Projections From the QDR

Aug. 1, 1997

The Pentagon’s long-anticipated report on the Quadrennial Defense Review premiered in Washington this spring, opening to mixed reviews. A sequel to the 1991 Base Force Review, the 1993 Bottom-Up Review, and the 1995 Commission on Roles and Missions study, the Congressionally mandated QDR attempted once again to answer the question of what it means–and what it takes–to be the world’s lone superpower.

Many critics voiced concern that the course laid out in the QDR is too risky; that it would cut forces beyond prudent levels, counts on unmeasurable savings from streamlining DoD business practices, assumes a not-yet-shown capability for rapidly yanking forces out of one hot spot to insert them somewhere deemed more important, and shortsightedly reduces airpower modernization programs.

Others said the QDR report–intended to guide the next six years of defense programming, budgeting, and operations–was not bold enough in cutting away parts of the armed services they consider irrelevant in the postCold War world. Still others maintained that the QDR didn’t do enough to hasten a revolutionary transformation of US forces and weapons.

All agreed, however, that the QDR is by no means the last word on national defense and is in fact, according to Defense Secretary William S. Cohen, “the beginning of a process . . . that may take years” to come up with a working plan and rationale for how to organize, equip, and use the American military in the decades ahead.

Smaller Forces

The QDR calls for a further cutback in the end strength of the armed forces, which today stands at a bit under 1.5 million. Previously, the Defense Department planned to go down to a level of 1.42 million by Fiscal 2003. After the QDR, however, DoD would drop down to 1.36 million troops, eliminating 60,000 more troops. If the cuts are approved by Congress, it would mark an overall reduction in force structure of 36 percent from the levels of 1989.

QDR Force-Structure Changes

Major Force Elements FY 1997


FY 2003


FY 2003


USAF: Heavy bombers….. 202 187
Fighter wings, active….. 13 13 12
Fighter wings, reserve….. 7 7 8
Air defense squadrons, reserve….. 10 6 4
ARMY: Divisions, active….. 10 10 10
Divisions, reserve….. 8 8 8
Armored cavalry regiments, active….. 2 2 2
Enhanced separate brigades, reserve….. 15 15 15
NAVY: Aircraft carriers, active….. 11 11 11
Aircraft carriers, reserve….. 1 1 1
Air wings, active….. 10 10 10
Air wings, reserve….. 1 1 1
Amphibious ready groups….. 12 12 12
Attack submarines….. 73 52 50
Surface combatants….. 128 131 116
USMC: Expeditionary force, active….. 3 3 3
Expeditionary force, reserve….. 1 1 1

Source: DoD

The QDR would trim, slow, or stretch out the buys of new combat aircraft, restructure some of the forces of the Reserve and National Guard, accelerate a few high-priority programs, and increase spending on defense of the US from ballistic missile attack. It also called for undertaking at least two further rounds of base closures, which have lagged well behind cuts in the force structure they host.

The military’s workload has risen significantly since the end of the Cold War, and the QDR doesn’t anticipate a letup any time soon. Thus, the reduction in force levels threatens to compound current problems caused by high personnel and operational tempos and would affect the choices of many troops when they decide whether to remain in the services in years to come.

To avoid “overstressing” the troops, the Joint Chiefs have ordered a reduction in exercises wherever practicable, as well as monitoring measures to identify overworked units and find ways to spread the load more evenly, especially in “high demand” but small-staffed mission areas. Even so, many worried that the QDR set up a basic mismatch between a diminished US military force and an expansive American military strategy.

The QDR also reaffirmed the national strategy (Cohen calls it the national “capability”) of being able to fight and win two nearly simultaneous Major Regional Conflicts, now referred to as Major Theater Wars (MTWs), preferably in concert with allies. The most critical aspect of the two-MTW strategy, according to the QDR, is having the capability to rapidly halt an enemy’s advance while other US forces are en route to the conflict.

