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Pentagon Begins New Quadrennial Defense Review, Nuclear Posture Review

By Gerry J. Gilmore
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, April 23, 2009 – Pentagon officials today kicked off the Defense Department’s 2010 Quadrennial Defense Review and Nuclear Posture Review processes to determine what types of capabilities will be required to maintain U.S. national security now and in the coming years, senior officials said.

“The QDR takes a long-term, strategic view of the Department of Defense and will explore ways to balance achieving success in current conflicts with preparing for long-term challenges,” Deputy Defense Secretary William J. Lynn III stated in a Defense Department news release issued today.

The QDR “will also look at ways to institutionalize irregular warfare capabilities while maintaining the United States’ existing strategic and technological edge in traditional warfare,” Lynn said in the release.

The NPR establishes the nation’s nuclear deterrence posture, policies and strategies for the next five to 10 years. It will be conducted in consultation with the U.S. departments of Energy and State.

Both reviews will be conducted over the summer into fall, officials said. Final reports from both reviews will be provided to Congress early next year. Recommendations provided by the 2010 QDR and NPR will be employed in developing the Pentagon’s fiscal year 2011 budget.

The QDR is performed every four years; previous QDRs were conducted in 1997, 2001, and 2006. The most-recent NPR was completed in 2002.

Other senior defense officials today briefed reporters on QDR and NPR issues and procedures at a Pentagon news conference.

The 2010 QDR, a senior defense civilian official told reporters, will delve into questions such as, “What’s the world going to look like? What are the challenges going to look like? What are the military missions going to look like?” in the near- and long-term.

Then, the civilian official continued, the QDR and NPR reports will identify the types of capabilities required to deter potential threats to U.S. national security.

“Throughout the QDR processes, we will be seeking to capture and institutionalize the lessons we’ve learned from Iraq and Afghanistan and elsewhere,” the civilian defense official said, “and we’re going to seek to further adapt our forces and capabilities to asymmetric and irregular forms of warfare.”

The 2010 QDR and NPR will employ a “whole-of-government” approach, the civilian official said, noting that other U.S. government agencies, allies, as well as nongovernmental agencies and “think-tanks,” would be consulted during the process.

The 2010 NPR will reflect the Obama administration’s pledge to confront global nuclear weapons proliferation, the senior civilian defense official said. Consequently, the civilian official said, the United States will seek talks with the Russians to further reduce both countries’ nuclear-weapons arsenals by reaching a follow-on agreement to replace the strategic arms reduction treaty of 1993, known as START II.

“In the NPR, we’ll be seeking to ensure that our nuclear policies help deter our enemies, reassure our allies and also further our nonproliferation agenda,” the senior civilian official said.

A key QDR challenge, the civilian official said, involves balancing investment for capabilities required by today’s warfighters against investing in capabilities that tomorrow’s troops might need.

“Sometimes we’re lucky and there’s good overlap between those two, and sometimes those things pull us in different directions and there’s some hard tradeoffs and choices to be made,” the civilian official said. “So, I think that is something we’ve been struggling [with], frankly, since the end of the Cold War.”

Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates addressed that issue during a March 10 appearance on National Public Radio’s “All Things Considered” program.

American military planning, going back at least two decades during the twilight of the Cold-War, has been predicated on fighting two major combat operations simultaneously, Gates said on the radio program.

“I think one of the central questions that this department will face in the Quadrennial Defense Review, which will begin shortly, is whether that model makes any sense in the 21st century, and whether what may have fit in a Cold War environment or an immediately post-Cold War environment really has application in today’s world,” Gates said.

Gates will provide direction for the QDR and NPR reviews, as well as Navy Adm. Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and Marine Gen. James E. Cartwright, vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, a senior military official told reporters.

The purpose of the QDR, Cartwright said in the news release issued today, is “to assess the threats and capabilities the nation faces, and then integrate strategies, resources, forces, and capabilities necessary to prevent conflict or conclude it on terms that are favorable to the nation now and in the future.”

Lynn will be paired with Cartwright to provide direct oversight for the QDR, the senior military official said. Service chiefs and combatant commanders, the military official added, will be consulted to provide input into the QDR and NPR.

Much of the 2010 QDR and NPR process, the senior military official said, could be described as finding balance “between near- and long-term risk” and achieving balance between procuring expensive, “exquisite” weapons systems and having “high-quantity, lower-cost-type” systems and equipment.

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