The Quadrennial Defense Review

United States House of Representatives Committee on Armed Services

Testimony of Lawrence J. Korb

Read the Full Testimony (PDF)

Chairman Hunter and members of the House Armed Services Committee, it is my pleasure to appear before you this morning to discuss the Department of Defense's Quadrennial Defense Review.

Since 1996, the U.S. Congress has required quite appropriately that every four years the Department of Defense conduct a major defense policy review, called the Quadrennial Defense Review (QDR), to examine U.S. defense strategy and submit a report on its findings. The Pentagon released their QDR on February 3, 2006.

To say that their 2006 edition of the QDR is a disappointment would be an understatement. Given the fact that this is the first QDR produced since 9-11, and the first produced since the release of the Bush Administration's National Security strategy, and that Donald Rumsfeld is the first secretary of defense to get a chance to produce a second QDR, the men and women of the armed forces and the American people had a right to expect more.

While the QDR is full of nice sounding rhetoric, it does not deal with the real problems confronting the armed forces. Four years after 9-11 and five years into the Bush Administration, our overstretched ground forces are reaching the breaking point, the Pentagon's weapons systems are not tailored to existing threats, the armed forces have more weapons on the drawing board then they can afford given the administration record setting deficits, our nuclear posture is outdated, and the Administration has not yet defined an appropriate role for the military in homeland defense.

But rather than increasing the size of the Army to relieve the strain on the soldiers, the Administration actually proposes reducing the end strength of the active Army by 20,000, returning these troops to their pre 9-11 force levels. Given the fact that what the Bush administration calls the long war on terrorism is being waged primarily by the ground forces, this is a step in the wrong direction and will only increase the changes that the all volunteer Army will break.

The QDR does not recommend canceling a single major weapons program despite the fact that some programs like the $300 million F/A-22 deal with threats from a bygone era and others like the $100 million V-22 Osprey has severe technical problems and others like the $7 billion DD(X) destroyer are experiencing tremendous cost growth. Nor does it halt deployment of the national missile defense system even though it has not been successfully tested in three years. If the Pentagon gets all the money it requests, an unlikely prospect given the burgeoning federal deficit and the escalating costs of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, it simply cannot afford all the weapons systems on the drawing board. It will be impossible to pay for them even if there is no further cost growth in the weapon systems, which is unlikely given the fact that in the past four years the top five weapons systems under development have increased in cost by 85 percent.

The QDR calls for making only token reductions in the 7,000 strategic and tactical nuclear weapons in the American arsenal, including several hundred in Europe. Given the fact this is far more weapons than the United States needs for the deterrence or war fighting and that the cost of maintaining such a large arsenal is nearly $20 billion, this is not money well spent.

Finally the QDR provides only small increases in funding for homeland defense and does not increase the size of the Army National Guard, the service which has primary responsibility for providing that defense. Since defending the homeland is the military's primary responsibility, this is an unforgivable oversight.

A meaningful and realistic QDR would have added 86,000 troops to the Army, and double spending on homeland defense from $10 to $20 billion. It would have paid for these additions by canceling production of outdated and poorly performing weapons programs, slashing nuclear weapons to 1000, keeping national missile defense in a research mode, and stopping the weaponization of space.

Secretary Rumsfeld and the Bush Administration have squandered the opportunity to fix the Pentagon's problems. If the Congress does not set things straight these problems will only get worse and our security will be jeopardized. We cannot afford to wait until the next QDR in 2010.

To help the Congress in this process, my colleagues and I at the Center for American Progress have put together what we believe is an appropriate QDR for meeting the unprecedented challenges faced by the nation. In order to meet these challenges, the Department of Defense (DoD) must begin a fundamental shift in military doctrine and priorities over the next four years so that this country is better positioned to respond to the threats of a post-Cold War and post-9/11 world and to project power whenever and wherever necessary.

Our Quadrennial Defense Review outlines a strategy that gives top priority to protecting the homeland, investing in military personnel, and preventing conflicts. It gives the military the manpower and technology it needs to best combat asymmetric threats from non-state actors such as terrorist groups, to deter and contain traditional enemies, and to fulfill its responsibilities in post-conflict situations. It aims to produce a more powerful, flexible, and agile military force that can best protect the American people and advance U.S. national interests. Implemented over time, it will rebalance forces and weaponry in order to allow the United States to protect the homeland, fight one major regional conflict, engage simultaneously in two substantial post-conflict missions, and contain conflict in three regions.

Read the Full Testimony(PDF)

Lawrence J. Korb is a Senior Fellow at the Center for American Progress and a Senior Adviser to the Center for Defense Information. Prior to joining the Center, he was a Senior Fellow and Director of National Security Studies at the Council on Foreign Relations.

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