Panel suggests changes in long-term defense planning
Three UH-60 Black Hawk helicopters land at an outpost in Northern Afghanistan, July 22. A congressionally-mandated panel found that the Quadrennial Defense Review did not project out far enough to prepare the military for the long term. Rather, he said, the QDR focused primarily on the next four to five years around the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

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 non-partisanship 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."

Page last updated Fri July 22nd, 2011 at 12:16