of both opportunity and peril.”) Perhaps in an attempt to achieve consensus, this report avoids several of the systemic problems the next administration must confront. In particular, it: reduces 4th Generation Warfare to various forms of “terrorism;” trots out the same tired list of “long range threats”-Iran, Iraq, and North Korea; assumes that spending more (even on Cold War era weapon systems) equates to lower national risk; fails to note the rising resentment around the world of our frequent resort to military power; and completely ignores the unauditable state of DoD’s accounts (which makes it impossible to know what we’re getting for our defense dollar). The last section, “Comments and Dissent,” provides a moment of color, and one wishes the dissenters had pressed their cases more forcefully in the body of the report.

Joint Vision 2010, then-Chairman of the JCS, Gen John M. Shalikashvili’s vision: “Dedicated individuals and innovative organizations transforming the joint force for the 21st Century to achieve full spectrum dominance: persuasive in peace, decisive in war, preeminent in any form of conflict.” Also, JV2020, Gen Shelton’s update, which increases the stress on information operations and backs way from mechanistic graphics depicting “hi-tech warfare” on a clean battlefield. QDR planners should balance this vision with Sun Tzu’s admonition that “Preparedness everywhere means lack everywhere” (Cleary trans., p. 108)

Related Issues: Visit our new (October 2000) home page for budget and fiscal realities. Hot issue: How many times have we already spent the budget surplus (assuming there is one?)

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