TCS Daily

Defense Review Leaves Military Untransformed

By Melana Zyla Vickers - October 8, 2001 12:00 AM

The Quadrennial Defense Review delivered to Congress over the weekend provides a very good assessment of a future security environment that will require the U.S. military to fight differently.

But the review failed to propose some obvious investments and divestments matching that analysis.

Consider three examples:

Anti-access: The QDR wisely notes the United States will have to project and sustain forces in "anti access and area-denial environments" - ones where enemy missiles and other means could keep the United States from using bases or surface ships near the conflict. It also says the United States will have to "deny enemies sanctuary" by taking away their ability to hide and operate deep inland.

Yet, in its list of weapons systems that would accomplish these tasks, it strangely omits the leading, current U.S. capability: It fails to propose the United States buy more stealthy, long-range B-2 bombers, capable of evading enemy radar, flying long distances to find an enemy hiding deep inland, and flying missions daily from the United States without depending on bases near a conflict.

By neglecting current means of breaching anti-access environments and denying enemies sanctuary, the QDR leaves the United States unnecessarily unprepared for these missions for years to come.

Force planning: The QDR has a whole chapter devoted to a "paradigm shift in force planning" which "shifts the focus" from preparing for conflicts in Iraq and the Korean peninsula to "building a portfolio of capabilities that is robust across the spectrum of possible force requirements, both functional and geographical."

Yet it proposes not a single actual change to the size or structure of the Army, Navy, Air Force or Marine Corps.

By putting off the difficult task of reshaping the forces, the QDR leaves the United States focused on the conflicts of the past, no matter what sort of paradigm shift it claims to be initiating.

Spending on transformation: The QDR says that a transformed military will require that new information systems "be married with technological advances in other key areas, including stealth platforms, unmanned vehicles and smart submunitions." Therefore spending on science and technology must increase to 3% of Defense Department spending per year.

Yet it focuses the spending on research - whose payoff won't come about for years or even decades - and neglects investing in aggressive development of systems that could come into use sooner. Among them are stealthy, long-range unmanned aerial vehicles for persistent surveillance and stealthy refuellers that, undetected, could allow stealthy fighters and other aircraft to operate at greater range in access-restricted environments.

By being overly cautious in its investments, the QDR puts off the date at which the United States military will be transformed and ready for new types of conflicts.

To be sure, there are plenty of good steps taken in the QDR. It backs the conversion of Trident nuclear subs so that they can fire cruise missiles, for example. And it advocates a "standing joint task force for unwarned, extended-range attack," providing the capability to strike "without warning from the air, from the sea, on the ground and through space and cyber space." Ultimately, though, there are too few such bright spots, and they're left unnecessarily vague.

The QDR's shortcomings might be blamed on the Pentagon's understandable preoccupation with the events of Sept. 11. But reports of pulled punches, infighting and resistance to change from top civilian and military officials have been circulating for months.

If any event, the tragedies of Sept. 11 make the need for an actionable, comprehensive transformation plan all the more imperative.


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