However, the QDR strategy also identifies a need to plan, budget, and train for so-called Smaller-scale Contingencies (SSCs), as well as the role US military forces have in shaping world events before they erupt into armed conflict. It embraces an ever more technologically oriented military and one able to deal with “wild card” unanticipated crises, such as the sudden fall of a friendly regime or the emergence of a powerful new weapon. It also demands a revolution in the way the Defense Department does business, essential to saving money desperately needed for modernization.

Summing up the QDR, Cohen told the Senate Armed Services Committee it “takes a . . . cautious approach. It puts more emphasis on continuity than on change.”

Threat Assessment

The world foreseen by the Pentagon’s analysts between now and 2015 is characterized by increased threats from weapons of mass destruction, information warfare, terrorism, and efforts by enemies to play against US weaknesses. Further, it is a world where a “peer competitor”–that is, another superpower–is not expected to emerge until after 2015. However, it was judged likely that well before then, “more than one aspiring regional power will have both the desire and the means to challenge US interests militarily.”

Those interests will include, among others, continued access to oil, security for Israel, free navigation of the seas, security for NATO, and defense of US partners worldwide.

The QDR analysts determined that Iraq remains the greatest threat in the Middle East, with Iran on the rise, but gauged both nations as having far less military power than Iraq enjoyed on the eve of the 1991 Persian Gulf War. DoD also calculates that North Korea’s military strength will erode as that nation descends into ever more desperate economic straits. The reduced threat in these two vital theaters made possible some of the force-structure cuts called for in the QDR, Cohen told the Senate Armed Services Committee.

As for Russia, it remains to be seen whether that nation will reorganize and downsize its military toward a professional fighting force “or face a continued process of progressive deterioration.” The most likely “peer competitor” arising after 2015 is China, the Pentagon said.

The given assessment of the international “environment” of the next 20 years assumes that the US remains politically and militarily engaged overseas while willing and able to militarily defeat any enemy. Cohen noted that if the US were to adopt a more isolationist attitude and withdraw from its overseas commitments and diplomatic leadership, “the world would become an even more dangerous place, and the threats to the United States, our allies, friends, and interests would be more severe.”

He told the House National Security Committee, “We simply cannot afford to come back to the continental United States, sort of zip ourselves in a continental cocoon, and watch the world unfold on CNN.”

Strategy in Three Boxes

Cohen summed up his new strategy–and it was, in fact, his choice from a number of options presented–in the introduction to the QDR report.

“We determined,” Cohen wrote, “that US defense strategy for the near and long term must continue to shape the strategic environment to advance US interests, maintain the capability to respond to the full spectrum of threats, and prepare now for the threats and dangers of tomorrow and beyond.” The pillars of the strategy would be quality people, ready forces, superior organization, doctrine, and technology.

1. Shaping. Shaping missions would include peacekeeping, promoting regional stability, deterring aggression, preventing terrorism, arms-control measures, narcotics interdiction, and security assistance, among others.

To carry out these missions, the US would need forward-presence and forward-deployment assets, such as aircraft carriers and expeditionary forces, special operations forces, air- and sealift, as well as deterrence forces, such as bombers. As a result, the Pentagon decided to leave intact its current overseas deployment of some 200,000 troops (100,000 each in Europe and in the Pacific). The QDR, however, made no specific reference to USAF’s Air Expeditionary Forces as useful tools for the shaping mission.

The maintenance of strategic nuclear forces comes under “shaping,” and Cohen noted that they “remain important as a hedge against NBC [nuclear, biological, and chemical weapons] proliferation and the uncertain futures of existing nuclear powers,” as well as to mutual security relationships with allies. Though the Pentagon believes a survivable nuclear force is essential to nuclear deterrence, “we believe these goals can be achieved at lower force levels” and that negotiation with Russia toward a START III treaty is desirable.

2. Responding. Under the “responding” category, the lowest order task would be what is now called SSC operations. These “encompass the full range of Joint military operations beyond peacetime engagement activities but short of Major Theater Warfare” and would include enforcing the Iraqi no-fly zones, Bosnian peace enforcement, maritime sanctions enforcement, noncombatant evacuation operations, such as the recent NEOs in Congo and Sierra Leone, limited strikes, humanitarian assistance, disaster relief, show-of-force operations, and counterterrorism.

