New from the Project on Defense Alternatives
QDR 2006: Do The Forces Match the Missions? DOD Gives Little Reason
Project on Defense Alternatives Briefing Memo #36
10 February 2006
by Carl Conetta
As originally conceived the Quadrennial Defense Review was meant to
help ensure the internal consistency of mid- and longer-term US
defense planning. By "internal consistency" I here mean a concordance
of strategy, assets, and budgets. As critics often put it in the
past: the point is to show how the force fits the strategy and the
budget fits the force. The exercise is supposed to "connect" our
military strategy with our force development plans and, in turn,
connect these with current and future budgets. In this regard, the
2006 QDR is long on assertion and short on quantification "short"
as in utterly lacking.
Secretary Rumsfeld's second QDR confidently assures us that all the
variables align, but gives us no reason to believe. Quite the
contrary: the new iteration of the Pentagon's "force sizing
construct" should leave all Americans wondering where the Secretary
and his staff have been these past few years.
Reasonable people can disagree about the value of the Iraq war and
whether it is being won. But no one can reasonably contest that it
has turned out to be a hard slog, as the Secretary belatedly has
observed. While we can disagree about whether or not the effort is
driving the Army and the Reserves into the ground, no one can
honestly deny that the war and other post-9/11 operations have
significantly "stressed" our armed forces. And no amount of "stop
loss" orders, tour-of-duty extensions, or Reserve call-ups has yet
allowed us to assemble a presence in Iraq able to stabilize the
In brief: the pedal is to the metal, but we are still not up to speed.
The QDR's authors admit as much when they allow that "operational end-
states defined in terms of `swiftly defeating' or `winning
decisively' against adversaries may be less useful for some types of
operations...such as...conducting a long-duration, irregular warfare
campaign" a remarkable (but welcome) retreat from the over-
confidence of previous QDRs. This concession to reality has not led
the Secretary to prescribe fewer such adventures for the future,
however. Quite the contrary: the QDR foresees increasing the demands
on our armed forces in this domain (irregular warfare and nation-
building) as well as in almost every other.
Are planned force enhancements sufficient to support another quantum
leap in activity? For that matter: Are they sufficient to close the
existing gap between missions and capabilities apparent in Iraq?
Based on the information provided in the QDR, it is anyone's guess.
But the experience of the past few years should, at minimum, dent any
tendency toward passive faith in the Secretary's assurances.
Other observers and critics have addressed the correspondence (or
lack of it) between the proposed force and the budget meant to
support it. Likewise, others have addressed the broader and mounting
fiscal constraints bearing on the DOD budget. This essay focuses on
the match between future missions and assets (people, structures, and
continue essay at http://www.comw.org/pda/0602bm36.html
for more coverage of the new QDR and other defense strategy issues
visit the Defense Strategy Review Page at: