U.S. Quadrennial Defense White paper: Critical Analysis

Publication of Q.D.R

On February 3, 2006, the U.S. Defense Department released its third Quadrennial Defense Review [Q.D.R.]. The American Congress supervised the Q.D.R. functions and treated as a “Defense White Paper”. It defines Washington’s defense strategy and projecting/predicting a twenty-year program for implementing it. Mandated by the Military Force Structure Review Act of 1997.


It had predicted by many prominent US defense advisors and international political pundits alike it to be crafted exclusively under Rumsfeld’s guidance. The mark significant revisions in U.S. policy were expected and substantial increase in defense budget was also in sighted. According to the officials of Pentagon it is to meet the challenges posed by international Islamic revolutionary networks, failed states and the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction to smaller powers hostile to Washington’s interests. The U.S. military establishment had placed the long war or hot pursuits of unfinished agenda against Islamic revolutionaries at the top of its list of priorities and was repositioning itself to fight it.

Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice

In the recent past the Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice signaled remarkable shift in US foreign and diplomatic strategy it is seemed that the Q.D.R. preserved every major weapons system and requirements of the US military supremacy.

Opinion of the independent defense analysts

Independent defense analysts, opposition leaders and the last not the least think tanks criticized the Q.D.R. They said that it lacked focus and was probably unrealistic According to them the document lacked focus and credibility, representing a failure to prioritize that resulted in a wish list, all of which could not be satisfied in a period of ballooning federal budget deficits.

Failure of Rumsfeld

They termed it as the failure of Rumsfeld to turn around the Pentagon bureaucracy and the senior officer corps, and direct them toward commitment to his vision of a flexible force structure. The Q.D.R. had not accomplished its mission and could not serve as a reliable guide to Washington’s defense strategy. The Q.D.R. is a compromising document pleasing all the main stakeholders. That such an agreement was not reached reflects the continued existence of a policy void. That void opened up after the unilateralist vision of “Washington’s 2002 National Security Strategy” was discredited by the limitations of U.S. power revealed during the Iraq intervention.

Difference of Opinion

The major policy difference is indicated most decisively in the press briefing given by Principal Deputy Undersecretary of Defense for Policy Ryan Henry, where he defined the “broad contemporary security environment” as "uncertain and unpredictable."

Saying of Ryan Henry

Henry predicted that U.S. forces would be engaged in violent conflict somewhere in the world during the coming decade, but he could not mention when that engagement would happen or where it would be. Failure to identify specific threats and to attempt to gauge their probabilities led directly to the idea that governed the Q.D.R. U.S. military presence must be capable of being everywhere and doing everything.

Prioritization of threats

  • Traditional threats from near-peer powers explicitly China
  • Disruptive catastrophic threats natural disasters and release of weapons of mass destruction,
  • Humanitarian crises especially in most of the African countries
  • Terrorist actions/attacks especially in Middle East region, Afghanistan, Iraq, and some parts of the Latin American countries
  • Proliferation of W.M.D.’s to hostile states, North Korea, Iran
  • Prolonged irregular" conflicts following regime change (Iraq), and failed states (Syria, Iran).
  • Trade threats from China and the EU
  • Drug traffickers and organized crime
  • Environmental sabotage, attacks on computer-based information networks and interference with commercial communications
  • National Interests. Protecting the sovereignty, territory, and population of the United States, and preventing threats to our homeland, including NBC attacks and terrorism; preventing the emergence of a hostile regional coalition or hegemony; ensuring freedom of the seas and security of international sea lines of communication, airways, and space; ensuring uninhibited access to key markets, energy supplies, and strategic resources; deterring and, if necessary, defeating aggression against U.S. allies and friends.

Wish List of Pentagon

U.S. military strategy must be "capabilities-driven" rather than "threat-driven”

  • A new generation of fighter planes, naval destroyers, nuclear submarines
  • A high-tech combat system for the army
  • An increase in special operations forces
  • Civil affairs capability
  • New coastal and riverine capability for the navy
  • An undefined long-range strategic strike capability
  • A program to meet the threat of bio-terrorism
  • Capacity for sustained operations
  • Sea basing of expeditionary forces to replace bases outside the U.S. etc. etc.
  • Replace aging weapon systems with more modern and capable systems.
  • Exploit the “Revolution in Military Affairs” [RMA] by “harnessing new technologies to give U.S. forces greater military capabilities through advanced concepts, doctrine and organizations.
  • Exploit the “Revolution in Business Affairs” [RBA] to greatly improve the efficiency and effectiveness of DoD’s support infrastructure and to ensure that sufficient funding is available to carry out current modernization plans.
  • Take steps to hedge against unlikely, but potentially significant, future threats.
  • Procurement funding would eventually increase to about $50 billion a year.
  • Cut the BUR’s force structure and personnel goals from about 1.4 million active duty troops to 1.3 million in order to protect modernization

