“For the past six months, we led a bipartisan panel of former national security and military leaders in reviewing the document laying out the Defense Department’s plans for the next 20 years. The Quadrennial Defense Review (QDR) released this year was prepared by a Pentagon focused on responding to the threats America faces and winning the wars in which America is engaged. We had some compliments and some criticisms of the QDR, as well as suggestions for crafting a broader longer-term vision for America’s military and national power.
“The issues in our report are sufficiently serious that we believe an explicit warning is appropriate. The aging inventories and equipment used by the services, the decline in the size of the Navy, escalating personnel entitlements, increased overhead and procurement costs, and the growing stress on our military forces amount to a looming train wreck in personnel, acquisition and force structure. We are confident that the trend lines can be reversed, but doing so will require an ongoing, bipartisan concentration of political will. A ‘business as usual’ attitude toward these concerns could have unacceptable consequences for the nation.
“Our review found a significant and growing gap between the military’s ‘force structure’ — its size and inventory of equipment — and the increasingly complex and disaggregated missions assigned to it.
“We deduced four enduring national interests that will continue to transcend political differences and animate American policy: defense of the homeland; assured access to the sea, air, space and cyberspace; the preservation of a favorable balance of power across Eurasia that prevents authoritarian domination of that region; and providing for the global ‘common good’ through such actions as humanitarian aid, development assistance and disaster relief.
“We identified the five gravest potential threats to those interests likely to arise over the next generation: radical Islamist extremism and the threat of terrorism; competition from rising global powers in Asia; the continued struggle for power in the Persian Gulf and the Greater Middle East; an accelerating global competition for resources; and persistent problems from failed and failing states.
Mssrs. Hadley and Perry are co-chairmen of the Quadrennial Defense Review Independent Panel. They appeared before the House Armed Services Committee on July 29 to review the findings in the panel’s report. I played highlights of the hearing; you can watch the whole thing in the video viewer.