The Department of Defense is about to release the unclassified version of its 2010 Quadrennial Defense Review (QDR) which will provide high-level guidance to the department for the remainder of the Obama Administration’s first term. As such, one might have expected the QDR to radically redirect defense policies and significantly reconstruct military forces. Fortunately, the QDR does neither of these things. In fact, it appears to retain, in some instances even embrace, many of the ideas and policies formulated in the Bush Administration.
First, and most obviously, the 2010 QDR reflects the fact that the Obama Administration has essentially adopted the war on terrorism model of its predecessor. The President even refers to the situation as a war. He kept the Bush timetable for withdrawal from Iraq and doubled down on the Bush strategy for Afghanistan. The current administration has expanded the drone wars on Islamic terrorists. In the QDR, primacy of place is given to prevailing in our current wars and on conducting the global war on violent extremists.
Second, the QDR continues and even expands on the efforts of the Bush Administration to enhance relationships with allies and friends. The current Pentagon may be stylistically different from its predecessor but both emphasized the role of traditional allies in such areas as Europe, Northeast Asia and the Middle East. Where the new QDR goes beyond past policies is in its emphasis on building partnership capacity to conduct stability and counterterrorism/counterinsurgency operations in non-traditional areas such as Africa.
Third, the QDR and the related Ballistic Missile Defense Review (BMDR) embraces the Bush Administration/Don Rumsfeld theory of the stabilizing role of missile defenses. Theater missile defenses are an explicit pillar in the QDR/BMDR approach to regional deterrence. Both documents discuss the important role of BMD in reassuring allies and dissuading potential adversaries. The reviews will also acknowledge the value of a limited missile defense of the homeland. This is a stunning reversal of the liberal position which has been that defenses are bad. The only remaining question is whether the Obama Administration will bow to the reality that a robust national missile defense should be a central element of a strategy for deterring Russian or Chinese nuclear attacks on the homeland.
Fourth, the QDR acknowledges the potential threat posed by major state actors with high-end military capabilities. This was the central concern driving the Rumsfeld concept of transformation. There is a lot of discussion in the QDR of the threat posed by China’s and Russia’s growing investments in advanced military capabilities. The QDR will call for investments in new high-end capabilities intended to address the challenges of advanced anti-access and area denial capabilities (read ballistic missiles, air defenses, submarines, sea mines, etc.).
Finally, the QDR and the Nuclear Posture Review (NPR) will echo the position taken by the Bush Administration that nuclear deterrence, albeit at lower numbers, will remain a cornerstone of U.S. national security for the foreseeable future. The QDR and NPR will also call for development of advanced conventional capabilities such as prompt global strike and a new long-range bomber which were part of the Rumsfeld defense program. Both documents also will call for improving the safety, security and reliability of our nuclear weapons, a strategy pursued by the prior national leadership. The Bush Administration presided over the largest reduction in U.S. nuclear weapons in history. Short of actually going to zero, the Obama Administration will find it tough to match that record.
In short, the 2010 QDR is maybe 50 percent Obama but also 50 percent Bush.
Find Archived Articles: