QDR: China Tops Iraq, Osama?
By Noah Shachtman
January 23, 2006
Republished from DefenseTech.org
For months, now, word has been leaking out about the Pentagon's every-four-years master plan, the Quadrennial Defense Review.
Finally, we’re starting to see some excerpts from the big document itself, thanks to Inside Defense. My quick, subject-to-instant-revision first impression: Rumsfeld & Co. are focusing more on China than they are on Osama.
Very roughly speaking, there are two factions jockeying for control in the Pentagon. One thinks that the U.S. military is going to spend a big chunk of the next twenty years hunting down terrorists and stabilizing screwed-up states. The other believes that China has to be smacked down, before it bulks up to superpower status.
The first group gets the rhetoric. “[P]repar[ing] for wider asymmetric challenges” is one of the “fundamental imperatives for the Department of Defense.” We’re in the middle of a “Long War,” according to the QDR. Iraq and Afghanistan are just part of it.
There’s organizational and personnel help, to go along with the lofty words. The Combatant Commanders – the guys in charge today of the boots on the ground – will get more of a say in how future weapons are bought. The QDR boosts Special Operations Forces by 15% and “increase[s] the number of Special Forces Battalions by one-third.
These changes are not insignificant. They’ll require billions to back them up. But the China-watchers, on the other hand, get the kind of gold-plated new hardware that costs tens, even hundreds, of billions to make. As Inside Defense notes, the QDR “leaves intact all of the military services’ most prized weapon system programs. In fact, some programs will see significant increases.
The China crowd also gets what looks to be some big-time new, as of yet undefined, weapons programs. That includes a new, long bomber of hypersonic drone that can conduct “global strike” missions against unruly states.
“The United States' experience in the Cold War still profoundly influences the way that the Department of Defense is organized and executes its mission,” the QDR notes. “But, the Cold War was a struggle between nation-states, requiring state-based responses to most political problems and kinetic responses to most military problems. The Department was optimized for conventional, large-scale warfighting against the regular, uniformed armed forces of hostile states… [Today] many of the United Slates' principal adversaries are informal networks that are less vulnerable to Cold War-Style approaches... Defeating unconventional enemies requires unconventional approaches.”
But it does not require, apparently, a wholesale change of direction. Terrorist-type threats will get some new attention. But the Defense Department isn’t about to optimize for that threat, the way it did for the Soviet Union. Big money will continue to be spent on fighter jets designed to duel with the Soviets and destroyers designed for large-scale ground assaults. Grunts on the ground won’t get much more than they do now. The war on terror may be “long.” But, apparently, it’s not important enough to make really big shifts.