The leaked draft of the Quadrennial Defense Review—set to be officially released on Monday—has been making the rounds over the past couple days, and it provides a sneak peak of what Monday’s defense budget rollout might look like.
The report says that the Department of Defense is focused on “rapidly increasing the number and quality of the key enablers – fixed and rotary-wing lift, unmanned aerial systems, and a range of other combat support and combat service support assets – considered critical to success. Prevailing in this conflict also requires focused attention on increasing the ability of U.S. forces to train and partner, especially in combat, with Afghan army and police forces.”
Tech and training are two very different things, but both are critical if the United States is to be capable of countering non-state threats, near-peer threats, and building capacity in host nation security forces.
As far as homeland security technologies goes, there are a few interesting tidbits. The QDR calls for “Next generation over-the-horizon-radar (OTHR) technology” that can “counter maritime and air threats at a safe distance from the United States, DoD is exploring the application of state of the art OTHR technology to provide persistent beyond line-of-sight detection and tracking capability of maritime and air contacts approaching the coasts of the United States.”
Then there is something called “Rapid reaction tunnel detection” and a call to “Accelerate development of standoff radiological/nuclear detection capabilities” and to “Enhance domestic counter-IED capabilities.”
All interesting, and we’re curious to see what Monday’s budget rollout contains when it comes to these programs. Given the sad state of the nation’s sea port security, the OTHR technologies are particularly noteworthy. But away from the shores of the United States, the QDR also tells us that “more rotary wing lift capacity will be needed to ensure that coalition and Afghan forces can be resupplied at remote outposts and effectively cover their areas of responsibility.” As a result, USSOCOM “will field an additional company of cargo helicopters. And the general purpose forces will take steps, including expanding pilot training, to make selected vertical lift assets more readily accessible to forces in forward theaters of operations. The Navy, for example, will dedicate two helicopter squadrons for direct support to Naval Special Warfare units. And improved management of Army rotary wing assets will enable the deployment of a combat aviation brigade to Afghanistan.”
Other initiatives call for expanding electronic warfare capacity, in which the Air Force will outfit one additional C-130 aircraft in the EW configuration, while the Navy “will take steps to extend the service lives of its venerable EA-6B EW aircraft and will procure additional F/A-18Gs.”
There are also calls for increasing “key enabling assets” for Special Forces (something the folks at CSBA predicted earlier this week), turning an Army Heavy Brigade into a Stryker Brigade, making the Navy stand up a fourth riverine squadron, and directing the Air Force to field light attack and light mobility units. On top of this, the QDR says the DoD needs to increase its Civil Affairs capabilities, as well as ramp up its foreign security assistance abilities.
So, as with previous QDR’s, there’s a little bit of everything in there. The question is, can the United States afford all this while fighting two wars? We’ll know what the number crunchers think on Monday.