What to Look for in DoD’s Upcoming Quadrennial Defense Review

Three members of the Security Policy Working Group, of which CDI is a member, talked with the press about the Defense Department’s Quadrennial Defense Review (QDR), which is scheduled to be available to Congress and the public in February 2006. These individuals, Cindy Williams (Principal Research Scientist of the MIT Security Studies Program), Charles Knight (Co-Director of the Project on Defense Alternatives), and Winslow T. Wheeler (Director of the Straus Military Reform Project at CDI), spoke on the various requirements Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld is obligated by statute to address in the QDR. The talkers did not attempt to anticipate the results Secretary Rumsfeld will announce next year, such as the fate of the Air Force’s F-22, but instead, they addressed what issues the press might want to keep an eye on and probe when the QDR is ultimately available.

For example, Williams pointed out the requirement for the QDR to contain a budget analysis (which not all past reviews did) and, more importantly, the prerequisite to design an overall defense strategy, military programs, and a national security budget, all commensurate with and appropriate to each other. Knight addressed the existing “National Defense Strategy,” made available in March 2005. It provides the strategic context for the 2006 QDR. He pointed out the need to assign levels of risk and importance to various threats, such as the four types of “challenges” identified (“traditional,” “irregular,” “catastrophic” and “disruptive”). Only through the assignment of risks and priorities can the process produce programs and budgets that are both appropriate and affordable. CDI’s Winslow Wheeler addressed three specific challenges the 2006 QDR faces. First, an apparent weak methodology due to the absence of any independent “peer review” before the final product is made public, thereby depriving Secretary Rumsfeld of any “reality check,” such as whether it can withstand critique by outside experts. Second, a currently existing chasm between planned defense programs and projected budgets, variously estimated by the Congressional Budget Office to range between $50 billion and more than $150 billion per year, i.e. amounts far beyond the $32 billion over five years the Pentagon is reported to currently anticipate saving in the QDR. Third, the likelihood of a hostile reception in Congress for Secretary Rumsfeld’s Review, especially his recommendations, if any, to reduce major defense programs now advocated by the military services and many in Congress (such as the F-22 fighter, the DD/X destroyer, or the Future Combat System radio/vehicle complex).