Hill getting a long-awaited look at Pentagon's plans

Capitol Hill expects to receive the Pentagon’s much-overdue national military strategy to Capitol Hill this week, launching a year of weighty discussions with lawmakers on the future of the military’s plans, programs and force structure. The first national military strategy mandated by Congress since 1997, the comprehensive review was due to lawmakers more than a year ago. Only an unclassified version of the report has made the rounds on Capitol Hill.

Capitol Hill expects to receive the Pentagon’s much-overdue national military strategy to Capitol Hill this week, launching a year of weighty discussions with lawmakers on the future of the military’s plans, programs and force structure.

The first national military strategy mandated by Congress since 1997, the comprehensive review was due to lawmakers more than a year ago. Only an unclassified version of the report has made the rounds on Capitol Hill.

The document will feed into this year’s quadrennial defense review (QDR), a sweeping look at the Defense Department’s capabilities and plans that is expected to affect dramatically the way the military is organized and equipped, defense analysts have said.

Military officials have been waiting for Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld to sign off on the document before they can send the entire review, including classified sections, to Congress, sources said. Several classified annexes provide more details on force structure and other issues and include strategic assessments from Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Richard Myers.

The strategy is supposed to give lawmakers a view inside the uniformed military, unfiltered by Bush administration appointees. It was compiled by Myers with input from the service chiefs and combatant commanders.

“At a time when we’re deployed in numerous contingencies, this committee should have the benefit of General Myers’s and other senior military leaders’ thinking about our strategy and the forces we need to execute it,” Rep. Ike Skelton (D-Mo.), the ranking member on House Armed Services, said during a Feb. 16 committee hearing. “Why have we not received this document?”

Skelton, one of the authors of the provision in the 2004 National Defense Authorization Act that required the military review, has been grilling defense officials for the past year on when lawmakers could expect to receive the document.

Rumsfeld replied at the hearing that the Pentagon would send the document to Congress this month. A Pentagon spokeswoman said the Defense Department will publicly release unclassified portions of the review in April.

A 23-page unclassified version of the document describes how the military can protect the United States, prevent conflict and surprise attacks, and prevail against enemies. It also describes how the military services can operate as a cohesive, joint force and discusses transformation, force design and size.

The Pentagon plans to send the military strategy to the Hill along with Rumsfeld’s own national defense strategy, a broad look at overarching defense objectives, the congressional source said. Unlike the national military strategy, the national defense strategy is not required by Congress.
Pentagon officials told staffers last week that they will begin in-depth briefings to lawmakers and staff on the QDR once both documents are delivered to the Hill, the congressional source said. Until now, Congress has largely been kept out of the QDR process, which has been controlled by a small group of Rumsfeld’s closest advisers.

Sen. John Warner (R-Va.), chairman of the Armed Services Committee, said last month that the Pentagon had not yet approached him on the QDR, a treatment that was typical of the past two quadrennial reviews.

“We are not involved — and I’m not saying that in a pejorative way,” he said.
But top Pentagon officials have said in recent weeks that they plan to use feedback from both Capitol Hill and the defense industry.

The QDR has attracted the attention of Washington leaders and lobbyists alike, with the future of some multibillion-dollar platforms hinging on the outcome of the report. Already, the Pentagon has proposed cutting several weapons systems better suited for fighting state enemies than the more asymmetric threats the military expects to face in the future.

The quadrennial review is expected to shift the military away from strategies focused largely on major-theater wars, effectively ending the post-Cold War military philosophy that has dominated since the late 1980s. Instead, the review will consider how to prepare the military for numerous types of contingencies, including fighting terrorists and other non-state enemies.

It is the first time any administration has gotten a second crack at the quadrennial review — and the first QDR since the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.