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Disarmament Diplomacy

Issue No. 60, September 2001

Documents & Sources

US Quadrennial Defence Review

Quadrennial Defense Review (QDR) Report, US Department of Defense, September 30, 2001.

Notes: the full text of the QDR is available from the Pentagon at http://www.defenselink.mil/pubs/qdr2001.pdf. US nuclear weapons policy is being considered in a Nuclear Posture Review (NPR) due to be concluded by December this year.

Foreword by Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld

"The Quadrennial Defense Review was undertaken during a crucial time of transition to a new era. Even before the attack of September 11, 2001, the senior leaders of the Defense Department set out to establish a new strategy for America's defense that would embrace uncertainty and contend with surprise, a strategy premised on the idea that to be effective abroad, America must be safe at home. It sought to set the conditions to extend America's influence and preserve America's security. The strategy that results is built around four key goals that will guide the development of US forces and capabilities, their deployment and use:

  • Assuring allies and friends of the United States' steadiness of purpose and its capability to fulfil its security commitments;
  • Dissuading adversaries from undertaking programs or operations that could threaten US interests or those of our allies and friends;
  • Deterring aggression and coercion by deploying forward the capacity to swiftly defeat attacks and impose severe penalties for aggression on an adversary's military capability and supporting infrastructure; and
  • Decisively defeating any adversary if deterrence fails.

A central objective of the review was to shift the basis of defense planning from a 'threat-based' model that has dominated thinking in the past to a 'capabilities-based' model for the future. This capabilities-based model focuses more on how an adversary might fight rather than specifically whom the adversary might be or where a war might occur. It recognizes that it is not enough to plan for large conventional wars in distant theaters. Instead, the United States must identify the capabilities required to deter and defeat adversaries who will rely on surprise, deception, and asymmetric warfare to achieve their objectives. ...

The Quadrennial Defense Review and the accompanying report were largely completed before the September 11, 2001 terror attacks on the United States. In important ways, these attacks confirm the strategic direction and planning principles that resulted from this review, particularly its emphasis on homeland defense, on surprise, on preparing for asymmetric threats, on the need to develop new concepts of defense, on the need for a capabilities-based strategy, and on the need to balance deliberately the different dimensions of risk. However, the attack on the United States on September 11, 2001 will require us to move forward more rapidly in these directions, even while we are engaged in the war against terrorism."

I. America's Security in the 21st Century

"Current Security Trends

Although US military forces enjoy superiority in many dimensions of armed conflict, the United States is likely to be challenged by adversaries who possess a wide range of capabilities, including asymmetric approaches to warfare, particularly weapons of mass destruction. The United States cannot predict with a high degree of confidence the identity of the countries or the actors that may threaten its interests and security. But it is possible to identify the trends that will give rise to important threats and opportunities. ...

Diminishing protection afforded by geographic distance. As the September 2001 events have horrifically demonstrated, the geographic position of the United States no longer guarantees immunity from direct attack on its population, territory, and infrastructure. Although the United States and its overseas forces were vulnerable to Soviet missiles during the Cold War, it is clear that over time an increasing number of states will acquire ballistic missiles with steadily increasing effective ranges. ...

Regional security developments. ... The United States and its allies and friends will continue to depend on the energy resources of the Middle East, a region in which several states pose conventional military challenges and many seek to acquire - or have acquired - chemical, biological, radiological, nuclear, and enhanced high explosive (CBRNE) weapons. These states are developing ballistic missile capabilities, supporting international terrorism, and expanding their military means to coerce states friendly to the United States and to deny US military forces access to the region.

With the notable exception of the Balkans, Europe is largely at peace. Central European states are becoming increasingly integrated with the West both politically and economically. An opportunity for cooperation exists with Russia. It does not pose a large-scale conventional military threat to NATO. It shares some important security concerns with the United States, including the problem of vulnerability to attack by ballistic missiles from regional aggressors, the danger of accidental or unauthorized launch of strategic weapons, and the threat of international terrorism. Yet, at the same time, Russia pursues a number of objectives contrary to US interests. ...

Key Military-Technical Trends. ...

Increasing proliferation of CBRNE weapons and ballistic missiles. The pervasiveness of proliferation in an era of globalization has increased the availability and expertise needed to create the military means to challenge directly the United States and its allies and friends. This includes the spread of CBRNE weapons and their means of delivery, as well as advanced conventional weapons. In particular, the pace and scale of recent ballistic missile proliferation has exceeded earlier intelligence estimates and suggests these challenges may grow at a faster pace than previously expected. Likewise, the biotechnology revolution holds the probability of increasing threats of biological warfare.

Emergence of new arenas of military competition. Technological advances create the potential that competitions will develop in space and cyberspace. Space and information operations have become the backbone of networked, highly distributed commercial civilian and military capabilities. This opens up the possibility of space control - the exploitation of space and the denial of the use of space to adversaries - will become a key objective in future military competition. ...

Increasing potential for miscalculation and surprise. ... In recent years, the United States has been surprised by the speed with which other states have progressed in developing weapons of mass destruction and ballistic missiles. In the future, it is unlikely that the United States will be able to predict how successfully other states will exploit the revolution in military affairs, how rapidly potential or actual adversaries will acquire CBRNE weapons and ballistic missiles, or how competitions in space and cyberspace will develop."

