Draft QDR: DoD Alters Force Planning Construct

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Published: 27 Jan 2010

The Pentagon’s 2010 Quadrennial Defense Review (QDR) will implement a new construct under which defense officials make force structure decisions.

Out is the so-called “3-ring” 2006 model, which included a requirement to fight two major wars at the same time and provide “surge capability” for things like disaster-response missions, as well as a need to be capable of doing other missions. It stated that one of the major wars would be a protracted, irregular conflict.

In is a new construct that also includes a clear requirement for two simultaneous major wars, but adds all U.S. forces must be prepared for a much wider set of threats and missions, according to a draft version of the QDR.

“The most recent planning standard that I remember was more than simply a two-war standard,” said one congressional aide. “Fighting two regional conflicts was a part of it, but only a part.”

The two-war requirement remains a central tenant of the new construct.

The draft quadrennial study includes a requirement for “deterring and defeating two regional aggressors while maintaining a heightened alert posture for U.S. forces in and around the United States.”

“It can’t get any clearer than that,” the congressional aide said.

“U.S. forces today and in the years to come can be plausibly challenged by a range of threats that extend far beyond the familiar ‘major regional conflicts’ that have dominated U.S. planning since the end of the Cold War,” says the draft study, dated December 2009. Defense News obtained a copy.

“Because America’s adversaries have been adopting a wide range of strategies and capabilities that can be brought to bear against the United States and its forces, allies, and interests, it is no longer appropriate to speak of ‘major regional conflicts’ as the sole or even the primary template for sizing, shaping, and evaluating U.S. forces,” the document said.

Instead, the draft quadrennial study said, “U.S. forces must be prepared to conduct a wide variety of missions under a range of different circumstances.” It goes on to describe operations that “may vary in duration and intensity for maritime, air, ground, space and cyber forces.”

The new force-shaping model was derived from what the draft report calls the Pentagon’s four defense strategy priorities: “prevail in today’s wars; prevent and deter conflict; prepare to succeed in a wide range of contingencies; and preserve and enhance the force.” Sources say the priorities are known within the QDR process as “the Four Ps.”

The planning framework is designed to prepare U.S. forces to, according to the review, carry out “a broad, plausible range of several overlapping operations to prevent and deter conflict and, if necessary, to defend the United States, its allies and partners, selected critical infrastructure, and other national interests.”

The study said that “any lesser capability” would leave the military unable to defend Washington’s “important interests while its forces were undertaking a single large-scale operation. This would increase the risk of opportunism by other potential adversaries.”

The copy of the draft document is unclassified, and is stamped For Official Use Only. Sources indicate the QDR has undergone several revisions since this version was circulated within the Pentagon, but they said no major changes have been made to the force planning section.

Additionally, the draft QDR says Pentagon officials built the review around “six key mission areas critical to achieving [DoD‘s] strategy objectives.”

Those six are: defend the United States and support civil authorities at home; conduct counterinsurgency, stability, and counterterrorist operations; build partnership capacity; deter and defeat aggression in anti-access environments; impede proliferation and counter weapons of mass destruction; operate effectively in cyberspace.

The draft quadrennial review also describes the initiatives the department will employ for each of the six.

For supporting civil authorities, DoD will “field faster, more flexible consequence management response forces,” states the draft. The department plans to restructure its chemical, biological, radiological, nuclear attack consequence management response force by scrapping the second and third planned teams and instead building 10 homeland response force teams based around the United States.

DoD also will set up “Headquarters and Support Consequence Management Response Forces” to provide additional command and control, logistics, and support capability for follow-on operations, according to the draft.

Also for civil support, the department plans to “enhance capabilities for domain awareness.” The draft study states DoD and other agencies need more details about “the air, land and sea domains.” To this end, the department is “exploring the application” of next-generation over-the-horizon radar technology. DoD also will develop standoff radiological/nuclear detection capabilities, and bolster its domestic counter-improvised explosive device capabilities.

For conducting counterinsurgency, stability and counterterrorism operations, the draft review spells out several steps the department will take to meet current shortfalls. Among those: increase the availability of the military’s helicopter fleet; increase from 50 to 65 the number of Predator/Reaper orbits; continue developing new sensors for UAVs; and bolster its airborne electronic warfare abilities through moves like buying more EA-18G aircraft for the Navy and fitting one more Air Force C-130 with an EW suite.

The department will take a number of steps for counterinsurgency and counterterrorism missions, including: converting one heavy brigade combat team to a Stryker configuration, then several more “as resources become available.” The Navy will add a fourth riverine squadron, starting in 2011. The Air Force will field light attack aircraft and light mobility units that will be “specially organized, trained, and equipped for counterinsurgency, stability, and CT operations,” while also training and supporting foreign security forces, the draft says.

Under the “building up partners” category, the draft study states the Pentagon will increase its corps of linguists and cultural experts, while also giving general purpose forces more duties working with partner nations’ security forces. The latter includes an order for all four services to each add 500 people for such tasks, and directs the Air Force to add to “its regionally-oriented contingency response groups (CRGs) and will field light mobility and light attack aircraft in general purpose force units in order to increase their ability to work effectively with a wider range of partner air forces,” the draft says.

The draft study devotes several pages to raise alarms and make prescriptions for future anti-access operations.

Potential foes like China have been fielding more and more advanced weapons designed to prevent the U.S. from operating abroad, the QDR draft states.

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