Getting It Right
The Navy prepares for a fateful Quadrennial Defense Review by taking
a critical look at its strategy and resources
By JASON SHERMAN, Special Correspondent
The Defense Department is entering the home stretch of a far-reaching
review that is expected to shake up the U.S. armed forces and reorder
the mix of weapon systems the Pentagon buys. The congressionally mandated
Quadrennial Defense Review (QDR) is gearing up this summer to deliver
what previous QDRs have not: major decisions.
Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld aims to use the current review
to better prepare the U.S. military to deal with new security challenges
such as homeland defense and prosecuting a decades-long campaign against
terrorism. To accomplish this, a significant reordering of the allocation
of resources among the services, as well as possible new delineation
of roles and missions across the military departments, could be in the
offing. For example, Deputy Defense Secretary designee Gordon R. England
has suggested the integration of the air units of all military services.
Rumsfeld plans to meet this summer in a special session with the Joint
Chiefs of Staff to review early insights from the QDR and what changes
to the military bureaucracy and budget are necessary. Pentagon officials
expect major decisions as early as mid-July. A final written report is
due to Congress next February.
Specifically, Rumsfeld has directed the QDR to examine four “core” challenges
that he wants the military to better contend with: defending the U.S.
homeland, both a “defense-in-depth” and providing assistance
to civil authorities in the aftermath of a massive domestic terrorist
attack; countering the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction,
including rendering safe such weapons in a collapsing nuclear-armed state;
building partnerships to defeat global terrorist networks; and influencing
decisions of countries at strategic crossroads.
Six high-level panels are examining these challenges. The panels cover
a wide swath of the defense enterprise (see sidebar, page 16).
Unlike previous QDRs in 1997 and 2001, there is no panel focused on
strategy. That’s because on March 1, the day Rumsfeld signed the
guidance document officially launching the 2005 QDR, he also issued a
first-ever “National Defense Strategy.” The 20-page document
is the strategic backdrop for the QDR.
With baseline defense budgets forecast to be flat for the foreseeable
future, the Defense Department is in search of the means to pay for new
capabilities to deal with these “core” challenge areas. Rumsfeld
served notice last fall that he intends to use the QDR to redirect investments
away from capability areas where the U.S. military enjoys significant
combat “overmatch” against adversaries and toward new equipment,
organizations and skills to deal with gaps in its ability to handle the
Pentagon experts and defense analysts expect the capital-intensive Navy
and Air Force to see their programs pared back — as they did in
a $30 billion round of budget cuts over the next six years that were
handed out in December — and redirected toward the Army, Marine
Corps and Special Operations Forces. A classified analysis in April by
the Office of the Secretary of Defense and Joint Staff, for example,
suggested the Navy’s planned aircraft carrier fleet of 11 ships
be reduced to 10 and the savings used to pay for new capabilities.
Where the services were vocal about their particular agendas and out
to protect select capabilities in previous QDRs, Rumsfeld is running
the show this time and parochial schemes have largely been subsumed.
Meanwhile, the Navy has drafted a new strategy of its own: “Navy’s
3/1 Strategy: The Maritime Contribution to the Joint Force in a Changed
Strategic Landscape.” This narrative captures ideas that senior
service officials have expressed since January when Adm. Vern Clark,
chief of naval operations, declared the Navy was not well suited to deal
with challenges of the future.
The Navy is working to figure out what changes are in order for its
blue-water fleet, which is designed to fight a conventional enemy on
the high seas. Until the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, the Navy
prepared for two major theater wars with the expectation that all other
missions — from humanitarian relief to peace-keeping to counterterrorism — could
be accomplished with the organizations, equipment and skills at hand.
Prepared by the Navy’s Information, Plans and Strategy staff at
the Pentagon, the draft strategy acknowledges that the likelihood of
major war on the high seas has significantly diminished. While maintaining
the ability to conduct a major combat operation the Navy must be prepared
to deal with a wider array of maritime security operations, including
stability operations, the global war on terrorism (GWOT) and homeland
The draft strategy anticipates a “limited number” of new
requirements will take shape to fulfill these missions, and that some
existing capabilities will need modification to keep them relevant in
the new strategic landscape, “while other capabilities will need
to be expanded in scale to meet the challenges of the post-9/11 security
To enhance its ability to contribute to the GWOT category, the Navy
will enhance its theater security cooperation. “The maritime dimension
of the GWOT — the ability of terrorists to exploit the seas — requires
the U.S. Navy to operate in a manner analogous to that of the British
Navy in the 18th century during its campaign against piracy,” the
strategy states. The idea is to improve the proficiency of navies around
the world at policing their own regional waters, freeing the U.S. Navy
to work elsewhere.
Clark has issued guidance designed to increase the ability of other
nations’ navies to conduct enhanced maritime interdiction operations,
counterterrorism and piracy patrols, perform maritime law enforcement
and collect intelligence on what ships are active on the seas.
To improve its effectiveness in the war on terror, the service is enhancing
its maritime domain awareness, an understanding of anything on or below
the seas around the world that could affect the security, safety, economy
or environment of the United States. The purpose is to generate actionable
The Navy is also examining its role in stability operations. Following
the turmoil that erupted in Iraq following the quick military defeat
of Saddam Hussein’s regime in 2003, the Pentagon is examining ways
to improve its ability to restore order in the aftermath of major combat
The Navy’s draft strategy, however, notes that the sea service
is well acquainted with stability operations given its recent contributions
in the Balkans, East Timor and Haiti. From the sea, the Navy has contributed
to stability operations by enforcing embargoes, sanctions and quarantines;
conducting antipiracy operations; drug interdiction; oil and gas field
patrols; and maritime counterterrorism missions; as well as supporting
An April draft version of the 45-page document does not address any
specific Navy programs. However, it points to a fleet that will increase
its reliance on sensor and communications technology while, at the same
time, reconfiguring how it packages its ships and aircraft into operating
units in order to cover wider swaths of the world’s seas.
The Navy, accordingly, is planning to adjust its near-term investment
strategy to better handle future missions in the global war on terrorism,
a move that service officials hope will anticipate recommendations from
the QDR. The service is boosting spending on technologies and programs
that will improve its ability to conduct network-centric operations and
fund the first of a new fleet of expeditionary logistics ships that can
be used as floating bases to launch thousands of ground troops and their
“That’s exactly where we’re looking to fund,” said
Vice Adm. Joseph Sestak, deputy chief of naval operations for warfare
requirements and programs.
The question of whether those investments are on target will be answered
this summer as the QDR sets forth a new game plan for the entire U.S.