“This is a landmark QDR,” Lynn told aerospace executives at the Aerospace and Defense Conference. “And it comes at a time when the nature of war is changing in ways that we need to adapt to. … The QDR seeks to identify these changes and the challenges they present to our security.”
The fiscal 2010 budget provided an important running start to the QDR, Lynn said. Difficult funding decisions made during the budget process reflect President Barack Obama’s and Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates’ strategic priorities, he said, and the QDR will build on this as it projects the way ahead.
Unlike previous QDRs, the current review puts the conflicts in Afghanistan and Iraq front and center, Lynn said.
“Secretary Gates has made clear that the conflicts we’re in should be at the very forefront of our agenda,” and set the priorities, Lynn told the executives. “He wants to make sure we’re not giving up capabilities needed now for those needed for some unknown future conflict. He wants to make sure the Pentagon is truly on war footing.”
The upcoming QDR also will reflect the changing nature of war and the threats the United States faces, he said.
Lethality no longer is directly related to a potential adversary’s capabilities, Lynn said. Insurgents and nonstate actors pose a threat once considered possible only at the highest ends of the lethality spectrum. The lines between conventional and conventional threats become increasingly blurred, Lynn said, as low-end actors gain access to high-end capabilities.
That demands that U.S. forces be agile enough to respond to low- and high-end as well as hybrid threats, he said. “They need what Secretary Gates has called the portfolio of military capabilities, with maximum versatility across the widest spectrum of conflict,” he said. “This includes the ability to fight irregular conflicts.”
So the upcoming QDR will seek to institutionalize both irregular warfare capability and an ability to stand up to other new and emerging threats, Lynn said, including cyber-threats, anti-satellite technologies and other asymmetric tactics that challenge U.S. conventional dominance.
With some 15,000 computer systems and 7 million computer devices, the Defense Department makes a tempting target to cyber-terrorists and more than 100 foreign intelligence organizations to hack into them, Lynn said.
“This is not an emerging theat. It’s not a future threat. The cyber threat is here today,” he said.
In response, Lynn said the QDR will address better ways to deter attacks on Defense Department systems while promoting an internal culture of responsibility that helps to safeguard information technology.
Meanwhile, Lynn said, the upcoming QDR will be linked to an unprecedented degree to a Quadrennial Diplomacy and Development Review under way within the State Department and the U.S. Agency for International Development.
That review “takes a hard look at the role of civilian instruments in our foreign policy,” Lynn said, and has big implications for the Defense Department.
“How we enroll all dimensions of our national power to avoid military action, or to ensure its success, are vital questions — questions with both policy and institutional ramifications,” he explained. Conducting the two reviews in concert will provide the administration more powerful, better coordinated interagency tools and approaches, he said.
For the Defense Department to adapt to be ready to respond to the broad range of potential threats requires a hard look at fixing shortcomings in its acquisition system, Lynn told the group. That’s particularly true with multiple competing funding priorities during a time of constrained resources.
“A modern, effective acquisition system should deliver savings and speed: savings to taxpayers, speed for warfighters,” he said. “And as we all know, today’s acquisition system often does neither.”
Lynn expressed confidence that an overhaul already under way, and to be an important part of the upcoming QDR, will accomplish what countless past efforts haven’t. Gates has made acquisition reform a top priority. The president has firmly, and publicly, supported the effort. Congress passed landmark acquisition reform legislation. And change is taking place within the Defense Department to bring more expertise, discipline and constraint to the process.
“For the first time in decades, the political and economic stars are aligned for a fundamental overhaul of the way the Pentagon does business,” Lynn said.