Cohen noted that, based on recent history, “the demand for Smaller-scale Contingency operations is expected to remain high over the next 15 to 20 years.” He added, though, that even “small” operations can be very taxing to the military-especially when they occur simultaneously-and that the US leadership must be “highly selective” in choosing which ones really merit the action of the US military, weighing “the interests at stake and the risk of aggression elsewhere.”

In the responding category, the “most stressing” requirement for the military is the ability to fight a Major Theater War, according to the QDR. The US must retain the ability to fight two of these wars almost simultaneously on its own, but preferably as part of a coalition, it said. The way to go about it is to have jointly trained and interoperable forces “deploy quickly across great distances to supplement forward-stationed and -deployed forces, to assist a threatened nation, rapidly stop an enemy invasion, and defeat an aggressor.”

The two-MTW requirement was described as the defining capability of a superpower. A mere one-theater capacity “would risk undermining both deterrence and the credibility of US security commitments in key regions of the world,” which would weaken the “web of alliances and coalitions” on which the US relies “to protect our interests abroad.” In this view, regional aggressors might be tempted to act if they felt the US, engaged in a conflict elsewhere, would not be able to respond to a crisis in a second region.

The QDR stated flatly that if the US dropped its ability to defeat aggression in more than one theater at a time, “our standing as a global power, as the security partner of choice, and as the leader of the international community would be called into question.” A one-war capability would be a sure sign that the US was backing away from its commitments to defend its allies, the QDR maintained.

According to Cohen, the strategy hinges on the US having a capability to do three things well:

  • Rapidly halt an enemy invasion.
  • Operate effectively in a battle area threatened or actually attacked by weapons of mass destruction.
  • Swiftly pull up stakes from smaller contingencies, regroup the forces, and redeploy them to a theater war.

Properly equipping and training for the “halt” phase “is absolutely critical” to being able to seize the initiative in both theaters and limit the amount of ground that would have to be retaken from the aggressor, Cohen wrote.

“Failure to halt an enemy invasion rapidly can make the subsequent campaign to evict enemy forces from captured territory much more difficult, lengthy, and costly. It could also weaken coalition support, undermine US credibility, and increase the risk of conflict elsewhere.”

The NBC threat, along with information warfare, and other “asymmetric” weapons are expected to become “prevalent” in the near future, and so the ability to operate where they are a threat is key to having a credible force, Cohen said. He also noted that it will be essential to continually improve the ability to “locate and destroy” NBC weapons, “preferably before they can be used.”

A “fundamental requirement of every unit” in the military will be to be able to quickly switch gears from peacetime operations to all-out war, the QDR asserts. The US must be able to quickly pull forces out of a small contingency and move them at need to a larger war, and forces must be organized, trained, and equipped “with multiple missions in mind.”

The force necessary to carry out this strategy will have to be more proficient in Joint operations than ever before, Cohen added, praising last year’s “Joint Vision 2010” effort as “the blueprint for our future operations.”

Nevertheless, the QDR identified five “critical enablers” without which “the United States military could not execute the defense strategy.” These critical capabilities are “quality people . . . superbly led; a globally vigilant intelligence system for advance warning of crises; timely and secure global communications and information superiority; superiority in space;” and “control of the seas and airspace, without which the US would be unable to project power worldwide.”

3. Preparing. The “daunting” task before the Pentagon now is somehow to remain ready and able to shape world events in the near term while “transforming” the US military into the force it must become to deal with future threats, Cohen said.

“Fielding modern and capable forces in the future requires aggressive action today,” Cohen asserted, given the “gradual aging” of systems now in use. “It is essential that the Department increase procurement spending now” and that furthermore it be “sustained, adequate spending” to preserve US dominance in all means of warfare.

To continue in the “status quo” way of funding and organizing the armed services would provide adequate money for either near-term readiness or long-term modernization, but not both, Cohen said. Analyses showed serious risks to US security if either readiness or modernization were given emphasis at the expense of the other.

