The Quadrennial Defense Review (QDR) is a legislatively mandated review of DoD strategy and priorities. Some in Congress feel the QDR has been used to avoid DoD transparency and accountability and that an honest review of fundamental national security issues will not be addressed in the QDR, but rather, that the QDR will rather be used to rationalize budgetary and resource allocation decisions which have already been made.
The President’s lead for defense is Secretary Robert Gates and he has been quite clear where he thinks the DoD needs to go. So, is the QDR supposed to be a reflection of his vision, or is it supposed to be the independent thoughts of a group of disparate national-security thinkers?
As for me, I think it is the former and not the later. Secretary Gates has presented a consistent path to first win the war we’re in and to concurrently prepare for an uncertain future. The fact he was asked to stay on as SecDef almost certainly means he has the total confidence of the President and has been provided an exceedingly long-leash in taking action to shape both current and future activities as they affect the defense community.
For the Air Force, these judgments and decisions have included capping the F-22 program at 187 airframes, procuring more UAV capability, cancelling TSAT, and revitalizing the nuclear enterprise. There is little subtly here–it is all quite plain and clearly announced in speeches and writings.
When we were in the Cold War, we used Cold War strategy, policies, and resourcing decisions. We are now in an era of irregular warfare. While the consequences of war with a near-peer are potentially far more dangerous than IW, the likelihood of that occurrence is less and is a risk the Secretary has assumed. The DoD strategies and priorities he has established will in effect be the QDR and rule the day until other challenges take their places.
Is this QDR being mailed-in? Perhaps, but does it matter?