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Adams weighs in on the QDR May 25, 2010

Posted by Rebecca Williams in Analysis.
Tags: , ,

The Quadrennial Defense Review (QDR) is a legislatively-mandated review of DOD strategy and priorities, designed to help the department align its strategy, capabilities, and forces to address the threats and challenges of today.

Dr. Adams weighs in, offering his critiques of the review.


The QDR does not prioritize the military’s missions and objectives.  As result, it does not provide a true defense strategy.  Instead, it layers new missions on top of preexisting ones.

As a result, there are very few tough choices in either the QDR or the accompanying FY2011 defense budget with respect to setting priorities among missions, risk calculus, acquisition programs, military personnel and force structure, or operations and support.

For instance, the QDR has extrapolated and projected the lessons of Iraq and Afghanistan without careful examination of the likelihood that we will need or choose to perform these missions in the future.  Undisciplined and unprioritized expansion of military missions creates significant upward pressure on defense resources across the board rather than focusing on those areas that are considered high risk and high probability.

New Missions

The QDR promotes counterinsurgency, counterterrorism, stabilization, and building partner capacity to equal priority with traditional military missions.  This is doubly problematic.

First, it is leading DOD to develop capabilities beyond those actually needed.

Secondly, these capabilities significantly expand the Department’s operations into activities whose policy direction and, is some case, implementation should be the responsibility of civilian agencies.  This crowds out development of civilian capabilities by reducing the incentive to fund those agencies’ activities.


The absence of discipline in DOD planning, reflected in the QDR, puts the Department on a collision course with fiscal realities.

Continually rising costs for force structure, health care, acquisition programs, and operations & maintenance are unlikely to meet savings targets over the next decade.

Moreover, historic federal deficits and growing federal debt are creating strong pressure for significant reductions in spending and increases in revenues.  As past deficit reduction efforts have show, we can accomplish much needed spending restraint only by putting all parts of federal spending and revenues on the table. Compounding this economic pressure, domestic support for historically high defense budgets is likely to erode as the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan wind down.



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