USA — Panel Suggests Changes in Long-Term Defense Planning

WASHINGTON, July 29, 2010 — A con­gres­sion­al­ly man­dat­ed pan­el has rec­om­mend­ed broad changes to long-term Defense Depart­ment strate­gies and pri­or­i­ties, includ­ing fund­ing a major recap­i­tal­iza­tion of equip­ment, revamp­ing the per­son­nel sys­tem and expand­ing the num­ber of peo­ple serv­ing in the Navy.

For­mer Defense Sec­re­tary William J. Per­ry and for­mer Nation­al Secu­ri­ty Advi­sor Stephen J. Hadley gave their final report as co-chairs of the Inde­pen­dent Panel’s Assess­ment of the Qua­dren­ni­al Defense Review to the House Armed Ser­vices Com­mit­tee today. The QDR is a leg­isla­tive­ly man­dat­ed review of Depart­ment of Defense strat­e­gy and pri­or­i­ties.

Defense Sec­re­tary Robert M. Gates appoint­ed 12 of the 20-mem­bers on the pan­el in 2009 to assess the 2010 QDR, which was released in Feb­ru­ary. The oth­er eight pan­el mem­bers were select­ed by Con­gress. The panel’s report is called “The QDR in Per­spec­tive: Meet­ing America’s Nation­al Secu­ri­ty Needs in the 21st Cen­tu­ry.”

The pan­el found that the QDR did not project out far enough to pre­pare the mil­i­tary for the long term, Per­ry said. Rather, he said, the QDR focused pri­mar­i­ly on the next four to five years around the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. “If I were sec­re­tary of defense today, I would have done the same thing,” said Per­ry, who served from 1993 to 1997.

Per­ry, who served in Pres­i­dent Bill Clinton’s admin­is­tra­tion, and Hadley, who served under Pres­i­dent George W. Bush, said the pan­el showed remark­able non­par­ti­san­ship and was unan­i­mous in its find­ings.

The pan­el iden­ti­fied America’s four “endur­ing nation­al inter­ests that tran­scend pol­i­tics” as, defense of the home­land; assured access to sea, air, space and cyber­space; a favor­able bal­ance of pow­er in west­ern Asia; and over­all human­i­tar­i­an good.

Among the poten­tial threats to U.S. nation­al inter­ests, accord­ing to the pan­el, are rad­i­cal Islam­ic extrem­ism and ter­ror­ism, the rise of great pow­ers in the East, ten­sions in the Mid­dle East and com­pe­ti­tion for resources.

While “soft pow­er” capa­bil­i­ties of diplo­ma­cy and civil­ian sup­port are impor­tant, Hadley said, “the world’s first order of con­cern will con­tin­ue to be secu­ri­ty con­cerns.”

Because of that, the pan­el rec­om­mends a recap­i­tal­iza­tion of mil­i­tary hard­ware to replace the wear and tear of nine years of war, Per­ry said. “This will be expen­sive,” he said. “But defer­ring recap­i­tal­iza­tion will require even more expens­es in the future.”

The pan­el also rec­om­mends a restruc­tur­ing of forces to build up Navy end-strength and improve the Air Force’s long-range strike capa­bil­i­ties. Cur­rent Army and Marine Corps ground forces are suf­fi­cient for the long term, the pan­el said.

Today’s forces are ful­ly capa­ble of han­dling any threat that may emerge today, Per­ry said, but the pan­el believes a buildup of Navy forces in the west­ern Pacif­ic is nec­es­sary to counter emerg­ing threats there, notably Chi­nese mil­i­ta­riza­tion.

U.S. allies in the East “are wor­ried about Chi­na and they want us there work­ing with Chi­na, and we are,” Per­ry said. He added, “I do not antic­i­pate any mil­i­tary con­flict with Chi­na, and if it were to hap­pen it would be a huge fail­ure of diplo­ma­cy.”

To avoid a poten­tial arms race in Asia, Per­ry said, the U.S. mil­i­tary needs to main­tain a con­sis­tent­ly strong force in the region.

The panel’s assess­ment also calls for a recon­sid­er­a­tion of man­ag­ing resources. Gates’ acqui­si­tion reform plans are “a good start,” Per­ry said, but they don’t go far enough.

Defense offi­cials should require dual com­pe­ti­tion in all pro­duc­tion pro­grams, and set a lim­it of five to sev­en years for the deliv­ery of all defined pro­grams, Per­ry said.

His­tor­i­cal­ly, he said, all suc­cess­ful pro­grams are deliv­ered in four to five years, and pro­grams that drag on beyond 10 years “are guar­an­teed to cost too much.”

Also, Pen­ta­gon offi­cials need to clar­i­fy roles with­in the department’s acqui­si­tions work force as to who is respon­si­ble for the deliv­ery of pro­grams, Hadley said. “It’s a mud­dy pic­ture, with lots of lay­er­ing and lots of review with­out clear author­i­ty,” he said.

In its review, Per­ry said, the pan­el was firm­ly sup­port­ive of con­tin­u­ing with an all-vol­un­teer force, but found that changes are need­ed to reduce per­son­nel costs in main­tain­ing pay and ben­e­fits that have become increas­ing­ly gen­er­ous since con­scrip­tion end­ed in the 1970s. Specif­i­cal­ly, the pan­el rec­om­mends estab­lish­ing a com­mis­sion to con­sid­er cost sav­ings in pay and ben­e­fits and the panel’s sug­ges­tion to increase length of ser­vice for retire­ment eli­gi­bil­i­ty from 20 years to as long as 40 years.

“I don’t need to tell this com­mit­tee that this is polit­i­cal­ly charged,” Per­ry said. He added that extend­ing ser­vice is impor­tant to retain peo­ple in whom the mil­i­tary has invest­ed much edu­ca­tion and train­ing.

The pan­el also rec­om­mends a re-eval­u­a­tion of how the mil­i­tary uses Nation­al Guard and reserve forces.

“Our pan­el thinks we real­ly need to re-think our rela­tion­ship between the active force and the Guard and reserves, and if we need a mobi­liza­tion capa­bil­i­ty beyond our cur­rent mobi­liza­tion force,” Hadley said. “How much of the Guard and reserve is an oper­a­tional reserve? How much of it is a strate­gic reserve? How much of it is for home­land secu­ri­ty? All this needs to be re-thought.”

U.S. Depart­ment of Defense
Office of the Assis­tant Sec­re­tary of Defense (Pub­lic Affairs)

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