An area of strategic consideration as important to policymakers in the field of diplomacy as state-to-state negotiation or public diplomacy, military questions in an overall defense posture merit the attention of all who seek an understanding of coming challenges to foreign policy. The journal thus offers this study, possibly to be read in conjunction with the article by Sherwood Goldberg elsewhere in American Diplomacy. Ed.
Much ink has been spilled in the aftermath of the Pentagon's Quadrennial Defense Review (QDR) since its release in February 2006. Overall, many reactions appear to be the same: the document is a mixed bag. Depending upon one's views, the document either gets some things right and other things wrong or else it gets many things wrong and few things right. The purpose here is to address four issues:
(1) what is a QDR supposed to accomplish?
WHAT IS THE QDR AND WHAT DOES IT DO?
The report must be submitted to the Armed Services Committees of both the Senate and House of Representatives "in the year following the year in which the review is conducted, but not later than the date on which the President submits the budget for the next fiscal year to Congress."  Fifteen specific areas must be incorporated to include defined or assumed national security interests of the United States, threats assumed or defined to those interests, force structure and global force posture assumptions, and so on. The Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff must also submit an assessment with the review. Principally, the Chairman is charged with assessing whether there is any unnecessary duplication of effort among the services and what changes in technology "can be applied effectively to warfare."  This is no small order. As Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff General Peter Pace, USMC, states in the current report, "Any attempt to predict the future security environment of 2025 is inherently difficult." 
QDR `01 AND QDR `05
The new force planning guidance is of particular interest. Perhaps the most recognized portion of QDR 2001 was the so-called "1-4-2-1" planning construct. Under that system the U.S. would organize, train, and equip sufficient forces in order to defend the (one) homeland, operate in and from four prescribed areas of Europe, Northeast Asia, the Asian littoral, and the Middle East/Southwest Asia, be able to "swiftly defeat" two adversaries in near simultaneous campaigns while being able to "win decisively" in one of those campaigns, and conduct a limited number of "smaller-scale contingency operations." 
QDR 2005 has three pillars of force planning: (1) defend the homeland, (2) prevail in the Global War on Terror and conduct irregular operations, and (3) conduct and win conventional campaigns. It makes a useful distinction between "steady-state" (continuous) and "surge" (episodic) activities. In the steady-state the military will: detect, deter, and, if necessary, defeat external threats to the U.S. homeland; deter and defend against external transnational terror threats, enable partners, and conduct "multiple, globally distributed irregular operations of varying duration"; and, deter inter-state coercion or aggression through forward deployed forces, enable partners through theater security cooperation, and conduct presence missions. In surge mode the guidance calls for:
The 2005 Review continues the 2001 report's emphasis on a capabilities-based approach toward forces rather than a threat-based model  and also embraces the transformation of the Department's operations across the board i.e., from improving military technology and systems to changing organizational structures to improving business practices and so on. But many changes have been made since 2001 to improve the expeditionary capabilities and ethos of the services and also to align the global force posture to the evolving international environment and the realities of the Global War on Terrorism.  A small but significant change from the 2001 to the 2005 report deals with the concept of the Total Force. In the 2001 document the Total Force referred to active and reserve component forces, in 2005 the Total Force refers to the active and reserve components, DoD civilians, and contractors. As with this more holistic conception of the force, as alluded to earlier, QDR 2005 also takes a more broad-based approach toward operations.
QDR 2005 STRENGTHS
These lessons and areas feed into the notion that the U.S. military must break away from past practices particularly from a Cold War mentality.  In this vein, perhaps the most important contribution of this QDR is that it cements into place the elevation of stability operations ("Military and civilian activities conducted across the spectrum from peace to conflict to establish or maintain order in States and regions" ) to the same level of importance as warfighting. (p. 86) This probably reflects the lessons learned from the sorry experience of "Phase IV" planning in Iraq.
The Review rightly points out that our current capability portfolio is too focused on "traditional challenges." Therefore, all forces both "conventional" (referred to as general purpose forces in the document) and special operations forces would be used for such missions as well as be trained and prepared for irregular warfare contingencies such as counterinsurgency. This is comforting because it seems to say that the Department will not create a bifurcated force of warfighters and political-military oriented constabulary forces.  Such a force would be very expensive to maintain and would diminish the overall number of troops available and options for the President and the regional combatant commanders. An increased emphasis must be made in the areas of language and cultural training in order to better operate against irregular threats but also against traditional and disruptive threats.
The report's mention of an increased emphasis on distributed operations (using dispersed but networked forces across geographic spaces) is promising. Also the recognition that indirect approaches must be more widely used is important. As Michael Vickers of the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessment has pointed out, if al Qaeda and aligned jihadi groups are a global insurgency operating in 60 some countries, then we need to confront it globally.  Economy of force as enabled by concepts such as distributed operations and indirect approaches will enable such engagement, particularly when teamed with other interagency and allies. Last, the report should receive high marks for calling on the military to seek a model of continuous change and adaptation. As the situation in Iraq, Afghanistan, and other places has shown us, we are dealing with a highly adaptive enemy and therefore we must keep pace and adjust in order to keep our adversaries off balance.
