The 2010 Quadrennial Defense Review
(Source: Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments; issued February 1, 2010)
On February 1, 2010, Secretary of Defense Robert Gates submitted the fourth Quadrennial Defense Review (QDR) Report. This CSBA Backgrounder provides an initial assessment of the QDR’s strategy and force planning dimensions.

It finds that in general the QDR correctly identifies the major security challenges likely to confront the United States in the foreseeable future. While its six key mission areas are appropriate guides for the types of capabilities and forces DoD will need in the coming years, the QDR’s lack of operational concepts explaining how various strategic objectives can be achieved hinders the identification and prioritization of needed capabilities.

In weighting its strategy and investments heavily toward addressing the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, and transnational terrorism, the QDR appears to discount the urgency of investments needed to address emerging challenges, such as growing anti-access/area-denial (A2/AD) threats, nuclear-armed regional powers, and sustaining access to, and use of, space and cyberspace.

Thus the most significant programmatic changes in the QDR call for expanding the fleet of manned and unmanned, fixed and rotary-wing aircraft that are in highest demand in the current wars.

The QDR also expands critical enablers such as logisticians and intelligence analysts for Special Operations Forces.

Despite the adoption of a new force sizing construct, however, the QDR does not propose major force structure readjustments, nor does it significantly alter the allocation of resources away from legacy programs toward the QDR’s priority mission areas unrelated to current wars.

Consequently, the preexisting strategy-program mismatch will persist beyond the QDR.

Finally, the QDR does not adequately address the rapidly eroding US fiscal posture, the worsening financial standing of America’s key allies in Europe and Asia, or the likely consequences of the economic downturn for the United States’ long-term defense posture.

Click here for the full report (11 pages in PDF format) on the CSBA website.

2010 QDR Fails to Consider New Russian Fighter
(Source: Lexington Institute; issued February 1, 2010)
(© Lexington Institute; reproduced by permission)
The 2010 Quadrennial Defense Review (QDR) is supposed to take a twenty-year view of the threats to U.S. security and the requirements for U.S military forces. One of this QDR’s assumptions is that the United States can afford to take risk in the area of conventional forces in favor of investments in irregular warfare and homeland security capabilities.

The reason that this risk is tolerable, the argument goes, is because the United States has such overwhelming superiority almost across the board in conventional forces. The idea that the U.S. military has and will retain conventional superiority has been pushed by Secretary of Defense Robert Gates. The Secretary used this assertion to justify canceling the F-22 Raptor, America’s premier fifth-generation air superiority fighter. The QDR does propose selective investments in capabilities to address the emerging threat posed by advanced anti-access and area denial capabilities.

As a career intelligence official and former Director of the CIA, Secretary Gates knows well the Intelligence Community’s (IC) checkered track record in predicting the future. The IC failed to predict the 1992 fall of the Soviet Union. More recently, in 2007 the IC published what now seems to be an erroneous National Intelligence Estimate that concluded that Iran had halted its nuclear weapons program. Yet, the Secretary and the QDR have concluded that there is little risk to this country’s conventional military superiority.

Woops. This past Friday, a couple of days before the QDR is scheduled for release, the Russian aircraft manufacturer Sukhoi held the maiden flight of its fifth-generation fighter, the T-50. The “Raptorsky” looks like the F-22 and clearly is intended to challenge the American ability to impose air dominance on any adversary. The T-50 is expected to go into production around 2015.

It is unlikely that the T-50 will be the true equal of the F-22. But it doesn’t have to be. Gates’ decision to halt production of the F-22 at 187 and to reject potential export opportunities for the aircraft means that there will only be about 150 operationally available (combat coded is the military term) aircraft to cover the entire world. Russia alone could easily deploy several times that many.

In addition, Russia has already made it clear that the T-50 will be available for export. India is a major investor in the T-50 project and could buy up to 250. Russia has been a major provider of advanced fighter aircraft and other military equipment to China. It is not too far-fetched to think about a world in 2025 in which the 150 F-22s must face up to 1,000 T-50s.

The clear lesson of the T-50s maiden flight is that central assumption of the 2010 QDR, that this country’s ability to dominate the air domain will remain unchallenged for the next twenty years, may not be accurate.

As a result, the choice to take risk with the future of U.S. air power is questionable policy. So too, is the decision to halt production of the F-22 and, in particular, not to pursue opportunities for export sales.


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