QDR calls for more servicemembers to learn special advanced skills
ARLINGTON, Va. — Skills once expected only of special operations forces are soon going to be required of many more servicemembers, according to the Pentagon’s Quadrennial Defense Review, released Friday.
The report calls for the services to train more members to be fluent in foreign languages, acquire cultural expertise, and learn other advanced skills to conduct complex war against irregular enemies, especially terrorists.
“The Pentagon used to put its emphasis on combat operations,” Principal Deputy Undersecretary of Defense for Policy Ryan Henry told Pentagon reporters Friday. But now stability and reconstruction operations “are on a co-equal footing.”
As a result, the Pentagon should focus on “multipurpose forces that can work closely with indigenous forces,” Vice Adm. Evan Chanik, the Joint Staff’s Director of Force Structure, Resources and Assessment, said Friday.
The QDR says that the Pentagon should increase its psychological operations and civil affairs units by 33 percent, or at least 3,700 troops.
The reason for these troops, Henry said, is that “we need to build more language and cultural capability than we have, specifically in areas where we are engaged” such as the Middle East, the Pacific Rim and Africa.
Meanwhile, the special operations forces themselves are also supposed to grow by 15 percent, or five battalions, according to the QDR.
And even those troops should adjust some of their missions. Navy SEALs will focus on river warfare, in addition to the usual open-water diving, beach infiltration and other SEAL tasks.
But the nontraditional advances involve technology as well as servicemembers.
Unmanned aerial vehicles, or UAVs, one of the Pentagon’s centerpiece “transformational” weapons systems, should also get into the special operations arena by establishing a new Air Force squadron dedicated to commando missions, the document says.
This is the third QDR the Pentagon has produced since Congress mandated the reports in 1992.
But unlike the previous reports, this QDR will be delivered together with the 2007 budget request to Congress on Monday.
Still, the 92-page QDR “is a 20-year look,” so the 2007 budget request “is just the leading edge” on what will be a long-term investment, Henry said.
Yet even as the QDR emphasizes preparations for untraditional war, the document fails to recommend any cuts to the Pentagon’s longstanding major weapons programs, such as the continued funding of the Air Force’s F-22 fighter aircraft.
The contrast between the QDR’s focus on untraditional warfare and its insistence on holding on to weapons systems designed for possible large-scale war against an unnamed superpower had Pentagon critics buzzing.
Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld and other military officials have repeatedly stated that America is facing an entirely new kind of enemy and a new kind of war, said Ralph Peters, a retired Army officer and military commentator.
But although “it seems like they’re getting it,” Peters said, “they’re buying Cold War stuff.”
By refusing to kill programs such as the F-22, “The QDR, as I read it, basically ignores every single lesson [the Pentagon] has learned not only since 9/11, but since the end of the Cold War,” Peters said. “We’re buying the weapons systems, and then designing the strategy around them.
Another area that appears untouched is the so-called “Star Wars” space-based weapons programs, which have been plagued by budget overruns, delays, and poor test results.
“For the apostles of techno-war, [the QDR] was a splendid opportunity to ignore reality.”