For several months now, there has been widespread speculation about the outcome of the Pentagon's Quadrennial Defense Review.
The final report is not scheduled to be completed and sent to Congress until February, but looking at what is happening in the world today, there are clear indicators of where the QDR is headed. It appears fairly certain that the review will initiate a change to the current military posture, which requires that the services size their forces so they can fight and win two major regional conflicts.
The force design of the current strategy, which was slightly modified from an earlier version after the 9/11 attacks, is "1-4-2-1." The first "1" means the military must be prepared to defend the U.S. homeland. The "4" stands for the ability to deter hostilities and counter aggression in four regions of the world. The "2" means it must be capable of swiftly defeating two adversaries in overlapping military campaigns. The final "1" stands for the capability to win one of the two campaigns decisively, while also being able to conduct a limited number of lesser contingencies.
One assumes that the new strategy will depart from the emphasis on major conventional conflicts and focus more immediately on the needs of the global war on terror. That surely will lead to changed and likely reduced requirements for traditional military hardware, particularly warplanes and capital ships.
The immediate priorities of fighting terrorism--versus the transformation construct of the last QDR--will be the dominant factors shaping force structure and weapon buying decisions for the foreseeable future.
Commitments in Iraq and Afghanistan also will play a major role in the Pentagon's long-term strategy. Troops likely will remain there in significant numbers for several more years. It's worth noting that the United States historically has had a tough time withdrawing its military presence after major conflicts--witness Korea, Japan, Germany and Bosnia--because we keep discovering that continuing U.S. force presence (well after the end of hostilities) helps provide stability. Bosnia is especially noteworthy since the United States went there in 1995 with coalition partners, strictly limited objectives and a one-year time frame. Most Americans would be surprised to discover that we still have a few hundred troops in Bosnia.
Another overriding issue that will influence the QDR is the affordability of weapons systems. Pressure on military programs to cut costs and on the services to tighten their budgets grows by the day. As one Air Force official put it, this is the first time that the Defense Department deliberately asked the service, as part of the QDR process, to downsize the force in order to cut costs, rather than base decisions strictly on strategy and mission requirements.
The Air Force and the Navy, particularly, are being asked to cut back purchases of warplanes and new ships, in order to help fund Army and Marine Corps personnel and equipment. …