Last week the Department of Defense (DOD) released its Quadrennial Defense Review (QDR). The QDR reviews DOD's forces, resources, and programs. It outlines the strategy for addressing critical issues like budget and acquisition priorities, emerging threats, and necessary military capabilities. While the QDR offers a satisfactory strategy to meet the nation's short-term national security needs, it does not adequately address long-term requirements, particularly preparing for post-conflict and homeland security missions, sustaining the National Guard, developing ballistic missile defenses, modernizing nuclear forces, and enhancing space capabilities. Congress should press the Pentagon to develop more far-reaching strategic plans in these areas.
What's in the QDR
The four priorities outlined in the QDR are: (1) defeating terrorist networks; (2) defending the homeland; (3) shaping the choices of countries at strategic crossroads; and (4) preventing hostile actors (both state and non-state) from acquiring or using nuclear or biological weapons. Among its key decisions, the QDR proposes to increase Special Operations Forces funding by 15 percent and Special Forces Battalions funding by a third. To better defend the homeland, the DOD will fund a $1.5 billion initiative to develop medical countermeasures against genetically engineered bio-terror agents. The DOD also plans to develop a wider range of deterrent options.
Roles, Missions, and Force Structure
What is missing from the QDR is an initiative to develop significant new capabilities to perform important missions such as post-conflict operations and homeland security. If, five years from now, the U.S. military has to conduct an occupation as in Iraq or assist in a disaster similar Katrina, the Pentagon's response will look pretty much the same as it does today. The QDR did not require developing the kinds of forces needed to respond to such contingencies. In particular, it did little to address the needs of the National Guard, which will be essential for both kinds of missions. The Guard faces enormous challenges in ensuring it will have sufficient and appropriate equipment and the right kinds and numbers of units for its future tasks.
Missile Defense, the Strategic Posture and Space
Ballistic missile defenses have begun limited operations, but DOD cannot afford to stop at this point. As it works to build a robust, layered and global missile defense capability, DOD must focus more energy on developing and deploying space-based, sea-based, and boost-phase ballistic missile defenses. In particular, emphasis should be placed on resuscitating the technology that went into the Brilliant Pebbles system developed during the late 1980s and early 1990s and abandoned by the Clinton Administration. Likewise, DOD must put necessary resources behind a programmatic effort to strengthen the U.S. nuclear posture. The military must also maintain its ability to dominate space, just as it is able to dominant the air and seas. The QDR recognizes this, but fails to describe how the Bush Administration will fight foreign and domestic efforts to use legal mechanisms that could jeopardize nuclear modernization to impose limits of the ability of the U.S. military to operate freely in space.
James Jay Carafano, Ph.D., is Senior Research Fellow for Defense and Homeland Security, Alane Kochems is Policy Analyst for National Security, and Baker Spring is a F.M. Kirby Research Fellow in national Security Policy at The Heritage Foundation.