March 8, 2005 -- Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld has officially launched a sweeping review of the U.S. armed forces that is expected to shake up the size and shape of the military as well as the catalog of weapons systems the Pentagon acquires, according to Defense Department officials.
On March 1, Rumsfeld approved a lengthy guidance memo -- dubbed the "terms of reference"-- for the 2005 Quadrennial Defense Review. That same day, he also issued the Pentagon's first-ever "National Defense Strategy," which is expected to underpin discussions in the review about future force structure, the mix of needed capabilities and combat gear.
"The QDR terms of reference 'operationalizes' the National Defense Strategy," said a defense official.
The final versions of the QDR terms of reference and the new National Defense Strategy have been provided to service leaders. In the coming weeks, they are expected to be briefed to the service staffs participating in the review, Pentagon officials said.
Meanwhile, six panels established to execute the defense review -- each led by a senior military and civilian -- have begun their work. Each is drafting a set of metrics to frame how they will examine their assigned subject areas. These groups are looking at issues that include: personnel, joint enablers, capabilities mix, roles and missions, legal authorities, and business practices. A series of senior-level seminars in the coming weeks will allow QDR officials to begin grappling with issues stemming from these panels, defense officials said.
The new strategy, crafted over the last year at Rumsfeld's direction, was deliberately signed the same day as the QDR terms of reference, said a defense official familiar the the issues. Previous QDRs have featured a panel focused on strategy; the 2005 review will not.
"The strategy is done. There is no strategy panel for the QDR," said a second defense official.
In substance, the National Defense Strategy captures in a single place goals Rumsfeld has advanced since 2001, such as the need for the U.S. military to "assure" allies and friends; "deter" aggression against the United States and its allies; "dissuade" potential adversaries from challenging U.S. interests; and -- if necessary -- "defeat" foes in combat. It also includes the more recent emphasis on better preparing to deal with irregular, catastrophic and disruptive challenges.
"The National Defense Strategy that we're using has existed in an unofficial form since the Defense Planning Guidance '03 was issued in August of 2001," said another Pentagon official. "All they've done is codified it and refined it a bit."
The National Defense Strategy will fit into the Pentagon's library of strategy documents between the president's National Security Strategy and the National Military Strategy prepared by the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.
A source familiar with the classified terms of reference for the QDR say the final version "is very consistent with what they had earlier on."
Senior Pentagon officials say Rumsfeld has taken a very active role in shaping the focus of the review, which will include an examination of military capabilities required to deal with four new kinds of challenges: countering Islamic extremism, which encompasses "ensuring the demise of terrorist networks"; countering the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction; the military's role in homeland security; and dealing with the disruptive threats and conventional military of an emerging power.
The backdrop for examining these four scenarios will be guidance Rumsfeld issued last year directing the services to better prepare for a wider range of threats. The military, according to the classified 2006 Strategic Planning Guidance, is well-positioned to deal with "traditional" threats -- enemies that attack with conventional air, sea and land forces. But Pentagon officials do not expect to face these kinds of challenges in the future.
More likely are "irregular" attacks designed to erode U.S. power in unconventional ways. Less likely, but of growing concern, are "catastrophic" threats aimed at paralyzing the United States with surprise hits on major targets. The fourth type of challenge -- considered the least likely to materialize soon, but perhaps the most vexing -- are "disruptive" threats that could end-run U.S. military technical superiority. -- Jason Sherman