Then and Now: The Dozen-Year Drawdown

1985 1997
Size of defense budget $400 billion $250 billion
Defense budget share of US budget 28% 15%
Defense budget as percentage of GDP 7% 3.2%
Total active-duty US troops 2.2 million 1.45 million
Permanent overseas 500,000 200,000
Total reserve troops 1.1 million 900,000
Total DoD civilian employment 1.1 million 800,000
DoD procurement budget $120 billion $44 billion
Defense contractor work force 3.7 million 2.2 million

So Cohen selected what he described as a “balanced approach” that “focuses on preparing for an uncertain future but not at the expense of meeting current challenges. . . . It introduces new systems and technologies at a reasonably aggressive rate, with modest room for new program starts.”

The QDR aims at taking the biggest bite out of force structure in the support or “tail” end of the military, rather than in the fighting or “tooth” end. Some of the funding for modernization would come from savings derived from fewer people, fewer installations, and consolidation of some units.

To help facilitate the transition to a better, faster, and cheaper way of doing business, Cohen created a Task Force on Defense Reform, which will look at efficient, successful businesses around the country and try to translate their practices into ones the Pentagon could apply.

Members of the Senate Armed Services and House National Security Committees complained bitterly to Cohen about his call for two more rounds of the Base Realignment and Closure (BRAC) commission, since military bases are the core of the economies in many Congressional districts. But Cohen rejoined that while force structure has come down a third and procurement by 63 percent since the mid-1980s, only a 21 percent reduction has been taken in bases, and the base structure has to “catch up” to the shrinking force.

“All I can do is make a recommendation to you,” Cohen told the Senate panel. “If you decide it’s not politically possible, it’s not popular, . . . we have to live with that. But there are also consequences” of such a decision, he added.

In future testimony, “when I . . . present the charts, and you say, ‘You really haven’t moved very much . . . in terms of modernizing,’ I’ll say, ‘No. And it’s unlikely that I’ll be able to . . . because we are still carrying too much capacity [in bases].’ “

However, under questioning from his former Senate colleague, Olympia J. Snowe (R-Me.), Cohen acknowledged that previous BRAC rounds were also intended to free up money for modernization, only to have the savings siphoned off to pay for operations such as Bosnia that were not covered by supplemental funding.

“There is no guarantee that you could somehow wall off those funds from going again to . . . contingency operations,” Cohen admitted. “There is no absolute guarantee that you can prevent that from taking place.” He pledged to make frequent notifications to Congress about the up-front costs and savings of BRAC and how the savings would go to modernizing the force.

Force Changes

The QDR report proposed end-strength, force-structure, and modernization cuts for all four armed services. These steps were directly affected by a critical DoD decision made in late 1996, as the QDR was just getting under way; plans, policies, and procurement programs all were to assume defense spending of no more than $250 billion annually for the foreseeable future.

QDR End-Strength Reductions

Service Active Reserve Civilian Total
USAF 26,900 700 18,300 45,900
ARMY 15,000 20,000* 33,700 68,700
NAVY 18,000 4,100 8,400 30,500
USMC 1,800 4,200 400 6,400
Total 61,700 29,000 60,800 151,500

*Note: Additional cuts of up to 25,000 after 2000.

Among the services, the Air Force would take the most substantial reductions if the QDR is implemented. One case in point is end strength. From the baseline established in the 1993 Bottom-Up Review, USAF will now eliminate another 26,900 active-duty, 700 Reserve and Guard, and 18,300 civilian positions.

Force structure also took hits. Under the QDR plan, the service would retire about 60 older fighters from Air National Guard squadrons and replace them with airplanes drawn from active-duty units, and six continental air defense squadrons would be shifted to general-purpose, training, or other missions.

The current force structure of 20 fighter wing equivalents would be maintained, but the Air Force would shift one active wing to reserve status, changing the mix of active-duty to reserve-component fighter wings from 13 and seven to 12 and eight.

Today’s 10 separate air defense squadrons would drop to four (and be scored as “0.8” wings).

