DEFENSE

DOD's Wormuth smacks down QDR criticism

The Defense Department is reinforcing the old saying: amateurs talk strategy, professionals talk logistics.

Speaking to a packed house at the Center for Strategic & International Studies Monday, Christine Wormuth, deputy undersecretary for strategy, plans and force development, hit back against accusations that the DoD’s 2014 Quadrennial Defense Review is too budget-driven.

“Being a global leader does not come cheap,” she said, making the comparison that “you can’t live in a mansion if you’re working on a middle-class salary.”

Rep. Buck McKeon, chairman of the House Armed Services Committee, rejected the QDR last week, saying the report “has more to do with politics than policy and is of little value to decision makers.”

He continued: “This QDR provides no insight into what a moderate-to-low risk strategy would be, is clearly budget driven, and is shortsighted.”

At CSIS, Wormuth said divorcing strategy from logistics was “more of a graduate seminar exercise” than a real-world approach.

The CSIS panel of experts that discussed the QDR and the fiscal 2015 budget after Wormuth’s remarks noted the focus on funding.

“Strategy is at the margins (in the QDR),” said CSIS senior fellow Samuel Brannen. “The greatest issue is the resource issue.”

The Pentagon’s five-year spending plan is already shooting above sequestration levels of funding, by about $115 billion.

If forced to return to sequestration-level spending in 2016, Wormuth said the DoD would be forced to further reduce the size of both the Army and Marine Corps, eliminate Air Force platforms and cut one aircraft carrier, along with other ships, from the Navy.

Senior defense officials echoed Wormuth’s assessment Monday, saying maintaining a capable military requires adequate funding levels.

“Additional resources are needed and warranted to execute (our) strategy,” Wormuth said, noting that America needs to ask itself what kind of role it wants to play in the world.

Still, despite the dire discussion of strained resources and force level cuts, Wormuth characterized strategic shifts in the QDR as “an evolution in strategy, not a revolution.”

She also noted that QDR, along with the president’s tech-heavy budget proposal, emphasizes investment in promising technology.

“(We’re seeing) things that seemed to be science fiction five to 10 years ago but are now becoming reality,” she noted.

Continued investment in cyber, special operations and unmanned vehicles would be key to maintaining the military's ability to adequately defend interests abroad and on the homefront, she said. 

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