II. Defense Strategy

"Deterring threats and coercion against US interests. A multifaceted approach to deterrence is needed. Such an approach requires forces and capabilities that provide the President with a wider range of military options to discourage aggression or any form of coercion. In particular, it places emphasis on peacetime forward deterrence in critical areas of the world. ... This new approach to deterrence also requires non-nuclear forces that can strike with precision at fixed and mobile targets throughout the depth of an adversary's territory; active and passive defenses; and rapidly deployable and sustainable forces that can decisively defeat any adversary. A final aspect of deterrence, addressed not in the QDR but in the Nuclear Posture Review, is related to the offensive nuclear response capability of the United States.

If deterrence fails, decisively defeat any adversary. US forces must maintain the capability to support treaty obligations and defeat the efforts of adversaries to impose their will on the United States, its allies, or friends. US forces must maintain the capability at the direction of the President to impose the will of the United States and its coalition partners on any adversaries, including states or non-state entities. Such a decisive defeat could include changing the regime of an adversary state or occupation of foreign territory until US strategic objectives are met."

III. Paradigm Shift in Force Planning

"The DoD civilian and military leadership approached the force planning task acutely aware of the need to provide over time a richer set of military options across the operational spectrum than is available today and to ensure that US forces have the means to adapt in time to surprise. ...

[T]he [new] approach shifts the focus of US force planning from optimising for conflicts in two particular regions - Northeast and Southwest Asia - to building a portfolio of capabilities that is robust across the spectrum of possible force requirements, both functional and geographical. ...

[T]he new construct serves as a bridge from today's force, developed around the threat-based, two-MTW [Major Theatre of War] construct, to a future, transformed force. The United States will continue to meet its commitments around the world, including in Southwest and Northeast Asia, by maintaining the ability to defeat aggression in two critical areas in overlapping timeframes. The United States is not abandoning planning for two conflicts to plan for fewer than two. On the contrary, DoD is changing the concept altogether by planning for victory across the spectrum of possible conflict."

IV. Reorienting the US Military Global Posture

"Based on changes in the international security environment, DoD's new strategic approach, and this transformed concept of deterrence, the US global military posture will be reoriented to: ...

  • Provide sufficient mobility...to conduct expeditionary operations in distant theaters against adversaries armed with weapons of mass destruction and other means to deny access to US forces. ..."

V. Creating the US Military of the 21st Century

"Six critical operational goals provide the focus for DoD's transformation efforts:

  • Protecting critical bases of operations (US homeland, forces abroad, allies, and friends) and defending CBRNE weapons and their means of delivery; ...

Future adversaries will most certainly have a range of new means with which to threaten the United States. It is possible to identify confidently some of these means, including new techniques of terror; ballistic and cruise missiles; weapons of mass destruction, including advanced biological weapons; and weapons of mass disruption, such as information warfare attacks on critical information infrastructure. Others, like those used to attack the United States on September 11, 2001, may be a surprise. Defenses against known and emerging threats must be developed. ...

DoD must also undertake high-fidelity transformation exercises and experiments that address the growing challenge of maintaining space control or defending against attacks on the US national information infrastructure. DoD will establish a space test range for this purpose. Enabling these kinds of exercises will be a major challenge for the Department's transformation effort. ...

Transformation Initiatives

1. Protect bases of operation at home and abroad and defeat the threat of CBRNE weapons.

... DoD is enhancing its anti-terrorism and force protection programs. It is also increasing investment in chemical and biological countermeasures...

The continued proliferation of ballistic and cruise missiles poses a threat to US territory, to US forces abroad, at sea, and in space, and to US allies and friends. To counter this threat, the United States is developing missile defenses as a matter of priority. Integrating missile defenses with other defensive as well as offensive means will safeguard the Nation's freedom of action, enhance deterrence by denial, and mitigate the effects of attack if deterrence fails. The ability to provide missile defenses in anti-access and area-denial environments will be essential to assure friends and allies, protect critical areas of access, and defeat adversaries. DoD must be prepared to provide near-term capabilities to defend against rapidly emerging threats and more robust capabilities that evolve over time.

DoD has refocused and revitalized the missile defense program, shifting from a single-site 'national' missile defense approach to a broad-based research, development, and testing effort aimed at deployment of layered missile defenses. These changes in the missile defense program will permit the exploration of many previously untested technologies and approaches that will produce defenses able to intercept missiles of various ranges and in various phases of flight. These defenses will help protect US forward-deployed forces. Moreover, they will provide limited defense against missile threats not only for the American people, but also for US friends and allies. ...

3. Protect and sustain US forces in distant anti-access and area-denial environments.

... DoD must carefully monitor attempts by adversaries to develop capabilities that could detect and attack US forces as they approach conflict areas or hold at risk critical ports and airbases with missiles and CBRNE attacks. ...

5. Enhance the capability and survivability of space systems.

... Ensuring the freedom of access to space and protecting US national security interests in space are priorities for the Department. ... As the foundation for space control, space surveillance will receive increased emphasis. ... In recognition of the high-technology force multipliers provided by space systems, the QDR places increased emphasis on developing the capabilities to conduct space operations. ..."

© 2001 The Acronym Institute.