The Pentagon’s sweeping review of strategy and programs is
expected to bolster investments in sensors, networks, information
technology and precision-guided munitions.
the Defense Department and Congress will be focusing their attention
on issues of immediate impact in the months ahead, such as the soaring
costs of military operations in Iraq, officials and analysts caution
that a discussion on long-term investments should be key component
of the debate over the Pentagon’s Quadrennial Defense Review,
which is scheduled to be sent to Congress in February 2006.
“Technology for the military is the critically important
issue,” Rep. Curt Weldon, R-Pa., told National Defense. Information
systems and real-time intelligence are crucial technologies that
need to be developed, said the senior House Armed Services Committee
The military should foster technology breakthroughs that can do
“things smarter, faster and cheaper, and, if possible, save
the taxpayer money from the cost of a $ 200-million fighter plane,
or a multi-billion dollar vessel,” he said in an interview
during a recent Precision Strike Association conference.
His comments came against the backdrop of a shrinking Navy shipbuilding
budget, and impending cutbacks in the Air Force’s F/A-22 Raptor
and C-130J aircraft programs.
The caveat of relying on sensors and networks is that the United
States will need to develop technology associated with information
dominance. China and North Korea, Weldon explained, “know
that they can’t match us plane for plane, tank for tank, ship
for ship, and they know that we have smart weapons. But they also
know that the smart technology is based on computers.” Therefore,
these adversaries would focus on “ways to neutralize that
smart capability,” he said.
“That means that, besides focusing on integration of systems
for precision capability, we have to equally focus on the protection
of security of those systems, so that they cannot be defeated,”
From the Pentagon’s perspective, the 2005 QDR has great potential
to change the military’s approach to everything from strategy
“Strategic circumstances tend to be a precursor to major
change,” said Ryan Henry, principal deputy under secretary
of defense for policy. “It is a critical juncture, and it
is a good time to do a QDR.”
The 2005 QDR also will be the first one tied to a base closure
and a budgeting cycle, said Ryan, who noted that the completed QDR
will be submitted to Congress next February. Decisions that will
have significant implications for the budget will be done this May,
so that they can influence construction of the 2007 budget.
That plays into the decision of Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld
to have a “rolling QDR,” with conclusions to be fed
back into the programming or acquisition process, versus holding
decisions until a final QDR report is released to Congress.
The review will be driven by the Pentagon leadership, rather than
by issues proposed by service members, Ryan emphasized. Furthermore,
the review will focus on broad “capabilities,” and not
on specific weapon systems, he said.
The underlying issue is that, while the U.S. military has capable
fighter planes, ships and smart bombs, it lacks weapons and skills
to fight unconventional wars, such as insurgencies.
The Pentagon attempted to take a capabilities-based approach back
in 2001, said Henry, but it did not have the “tools and the
The Defense Department has to think about capabilities without
necessarily tying them to a piece of hardware, he said. In his definition,
a capability is the ability to generate a desired effect.
“The smaller the number of ‘big issues’ addressed
in a QDR, the greater the chance of developing innovative approaches,”
he said. Past reviews tended to be “fire and forget”
The review will not produce one single assessment, as it did in
previous years, but turn out a series of follow-on assessments for
years to come, he said.
“We need to have a strategy associated with the QDR,”
he added. Current operational demands need to be balanced with long-term
prospects. Lessons from the conflicts in Afghanistan and Iraq also
should play a pivotal role, he said. Additionally, “we have
to take into account fiscal realities and generate a resource-neutral
QDR,” he stressed.
The upcoming review will embrace everything that has changed since
September 11, 2001, said Pierre Chao, an analyst with the Center
for Strategic and International Studies. But that also will prompt
a series of questions on how to best deal with looming threats.
For example, the government will need to figure out whether irregular
threats are best met through military solutions or whether there
is a “broader battle to be fought,” he said at the conference.
Going forward, however, the Defense Department is looking at an
expanded U.S. Special Operations Command, non-lethal technologies,
more precise and discriminating precision-strike technology and
constabulary forces. Yet to be seen is whether the Defense Department
will choose to assign constabulary units out of existing forces
or create a new organization, Chao said.
The U.S. government, he argued, will have to invest in intelligence-gathering
technology, knowledge management, cruise-missile defense, sensors
for both wide and narrow areas, security technology—which
will entail a great deal of low technology networked together—data-fusion
technology, language translation and biological defense.
Meanwhile, the central question for lawmakers becomes how to allocate
resources, Chao noted. “There are pressures on the defense
budget from the inside, from operation and maintenance, and personnel
costs, which are exploding out of control,” he said.
Chao talked of an “embedded crisis” in the defense
budget, because the military equipment is becoming harder to maintain
and the cost of keeping personnel at the operational tempo of the
last four years is rising.
According to Chao, this is the first time in 80 years that the
defense budget has gone up without a corresponding percentage increase
for investment accounts.
The QDR will have a major impact on program funding, said a congressional
insider. Weldon, in his turn, pointed out that the 2006 budget almost
certainly would cut a host of acquisition programs, ranging from
the F/A-22 to unmanned vehicles. Nevertheless, Congress will add
to the president’s request for overall defense spending, he
Even though the paramount concern will be focused on personnel
costs, lawmakers will “make sure we don’t cut the heart
out of what we feel is the most critically important technology
for the 21st century,” Weldon said.