Experts: Pentagon strategy and budget inadequate

The Pentagon, Washington, D.C.


By JON HARPER | STARS AND STRIPES Published: December 2, 2014

WASHINGTON — The Pentagon’s defense strategy and funding levels are both inadequate, outside experts told lawmakers Tuesday.

The DOD strategy, outlined in the 2014 Quadrennial Defense Review, was based on the assumption that the U.S. military would have to carry out its missions with fewer resources and forces in the years ahead.

But members of the independent, nonpartisan National Defense Panel — tasked by Congress and the Defense Department to conduct their own analysis — noted that the QDR was released in early March in a different strategic environment than the one the Pentagon is facing today.

“Russia had [subsequently] invaded and annexed Crimea and destabilized eastern Ukraine … The Iraqi army had collapsed and we faced the beginnings of a terrorist state in Syria and Iraq. So all of these things … weighed on our deliberations,” Eric Edelman, the former undersecretary of defense for policy and a member of the NDP, told members of the House Armed Services Committee.

Edelman criticized the QDR’s assumption that the U.S. military will only need the capability to defeat only one major enemy at a time.

“We could easily find ourselves … involved in a major conflict but then have multiple different conflicts to either deter or have to engage military force within overlapping both geographic and temporal frames,” he said.

Michele Flournoy, a former undersecretary of defense for policy and a member of the NDP, told lawmakers that the Pentagon needed to set a “higher bar” when it comes to assessing force structure requirements.

Even absent these new challenges, the panelists told lawmakers, DOD isn’t being given enough money to carry out the strategy laid out in the QDR, especially if sequestration returns as scheduled.

“The capabilities and capacities rightly called for in the 2014 Quadrennial Defense Review … clearly exceed the budget resources made available to the Department. This gap is disturbing if not dangerous in light of the fact that global threats and challenges are rising,” the panel said in its report.

The 10-member panel — whose members were appointed by Congress’ armed services committees — released its report at the end of July after reaching unanimous consensus about its conclusions.

Edelman said that budget levels should return to what former Secretary of Defense Robert Gates called for in 2011 before sequestration was imposed, so that DOD can have “a strategy-driven budget rather than a budget-driven strategy.”

Flournoy — who was considered the front-runner to succeed Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel until she took herself out of the running last week — called sequestration “a threat to national security” and warned that budget-related readiness problems could lead to “greater casualties” for American troops if another conflict were to break out.

She called on Congress to make controversial moves, including military compensation reform and another round of Base Realignment and Closure, to free up money to invest in readiness and modernization.

“We absolutely need to keep faith with those who serve, given their service and their sacrifice,” she said. “But… we need to really examine what do we mean by keeping faith … Keeping faith also includes ensuring that when people go into harm’s way, they have the training they need ... [and] they have the equipment they need … It’s not just about compensation.”

Twitter: @JHarperStripes

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