Magazine article National Defense

QDR Lays out Strategy, but Can We Afford It?

Magazine article National Defense

QDR Lays out Strategy, but Can We Afford It?

Article excerpt

At first glance, the fiscal year 2007 defense budget reflects the arduous challenges facing the administration in trying to balance long-term strategy and requirements against immediate priorities and fiscal pressures.

On the one hand, the $439.3 billion budget provides a healthy level of resources in key areas, such as personnel, procurement, research and development, and force readiness.

On the other, the spending plan leaves unanswered serious questions about how the Defense Department will fund the ambitious strategy laid out in the Quadrennial Defense Review, which the administration released as a companion document to the fiscal 2007 budget.

The Defense Department describes the QDR as a continuation of threats, strategy and capability that has been developing for the last four years; also as a "mid-course correction"--nothing radically new. But when viewed as a whole, it seems fairly demanding. In a nutshell, it says that we must maintain our predominance in traditional warfare and improve the forces to address non-traditional asymmetric challenges. To do this, we need to defeat terror networks, defend the homeland, shape choices of countries at a crossroads, and prevent hostile states and non-state actors from acquiring or using WMD.

To underwrite this, the 2007 budget will begin to increase special operations forces, develop capability to counter bioterrorism, improve conventional and non-kinetic capabilities and develop capability to combat and eliminate WMD threats. The congressionally mandated QDR, for the first time, takes into account the demands of the nation's campaign against terrorism and the prospect that the country could be engaged in a "long war."

That all seems like a lot.

Pentagon officials describe the "long war" as a combination of prolonged irregular conflict--such as the current wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, and wider insurgent operations possibly in other parts of the world--such as the Philippines, the Horn of Africa and Georgia. They also cite humanitarian operations, as well as support of civil authorities at home.

The QDR is setting a challenge to not only expand mission portfolios but also to achieve these capabilities without neglecting traditional threats.

"We have been very successful in deterring the threat from large armies, navies and air forces," says Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld. "Those threats haven't disappeared."

Pentagon officials say the budget proposed for fiscal year 2007 funds the capabilities needed to address those key areas outlined in the QDR.

Given all the above, it is far from clear exactly how the budget will be sufficient to do essentially what the services are doing today, plus much more. The budget, for example, funds an increase of 4,000 special operations forces (14,000 by fiscal year 2011), but assumes that the costs will be absorbed by personnel cutbacks in the conventional services.

The Pentagon wants to increase research-and-development spending by $7 billion--ostensibly to fund black programs to combat WMD proliferation. But it is offsetting that investment by a $7 billion reduction in procurement.

The $439.3 billion request is 4.8 percent larger than what Congress appropriated for 2006, but actually is nearly $4 billion less than what the administration projected a year ago for fiscal year 2007, with a procurement budget that is smaller than projected a year ago. …

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