First, are there sufficient forces to carry out the surge portions of the force planning guidance? The report explains that
But is that the case? Currently, for instance, the Army is undergoing a modularity conversion process to transform itself from a division-based force to one built around brigade combat teams. It does this all the while heavily engaged in Iraq and Afghanistan. Furthermore, by 2011 the QDR calls for the elimination of the 30,000 temporary personnel increase in active duty Army end strength that has been in place the last few years as part of the reaction to 9/11 and Iraq. On top of this its reserve component forces of the National Guard and Army Reserve have also been used in numbers not seen since the Second World War. An increasing number of those forces are rapidly reaching their limit on cumulative mobilization time (24 months) under the current Presidential call-up authorization. The Marine Corps is similarly stretched. In addition, recent events in Iraq suggest that deep cuts in U.S. troop presence perhaps might not be as feasible as once thought. Another crisis contingency might further place drastic strains on our ground forces.
Surprisingly, the 2005 QDR called for 70 Army brigade combat teams (42 active, 28 in the National Guard), roughly 7 less than previous plans. The President and Congress, however, almost immediately said that that kind of reduction would not happen. Still there is much debate over whether the new modular force design will provide enough infantry forces "boots on the ground" to cope with an international strategic environment rife with irregular threats.  While improved technology (although much of it is still in development such as the Future Combat System) and other efficiencies may prove to show this as an adequate number, it is not difficult to imagine scenarios that would severely stress our ability to defend the homeland, fight terrorism, conduct a large-scale irregular war or traditional war, take down a foreign regime, and help with a transition to civil society. Of course the Marine Corps (175,000 active and roughly 40,000 reserve) would be crucial both in land campaigns and also for other contingencies, as would our sailors and airmen of the Navy and Air Force, and, last but not least, force and capability contributions from friends and allies. Adversaries, real or potential, however, might see such stretched forces as an invitation for mischief.
Second, are there sufficient means to apply toward the QDR's strategic ends? As was pointed out above, the QDR process is supposed to address this fundamental question but the current document seems to sidestep this issue. QDR 2005 states, that it" is not a programmatic or budget document." (p. vi) More than a few analysts are concerned with the QDR's seeming failure to make tough choices: allocating resources to more troops and other capabilities needed for irregular warfare versus high-tech systems such as the F22 Raptor fighter aircraft that appear most suited to fight high-end traditional threats.  Surely arguments can be made about keeping the industrial base exercised, hedging against traditional or disruptive threats, and Congressional wants (they do after all wield the power of the purse). Still, QDR 2005 seems to sketch out a defense future that appears to placate everyone while minimizing any discussion of what the Department would like cut in order to finance other priorities. In short, these decisions are left for the so-called "out years." Kicking the can down the road is a traditional DoD budgeting dodge. No transformation here.
Last, will the refocus on irregular, disruptive, and catastrophic threats survive Secretary Donald Rumsfeld's tenure at DoD? Clearly much of this will depend on the geostrategic environment confronting the United States, but it is not hard to imagine some segments of the senior officer community transferring their disdain for the Secretary's transformation agenda and other decisions onto what they feel should be the organizational focus of the Department. If a post-Vietnam-like "never again" mentality emerged in response to irregular wars such as Iraq and Afghanistan and any remaining such focus was restricted to the Special Operations Forces community then that could leave the Nation's common defense woefully unprepared for future adversaries, even nation-state adversaries. This may seem unimaginable today. But then events since 9/11 should have stretched our imaginations.
Thomas Donnelly, who was involved in drafting the original QDR legislation, has recently called for the end of future reviews.  Former Defense Department official Michele Flournoy has proposed that perhaps QDRs should take place only once per presidency.  They may be right. Another alternative, however, might be to conduct future reviews in ways similar to the approach FPRI took for its "Future of American Military Strategy" conference in 2005. Empower an independent panel drawn from current, former, and future DoD and other relevant governmental and allied actors to come up with various future defense strategies with differing assumptions on resources and threat versus capability-based approaches and then make DoD choose from, in whole or part, the alternatives. Such an effort would "reverse engineer" the current "rock drill" process where individuals are dispatched with marching orders to protect institutional turfs and priorities. While this set-up might not be the 100 or even 90 percent solution, it would at least offer a better alternative than the current system.
March 9, 2006
 See, for instance, Ralph Peters, "Betraying Our Troops," New York Post, February 2, 2006; Michael Vickers, "2005 QDR Puts Us on the Right Path," Defense News, February 6, 2006; Thomas G. Mahnkhen, "Remaking U.S. Military Strategy," Asian Wall Street Journal, February 7, 2006; Max Boot, "The Wrong Weapons for the Long War," Los Angeles Times, February 8, 2006; Kori Schake, "Jurassic Pork," New York Times, February 9, 2006; Frederick W. Kagan, "A Strategy for Heroes," Weekly Standard, February 20, 2006; and, Michele A. Flournoy, "Did the Pentagon Get the Quadrennial Defense Review Right?," The Washington Quarterly (Spring 2006): 67-84.  The QDR is formally established in the U.S. Code, Title X, Subtitle A, Part I, Chapter 2, Section 118. See: http://www.law.cornell.edu/uscode/html/uscode10/usc_sec_10_00000118000-.html.
FPRI held a major conference on the future of American military strategy on 5 December 2005 in anticipation of the QDR and to debate possible defense strategy alternatives. The conference report can be found at:
Republished by permission of FPRI, the Foreign Policy Research Institute, Philadelphis, PA (www.fpri.org) from E-Notes.