April 21, 2010 | Testimony on National Security and Defense

Quadrennial Defense Review Independent Panel: Joint Statement of Jim Talent and Eric Edelman

Joint Statement for the Record
Jim Talent and Eric Edelman

Quadrennial Defense Review Independent Panel
Before the Committee on Armed Services
U.S. House of Representatives

April 15, 2010

Chairman Skelton, Representative McKeon, and members of the Committee,

Thank you for the opportunity to share our preliminary observations regarding the Department of Defense’s 2010 Quadrennial Defense Review (QDR) as participants of the Independent Panel.

We have greatly appreciated the chance to work on the Independent Panel, especially under the outstanding leadership of Bill Perry and Steve Hadley. We believe the “subpanel” process they have established will produce recommendations that are of real value to this Committee and the Congress. Our Panel cannot actually conduct a QDR, or create a plan for implementing a QDR—we don’t have the time, the staff, or the authority—but we can point out some of the issues that simply must be overcome if America’s military is to meet the vast array of challenges which the Chair and Co-Chair appropriately mention in their statement.

We want to emphasize that what we are saying today in our brief statement is only preliminary. The Panel only recently was able to complete hiring staff and has had only two meetings thus far. The Chair and Co-Chair are organizing the Panel to do a great body of work but most of it lies in the future. While we have formed impressions about the QDR which pursuant to your request we will share, we emphasize that final conclusions have to await the completion of the process that is now underway.

We would like to highlight two things that Steve Hadley has said this morning. It seems clear that the QDR was heavily informed by the current budget rather than operating with an unconstrained look at the nation’s defense needs in the coming twenty years. Additionally, there is a risk that the QDR focus was too much on the short term as opposed to the longer term challenges to national security. Again, we expect that the Panel will learn much more detail in the weeks ahead. However, based on what we have learned so far, it appears that force structure recommendations, scenarios and assumptions employed, risk levels, and budgetary recommendations were generally predetermined for this QDR.

We share the concerns expressed by Chairman Skelton and Ranking Member McKeon in their March 29 letter to our co-Chairs on this score, as well as with regard to the link between the force planning construct and the force structure recommendations in the QDR. The Force Structure and Personnel sub-panel, on which both of us are serving, should be able to provide the full Panel with our best insights about how the members ought to think about those issues. We hope the Panel as a whole will address some of the other longer term challenges facing the Department of Defense, many of which were mentioned in the co-Chairs’ statement. These include the budget topline in a challenging fiscal environment, managing exploding health care and retirement costs in the department, the kinds of investments we need to make now to face the challenges of the future, and where we are likely taking risk now and may be taking risk in the future.

Under the leadership of our Chair and Co-Chair, Panel members are working to assess the vulnerabilities of the strategy and force structure recommendations without constructing an alternative QDR. We hope to identify recommendations for Congress to consider for improving the development of QDR scenarios, assumptions, risks, and budget plans, as well as present a variety of possible force structure recommendations and generally compare expected resource requirements with those listed to support the QDR. While the Independent Panel may be unable to resolve all of those challenges alone, we are confident that the report will be able to shed light on the choices before the nation that will assist the Congress in executing its constitutional oversight functions for national defense.

About the Author

Jim Talent Distinguished Fellow
The Kathryn and Shelby Cullom Davis Institute for National Security and Foreign Policy