The House Armed Services Committee's fiscal year 2010 defense authorization bill, made public today, spells out what committee members have in mind for the National Defense Panel, which would be charged with critiquing the 2009 Quadrennial Defense Review.
As envisioned in the bill, the panel will consist of 12 "recognized experts" in national security matters. The House and Senate Armed Services committee chairmen will each appoint three members; the committees' ranking members each get to pick two. The defense secretary also may appoint two members.
The NDP's first meeting must be no later than 30 days after all the commission members are appointed, according to the legislation. The meeting would still take place if the defense secretary's appointment slots are unfilled at that time, the bill states.
An initial report outlining "findings" is due to Congress and the defense secretary by April 15, 2010, according to the legislation. A final report -- with findings plus recommendations -- is due by Jan. 15, 2011.
One month later that year, the defense secretary and the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff must file a report with "comments" on the NDP's final product.
As for data sharing between the Pentagon and the commission, the bill authorizes panel members to "secure directly from ((DOD)) . . . such information as the panel considers necessary to carry out its duties," the legislation reads. Information must be provided "promptly," it adds.
One of the NDP's duties is to dissect the intellectual backdrop against which Pentagon leaders are conducting the QDR, according to the bill. Members also should assess findings, assumptions, strategies and cost implications outlined in the QDR report, paying "particular attention" to the issue of risk.
The panel must critique any force structure proposals included in the QDR report and offer an "independent assessment of a variety of possible force structures." It is unclear from the bill text who would bring these alternatives into play.
Finally, panel members must estimate the cost of any force structure moves -- either those advanced by DOD through the QDR, or any alternatives.