The Air Force is also to “consider” eliminating more wings as newer, more capable aircraft come into the inventory. The F-22, for example, would be reduced from 438 airplanes to 339, and in turn, F-22 force structure would fall from the previously planned four to three, on the strength of the anticipation that the F-22 will be far more effective than the F-15 it replaces.

USAF would retain 187 heavy bombers, but only 142 of them would be assigned to operational units. The Air Force would also return to using a standard fighter squadron of 24 airplanes, up from the 18 that currently constitute a “fully equipped” squadron. Chief of Staff Gen. Ronald R. Fogleman told Congress that of all the QDR recommendations, the squadron authorized aircraft change was his highest priority. It would consolidate units and allow some to be eliminated. Further reductions would be made by “aggressively outsourcing” depot and support functions.

According to the QDR, the Air Force should make no changes in the size of the tanker or airlift fleets. Indeed, it noted, the reduction of overseas bases and the profusion of small contingencies will cause the Pentagon to reevaluate and give “increased emphasis” to the lift issue in future budgets.

Air Force Systems

The QDR’s conclusions affected some of the Air Force’s top-priority systems.

The Pentagon accepted USAF’s offer to cut planned F-22 purchases by about 25 percent, but it then made another change-slowing down initial purchases of the fighter and stretching out the program. The QDR held out the possibility that a dedicated ground-attack version of the F-22 might be developed and purchased to replace the F-117 and F-15E when those airplanes start to retire around 2020.

The QDR concluded that the US should make no further purchases of B-2 stealth bombers beyond the 21 that are currently authorized. The Pentagon said it reached this conclusion as a result of an analysis performed in its long-running Deep Attack Weapons Mix Study. Even though the addition of B-2s improved the ability to “halt an adversary’s advance in the opening days of a Major Theater War” and would be especially useful in no-warning conflicts, the QDR said that buying more B-2s would displace buys of tactical aircraft needed for air superiority and forward presence and would offer a less telling advantage as new stealth aircraft start entering the inventory. In addition, it said, “existing forces would have to be retired immediately to pay for the additional B-2s,” resulting in a short- to medium-term loss of warfighting capability.

The QDR recommended a cut in the planned fleet of E-8 Joint STARS aircraft. In addition to one test aircraft, the Air Force had planned to buy 19 production models. Now, that figure has been reduced to 13, enough for 24-hour surveillance in one MTW. The truncated fleet “could be augmented by NATO JSTARS aircraft” in an emergency, said the QDR report, which assumes that NATO will buy the system.

Air Force officials said the decision flowed from the desire to spend money only on “flying the sensor” and not the battle-management function that is part of Joint STARS today.

The QDR called for a reduction in the buy of the Joint Strike Fighter from 2,978 airplanes to 2,852, due to the expected lower attrition rates vs. current generation aircraft.

The review also found that the current munitions program, “with modest adjustments,” will provide the capability to defeat potential aggressors in the years ahead. The adjustments would involve increasing the buys of some types-such as the Joint Air-to-Surface Standoff Missile and laser-guided bombs-and decreasing the buy of others, such as the version of the Joint Standoff Weapon that uses submunitions.

Under Cohen’s reorganization and reduction plan, the other services will undergo the following changes:

Army: The Army would lose 15,000 active-duty and 33,700 civilian slots. Initially the QDR also trimmed 45,000 reserve-component slots, but after a negotiation with the Guard and Reserve, the Army agreed to cut only 20,000 by the year 2000 and up to 25,000 more afterwards. It would keep 10 active divisions and eight Guard and Reserve. Many of the personnel cuts would come from consolidating or realigning units, principally headquarters. Cohen and Army Chief of Staff Gen. Dennis Reimer acknowledged in Congressional hearings a “feud” between the active-duty and reserve components over the changes and expressed the desire to seamlessly integrate the “Total Force” as, in Reimer’s words, “the Air Force does.” The Force XXI, or “Digital Army,” effort would be accelerated two years and is expected to obtain more combat effectiveness out of fewer soldiers.

