As legislated by Congress in the 1997 NDAA, the Quadrennial Defense Review (QDR) is a study by the United States Department of Defense (DoD that analyzes strategic objectives of- and potential military threats to the US. The Quadrennial Defense Review Report is the main public document describing the United States’ military doctrine, strategies, and capabilities.
For the first time since its inception the QDR report has been rejected. Rep. Howard McKeon (R-CA) Chairman of the House Armed Services Committee found that Secretary of Defense, Charles Hagel’s 2014 report to not meet the legal requirements for such documents.
I appreciate the work that has gone into this QDR. A rigorous analysis and debate that takes place every four years as the review is put together should be immensely valuable to planners and senior commanders. Unfortunately, the product the process produced this time has more to do with politics than policy and is of little value to decision makers. For that reason, I will require the Department to re-write and re-submit a compliant report. In defiance of the law, this QDR provides no insight into what a moderate-to-low risk strategy would be, is clearly budget driven, and is shortsighted. It allows the President to duck the consequences of the deep defense cuts he has advocated and leaves us all wondering what the true future costs of those cuts will be.
— Rep. Howard McKeon (R-CA)
Chairman, House Armed Services Committee
Chairman McKeon’s issues with the 2014 QDR were three-fold: the law requires the QDR to identify resources not included in the Pentagon’s 5 year spending plan yet the report didn’t do so; the 2014 QDR was too shortsighted, looking out only 5 years, instead of the 20 years required by law; and this QDR accepts additional and elevated risks when the law requires the QDR to offer a low-to-moderate risk plan.
Essentially, while the QDR should have been an opportunity for Defense Secretary Charles Hagel to lay out his vision to refine defense strategy and to tell how the Defense Department will adapt the joint force to support that vision, it was instead a political document and, therefor, the House Armed Services Committee rejected it as fundamentally not meeting the legal requirements placed upon this accounting.
Personally, I think this was the right course of action and one that was overdue but not at all surprising in the need for it. As Chairman McKeon has noted, the QDR has become less and less compliant as time goes has gone by. It was past time to fix this issue.
Truly, Secretary hagel’s crime, such as it was, was merely one of degree. His report finally crossed the line beyond which it couldn’t be accepted. The reports have been heading in that direction for some time.
As originally conceived, the QDR process was supposed to be free-ranging, with the initiative and analysis proceeding from within the DoD and flowing upwards. The point was to free the DoD from the constraints of existing assumptions and refresh the thought processes of the top political leadership in both Congress and the Executive as it pertains to America’s military and defense strategies. In this it was initially successful.
The problem lay in the fact that the QDR was statutory. Hence, it became part of the DoD’s and the Armed Services Committee’s bureaucratic routine. Bureaucrats strongly tend to: plan solely in the short-term, operate from a top-down perspective, think almost entirely within the existing parameters, and seek to affirm the correctness of existing plans and programs of record. This is what happened with the QDR process.
It’s not all surprising that, by this point, the DoD under Hagel turned it into a purely political device. The QDR had, in all likelihood, already lost its purpose in their minds so they felt no compunction about not meeting its requirements. They had every reason to expect that Congress would just take a “business as usual” approach to reviewing it.