FCS, the Army and the QDR

/ February 19, 2009 at 5:00 AM

Inside the Army's Joe Gould this week has a piece on the Army and the QDR that sums up the official line and taps some outside experts for their thoughts on what it's all going to mean for the service once it's all said and done.

A taste:

The Army expects to tackle big questions in the upcoming Quadrennial Defense Review, from how big the Army should be to whether China is a friend or foe, but the service has yet to receive any direct guidance, according to the director of the Army’s QDR office.

“We’re waiting to know when we can cross the starting line to see what issues we will be working on,” Brig. Gen. Francis Mahon, director of QDR for the office of the deputy chief of staff, G-8, said last week. “As we look forward to the QDR, the game hasn’t started; we haven’t been given, really, a focus.”

That guidance may come soon. Defense Secretary Robert Gates hosted a Defense Senior Leaders Conference Feb. 13 to discuss the budget with the Pentagon’s highest-level military and civilian leaders, including the combatant commanders and recently confirmed administration appointees (see related story).

Gates had said earlier this month that he planned to launch the review by the end of February.

Meanwhile, the service is looking for clues where they can find them from Gates’ previous speeches, articles and testimony to Congress.

“We’re probably going to launch using the June 2008 National Defense Strategy as our starting point, and all the things the secretary has been saying,” said Mahon in a presentation to retired officers and defense contractors on Feb. 13. “He may give us a narrow focus in this QDR. In his testimony, he’s said we’re going to make some ‘hard choices.’”

Mahon’s slides quoted from Gates’ recent speech at the National Defense University, a much discussed article Gates wrote for Foreign Affairs magazine, and comments he made recently to reporters that touched on stability operations, Russia and China, among other big issues.

“Is China an adversary or a competitor?” asked Mahon, referencing a Gates quotation. “He thinks they’re more of a competitor. If you read some of President Obama’s writings, or his staff’s writings, he thinks we ought to embrace China.”

Quoted in the piece are several outside experts, including John Nagl, president of the Center for a New American Security and a retired Army officer; and Lt. Col. Gian Gentile, director of the military history program at the U.S. Military Academy at West Point. Both had lots to say on the Future Combat Systems program, among other issues.

If you're interested in more of what both had to say, you can read the transcripts of Joe's interviews.

And to keep tabs on the QDR, see our QDR Watch page and sign up for our QDR Alert.

-- Dan Dupont