Navy: The Navy would lose 18,000 active-duty, 4,100 reserve, and 8,400 civilian slots. While keeping 12 carrier battle groups and 12 amphibious ready groups, the Navy would retire 12 surface combatants, made possible by the more advanced AEGIS cruisers and Arleigh Burke destroyers. The QDR says the Navy would drop from 73 to 50 attack submarines, but it was already headed down to 52 submarines under previous plans, so the QDR takes only two additional boats. Likewise, the QDR touts a cut in the F/A-18E/F program from 1,000 Super Hornets to a minimum of 548; however, the 1,000 figure was the original target, before the Marine Corps withdrew from the program, a move that reduced the requirement by several hundred airplanes. To preserve a “creative tension”-that is, a competitive element-in Navy combat-aircraft programs, the F/A-18E/F will be curtailed at 548 airplanes, and procurement would switch to the more capable Joint Strike Fighter if the JSF arrives on time and with the promised capability. If the JSF fails or is late, the Navy could buy up to a maximum of 785 F/A-18E/Fs. Other cuts would come from overseas infrastructure and shifting some ships to Sealift Command.

Marine Corps: The Marines would lose 1,800 active-duty, 4,200 reserve, and 400 civilian slots. Three active Marine Expeditionary Forces would be retained, each of which includes a division, air wing, and service support group, along with a command element. A single reserve division/wing/service support group would also be retained. The MV-22 tiltrotor program would be sped up, but the size of the buy would be reduced from 425 to 360, owing to the V-22’s greater capability and reliability over the current aging helicopters. Personnel cuts would be taken by closer scrutiny of headquarters’ requirements and expected success in “ongoing warfighting experiments.”

Under terms of the QDR, the US would maintain a strategic nuclear force outlined in the START I agreement, which would include about 6,000 warheads. Washington had planned to begin dismantling some of the systems soon as a result of lower ceilings approved in the START II negotiations. However, because of delays in the Russian Duma’s ratification of the START II treaty, more money will have to be added to the Pentagon’s budget to preserve nuclear forces at START I levels, which include 18 Trident ballistic missile submarines, 50 Peacekeeper missiles, 500 Minuteman III missiles, and 71 B-52H and 21 B-2A bombers.

While national missile defense remains “a high national priority,” the review indicated that an infusion of $2 billion over the next three years is needed to make a year 2000 deployment decision possible, but even with the extra money, the program will still have “very high schedule and technical risk.”

Theater missile defense elements largely survived intact, with the exception of the Theater High-Altitude Area Defense system, which will have to be restructured due to “technical failures.” The Pentagon put high confidence in the Airborne Laser and also noted that it is “committed to continue pursuing increases in capability in attack operations to address theater ballistic missile and cruise missile threats prior to launch, thereby reducing the stress and reliance on intercept systems.”

Attracting and retaining the quality people necessary to make a smaller force capable and credible means there must be a continuing commitment “to funding pay raises and other compensation,” such as educational assistance. The Pentagon pledged continuing “adequate funding” in housing and community and family support.

Airpower Shortchanged

The QDR found each service’s evolved postCold War doctrine-the Air Force’s “Global Engagement,” the Navy’s “Forward . . . From the Sea,” the Marine Corps’s “Operational Maneuver From the Sea,” and the Army’s “Force XXI/The Army After Next”-to be largely sound and in consonance with Joint Vision 2010. Part of the problem in making value judgments of one service’s capabilities over another was due to the still inadequate capabilities of modeling and simulation, according to Maj. Gen. Charles Link, the Air Force’s point man on the QDR and the earlier Commission on Roles and Missions.

“I come to the end of this effort still disappointed in our ability to model, simulate, and understand modern Joint warfare, and particularly the contribution that airpower can make,” Link told reporters after the QDR’s public release.

Preference for “air-, land-, or seapower solutions to national security problems is largely a matter of beliefs,” Link said. Having watched the most sophisticated computer models attack the problem, then be tweaked and rerun and still come up with nonsensical answers, “at the end of the day, beliefs sort of come back to rule how one makes decisions.”

