The QDR, the Pentagon, and Playing Risk

House Armed Services Committee Chairman Rep. Buck McKeon (R-Calif.) is not pleased with the recent Quadrennial Defense Review, saying it is a budget-driven exercise that avoids examining long-term strategic challenges. At a Thursday HASC hearing, in his opening statement, he told both vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs Adm. Sandy Winnefeld and deputy undersecretary of defense for strategy, plans, and force development Christine Wormuth that he would include a provision in the upcoming defense authorization bill for the Department of Defense to re-write the QDR. McKeon said the QDR drives a valuable internal process for DOD, but said its worth is diminished if the review only leads to a “justification of programs.” He added, “What we have before us this year is … a five-year outlook, a validation of a force structure the services admit is driven by budget constraints,” and a strategy that assumes increased risk to the joint force, McKeon said. Winnefeld said the QDR is an update based on the strategy that was first laid out in the 2012 Defense Strategic Guidance, but it is dependent on proper resourcing and can’t survive a sequester. In the aftermath of last summer’s Strategic Choices Management Review, Winnefeld said DOD had a choice: “down scope” the strategy’s goals, or balance risk with ways and means. This is why the Pentagon is asking for higher funding levels than the sequester in order to sustain the strategy, albeit at a level of “moderate risk.”