August 05, 2013

Pentagon’s Strategic Review Leaves Critical Questions Unanswered, Say CNAS Experts

The Strategic Choices and Management Review (SCMR) released by Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel last week failed to offer specific guidance on how the Pentagon will deal with ongoing budget cuts or to set the terms for the 2014 Quadrennial Defense Review (QDR), according to two experts at the Center for a New American Security (CNAS).  Senior Fellow LTG David W. Barno, USA (Ret.) and Deputy Director of Studies Dr. Nora Bensahel note in a commentary published today that, while the SCMR offers "a menu of options linked to various levels of budget cuts," it reaches few conclusions. 

Decisions Deferred: Balancing Risks for Today and Tomorrow.

According to the authors, the SCMR did examine various scenarios related to defense budgets and sequestration, but it did not provide useful guidance for the forthcoming QDR, which must make key strategic choices.  LTG Barno and Dr. Bensahel note that the QDR will need to choose between current capacity today and high-end capability tomorrow.   In other words, they ask, "should the United States primarily invest in today to buy down risk now, or tomorrow to offset greater risk then?" 

"The demands of the urgent - today's headlines - risk distorting the longer range demands of the important, and someday, the existential," the authors argue.  Thus,  the QDR must make this fundamental strategic choice that the SCMR left unanswered.

The Center for a New American Security (CNAS) is an independent and non partisan research institution that develops strong, pragmatic and principled national security and defense policies.  CNAS leads efforts to help inform and prepare the national security leaders of today and tomorrow.