Link said he wished the models could have demonstrated accurately what airpower could do to make efficiencies elsewhere possible.

While “I have never attempted to replace boots on the ground with airpower,” Link said that when comparing the power of ground forces and air forces to destroy the enemy, when ground forces do so, “they make themselves vulnerable, [with losses] in almost the same ratio.”

He hopes that the military community is starting to truly understand that “modern airpower gives us the ability to destroy the enemy’s military forces without giving the enemy as much to shoot at.”

That understanding manifested itself somewhat in the QDR’s emphasis on the halt phase in an MTW, Link said.

Though produced just as Washington was in the throes of creating a “glide slope” to a balanced federal budget in 2002, Cohen insisted that the QDR’s reductions were not “driven” by budget tightening. Instead, he said he instructed his QDR staff to “not make any unrealistic assumptions” about available funding. The assumption they were told to work with was that defense spending will remain relatively flat “for the foreseeable future.” To craft plans that anticipated–or even held out a hope for–large infusions of extra money later would have made for a completely pointless exercise and “a waste of time,” he told the Senate Armed Services Committee.

Instead, Cohen asserted that the strategy came first, and the funding shifts were made as a response to the strategy.

One Senator commented that the Pentagon seemed to be open to any strategy “as long as it cost $250 billion” or less.

NDP Wades In

In mandating the QDR, Congress also set up the National Defense Panel, a commission that would review the Pentagon’s QDR findings, comment on them, and offer alternatives where there was a difference of opinion.

The NDP approved of the strategy described in the QDR and said it represents “an improvement in understanding future threats and challenges.” However, the NDP expressed concern that “there is insufficient connectivity between strategy on the one hand and force structure, operational concepts, and procurement decisions on the other.” In other words, the QDR program decisions-such as no new buys of the B-2, cuts of the F-22, Joint STARS, and special operations forces-don’t seem to match a strategy that emphasizes the halt phase of an MTW, control of airspace, “seamless [intelligence] collection capabilities,” and finding and destroying weapons of mass destruction before they are used.

“The panel considers the modernization plan to have more budget risk than is acknowledged by the QDR,” the NDP said, because it assumes that there will be two more BRAC rounds, savings from other infrastructure reductions, savings from new business practices and acquisition reform, and a defense budget that will hover at $250 billion in constant dollars. These assumptions, it said, are “somewhat tenuous.” The NDP suggested greater linkage between strategy and systems and asserted that the QDR didn’t focus enough on space threats and a strategy for “maintaining access to space.”

The NDP found the review weak in that it “views Major Theater Warfare as a traditional force-on-force challenge,” an assumption which “inhibits the transformation of the American military to fully exploit our advantages as well as the vulnerabilities of potential opponents.” It warned the Pentagon not to get too comfortable with the current force structure; it may not be “optimal” as new technologies become available, which in turn “may permit us to be successful with smaller but far more lethal and effective forces.”

It also said the QDR failed to give adequate attention to the prospect that overseas basing may be increasingly denied the US–and what that means to “the ability to project power.”

The NDP agreed that the force cuts suggested in the QDR could be managed “without creating significant risk,” and it supported the infrastructure cuts offered by the Pentagon. It also said that while the doctrine/philosophies of the services embraced in the QDR are useful, “added effort is needed to encourage further development of Joint and combined operational concepts.” The panel urged the Department to improve its modeling and simulation capabilities as soon as possible.

In Senate testimony, Cohen said that “we don’t have a fall-back plan” to the QDR. “We’re saying here’s the best plan,” and if Congress doesn’t approve, “Here are the consequences. You don’t get [certain] things. You do put at risk our men and women, not now, but in the year 2005, 2010, 2015. We will not be as capable and as strong as we need to be.”

Personnel Strength From Cold War to QDR

(in thousands)

Category FY 1989

(Cold War)

FY 1997


FY 2003


FY 2003


Active 2,130 1,450 1,420 1,360
Reserve 1,170 900 890 835
Civilian 1,110 800 720 640