If QDR Accomplishes Much, It’ll Be a First

My first piece for RealClearDefense, "Enough with the QDR Hype," has published.

My first piece for RealClearDefense, “Enough with the QDR Hype,” has published. It’s a response to another article, which makes excerpting difficult. The thrust, however, is that the Quadrennial Defense Review process has yet to produce major reforms of our military infrastructure and the one scheduled for early 2014 is unlikely to change that.

The first of these was rendered dead on arrival with the collapse of the USSR. The second, the October 1993 Bottom-Up Review, recognized the “epochal events” that had unfolded necessitated that, “We cannot, as we did for the past several decades, premise this year’s forces, programs, and budgets on incremental shifts from last year’s efforts. We must rebuild our defense strategy, forces, and defense programs and budgets from the bottom up.” In reality, though, they recommended what was essentially a proportionally smaller version of the Cold War force. The report paid the necessary lip service to “modernization” and “new dangers” but nonetheless structured itself around a massive nuclear capability and the notion that it would be “prudent for the United States to maintain sufficient military power to be able to win two major regional conflicts that occur nearly simultaneously.” But not only was the strategic rationale at odds with the world situation but the Joint Chiefs couldn’t even agree to plan for the force it said it needed. Indeed, the “nearly” in “nearly simultaneously” was a nod to the fact that the United States lacked the strategic lift assets to get our troops and their equipment to two big wars at the same time and had no intention of correcting that deficit at the expense of procuring weapons assets.


While one would think that the pain that the ongoing sequester is causing and the general prospect of rather substantial cuts in the force would cause some creative thinking in the Pentagon and cause cherished but long outdated programs to go by the wayside, history tells us that the opposite is true. Bureaucratic organizations faced with diminished assets invariably cleave to their core competencies and allow everything else to wither. As much as defense leaders decry a hollow force, they will almost surely opt for cuts to personnel and training rather than forgo R&D and the acquisition of major end items. Not because they’re stupid or short-sighted but simply because it takes years, if not decades, to get those systems fielded and they fear being left with antiquated equipment when war invariably comes.

More at the link.

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James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.


  1. Andy says:

    Yes, the whole QDR processes is just a job security program for senior officers and SES’s. The reason is because and real changes have to come from Congress and they can ignore the QDR just like they ignore the so-called Asian pivot.

  2. William Wilgus says:

    Now Congress wants a QDR from the Veteran’s Administration. Hey Congress: If it ain’t broke don’t fix it!