US 2010 QDR strikes right balance for military: Pentagon

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The Pentagon’s military leaders say the 2010 Quadrennial Defence Review, the US’ four-yearly military policy update, strikes the right balance between today’s wars and the need to combat future threats.

Navy Vice Admiral Stephen Stanley, Joint Staff director for force structure, resources and assessment, told the House Armed Services Committee the review sets the department on a new path, the Armed Forces Press Service reports. “The QDR focuses not just on winning today’s fight, but also on the complex and uncertain future security landscape and potential conflicts the United States and our partners are most likely to face in the future,” Stanley said. The admiral testified alongside Michele Flournoy, undersecretary of defence for policy. The two were the point persons for the document in the Pentagon.

Stanley said the review addresses the top three goals of Navy Admiral Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff: winning today’s fight; balancing global strategic risk; and preserving and enhancing the health of the force. The review supports the military’s mission to disrupt, dismantle and defeat al-Qaida globally, and particularly in Afghanistan and Pakistan through investment in critical “enablers” such as rotary-wing intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance and special operation forces that have experienced persistent shortfalls over the years.
“Winning the fight requires changing our capability mix, and we are doing it,” Stanley said. Balancing global risk in today’s environment requires a ready and agile force with sufficient capability across military operations, Stanley said. The review recognises the importance of developing capabilities to prevent the enemy from accessing new areas, he said.
“Additionally, the QDR focuses on regional, forward-based and rotational engagement with partners to set conditions that not only preclude conflict but establish the security environments that undercut extremism,” the director said. The United States has retained the capability to act decisively when appropriate, still “we prefer to partner and work with others in major operations,” he said. “Our forward-stationed and rotational joint forces will ensure the ability to both sustain forward engagement and rapidly project forces and power globally to defeat future adversaries or, as in Haiti, rapidly respond to international crises.”

Preserving and maintaining the health of the force, begins with taking care of people. “Our men and women in the armed forces are America’s greatest strategic asset,” Stanley said. “The QDR advocates important initiatives to enhance warrior and survivor care, reinforcing the urgency to improve research and treatment for a broad range of injuries, especially traumatic brain injury and post-traumatic stress.”

The review seeks to reduce stress on the force through family support initiatives and a focus on properly resetting the force. Kathleen Hicks, deputy undersecretary of defence for strategy, plans and forces, said the QDR, which is conducted every four years by congressional mandate, lays out a strategy to rebalance the Defense Department’s capabilities and structure.

Balance

The dual purpose of all recommendations, Hicks said, is “delivering first-class capabilities to our men and women in uniform and, second, being responsible stewards of American taxpayer dollars.”

Hicks said the analysis does not make any suggestions that would hamper the ability to prevail in today’s conflicts. But, she added, it does provide a 15-to-20-year outlook with far-ranging objectives.
“The first is prevention and deterrence; the second is moving beyond planning for conventional contingencies and preparing for a wider range of challenges; and the third is elevating the need to preserve and enhance the all-volunteer force,” she said. The QDR emphasizes tapping into civilian expertise and broadening partnerships at home and abroad, Hicks said, noting that the U.S. military already works side by side with allies in Afghanistan and elsewhere. “It behooves us to invest in those relationships,” she said.

Michael Nacht, assistant secretary of defence for global strategic affairs, whose office provided overall supervision of day-to-day operations of the ballistic missile defence review, said one core element of homeland defence is protecting against limited attacks. But, he added, his report provides a detailed outline to address another core element of defence against regional threats, which he said are growing. For example, the development and testing of missile defence capabilities for deployment in Europe has already begun, he said.
“We’re engaged in extensive discussions and negotiations with our closest allies and other partners,” Nacht said, “so that we’re all on the same wavelength as these systems reach full-scale development and then begin to be deployed.”

In response to questions from bloggers, Hicks said the QDR recognises two challenging issues. One is the need to prevent the transfer of data and technology to rogue states or non-state actors. Hicks said the report contains plans to beef up the Defense Department’s ability to analyse intelligence that will help to solve the problem. “It’s largely put in the context in the QDR of the wars we’re in today,” she said. “But [it is] very important to point out that the future is now, in many cases.”

Another challenge relates to the size of the all-volunteer force. Hicks said the QDR report recognises that current conflicts in multiple theatres have strained servicemembers. Therefore, she said, it makes planning assumptions that are adjusted to assume a “more reasonable tempo over the long term.” She said the report also identifies capabilities in short supply, including civil affairs; intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance; and helicopters.

Hicks said both the QDR and the BMDR combine near-term and long-range planning and aim to describe a realistic pathway to meet strategic goals.

Cybersecurity

Cybersecurity, meanwhile, is seizing more attention and budget dollars at a time when China’s alleged cyber attack on Google has underscored the urgency of the threat and the vulnerability of US networks, the AFPS adds. The Pentagon’s second-ranking official described cyber threats as his top worry, and a chorus of other defence and government officials recently sounded similar distress signals over the prospect of cyber war.
“I’m often asked what keeps me up at night,” Deputy Defense Secretary William J. Lynn III said last month. “No. 1 is the cyber threat. If we don’t maintain our capabilities to defend our networks in the face of an attack, the consequences for our military, and indeed for our whole national security, could be dire.” In the Pentagon’s fiscal 2011 budget proposal unveiled this week, cybersecurity received a $105 million increase from the previous year. The department’s sub-command dedicated to cyber warfare — a facility in Fort Meade, Maryland, known as US Cyber Command – is slated for a fiscal 2011 budget of $139 million under the Air Force budget proposal, in addition to funding from the US Strategic Command, which oversees its operations.

At the same time, cybersecurity is featured prominently in a broad department self-assessment known as the Quadrennial Defense Review, a congressionally mandated report Pentagon officials released this week. Given the military’s dependence on information networks, the QDR states, it’s not surprising this infrastructure has emerged as a key target.
“Indeed, these networks are infiltrated daily by a myriad of sources,” the report says, “ranging from small groups of individuals to some of the largest countries in the world.” US military and corporate concern about cyber security was proved warranted by an alleged attack allegedly conducted by Chinese hackers on Google’s networks that reportedly came in a wave of intrusions beginning in December, and which the search engine company publicly revealed last month.
“The recent intrusion of Google is yet another wake-up call about just how seriously we have to take this program,” Director of National Intelligence Dennis C. Blair told a House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence hearing earlier this year. “Cyber defenders right now have to spend more and work harder than the attackers do,” he said. “And our efforts, frankly, are not strong enough to recognize [and] deal with that reality.”

At another hearing this week, FBI Director Robert S. Mueller III said the growing cyber threat reflects the pace of change and rate of globalization that have taken place since the end of the Cold War. Gone are the days when state actors posed the primary threat to US national security, he said.
“But as the global economy integrates, many cyber threats now focus on economic or non-government targets, as we have seen with the recent cyber attack on Google,” Mueller told the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence. “Targets in the private sector are at least as vulnerable as traditional targets, and the damage can be just as great.”

For his part, Defense Secretary Robert Gates said the creation of the US Cyber Command reflects the increasing recognition of cybersecurity as a department priority. Speaking to the Senate Armed Services Committee this week, Gates sounded a confident tone in describing the safety of the military’s classified networks. “But frankly, we’re not happy with where we are,” he told senators in the February hearing. “I think we’re in good shape now, but we look with concern to the future. And we think a lot more needs to be done.”