Failure to prioritization (multi-polar vs. uni-polar)

It is based politically on a deadlock of interests within the defense community and conceptually on the scenario of uncertainty. Deeper cause of the Q.D.R.’s lack of focus is the absence of a resolute strategy. Whereas the State Department under Rice has moved forthrightly to an acknowledgment of a multi-polar configuration of world power, the Defense Department is caught between the persistence of the Uni-polar vision that makes Washington the backer of a global constancy favorable to its perceived interests and a dawning acceptance of a multi-polar world.

Secretary of State Condoleezza’s Vision

She announced reposition diplomatic resources from Europe and Washington to emerging power centers in Asia, Africa, South America and the Middle East, and to reorganize the administration of foreign aid by creating the post of director of foreign assistance, whose occupant would coordinate aid programs that are currently dispersed among several agencies and bring them into line with Washington’s broad foreign policy goals.

Coexistence of The uni-polar and multi-polar

It is obvious that the coexistence of the uni-polar and multi-polar visions appears throughout the Q.D.R. And it is most prominent in the “twin judgments” that the U.S. must have the military capability of "deter" any state especially a near-peer power from threatening its interests anywhere in the world and that the US must rely on "indirect" projection of power through partnering with other regional power centers (India, China Brazil, Egypt, Indonesia and South Africa) which is a concession that it cannot take care of its security alone. September 9/11, failure in Iraq, Afghanistan, worsening relationships with Latin American countries, unsuccessful supply mechanism of oil & gas, Georgia’s Rose Revolution and Ukraine’s Orange Revolution, deadly issue of nuclear technology of North Korea and Iran, unstoppable economic march of China, and the last not the least rise of strong socio-economic regionalism in shape of the EU-25 forced the US to change its geo-strategic interests.

Root of the Q.D.R.’s lack of focus

The strategic irresolution between the uni-polar and multi-polar visions is at the root of the Q.D.R.’s lack of focus, and reflects a failure to undertake a reassessment of what Washington’s interests are in the different regions of the world. Such a reassessment would presumably have resulted in an acknowledgment of multi-polarity and the beginning of a readjustment to the regional redistribution of world power that Rice has recognized and upon which she has acted.

Admittance of the US

“The complex web of convergent and divergent interests occurs within the context of a dispersion of power among regions the hallmark of multi-polarity”.

The Washington has begun to accept a world in which the US does not shape the course of history/nations according to its own agenda, but is a major player in an intricate and evolving pattern of cooperative and competitive relations, it has positioned itself to develop strategies for restoring some of the influence that it has lost as a result of the Iraq intervention and, far more important, as a consequence of the redistribution of global power that was beyond its control. Such strategic innovation in response to poly centricity is behind Rice’s State Department reforms.

Anti-Chinese Document

The Q.D.R. recognizes India, Russia and China regional power and may be potential threats to the US in the future. Of the three rising military power centers, the Q.D.R. names “India as a key strategic partner”; “Russia as a potential threat” if it moves in an authoritarian and nationalistic direction, but not in the coming decade; and “China as a genuine potential rival” if it moves to gain hegemony in East, Southeast and Central Asia. Indeed, it is the perceived threat from Beijing that is used to justify continued expenditures on new generations of conventional weapons systems.

The Q. D. R.’s approach to China

It combines the wish to cooperate with China in managing its successful rise to great power status and to "dissuade" it from taking any military action to alter the balance of power in its region. To achieve so a bilateral agreement has been made especially in the field of trade and commerce. The US wants to help its strategic allies, Japan, South Korea and Australia in order to defuse the increasing geo-political and geo-strategic influences of China. The US also wants to have formal or de facto alliance with India thereby encircling China. The most recent talks between the USA and India on the issues of “Nuclear Technology” and “Transfer of Military Technology” verify the US strategic vision in the region.

Multidimensional preparations of the US

The US is also busy in constantly increasing its “Naval Force” levels in the region and adding coastal capabilities, and developing long-range means of strategic penetration. The ongoing unseen wish for regional possession and supremacy agenda may start a deadly arms race in the region. Both the governments have already increased their military budgets. Current military” includes Dept. of Defense ($449 billion), the military portion from other departments ($114 billion), and an un-budgeted estimate of supplemental appropriations ($100 billion). “Past military” represents veterans’ benefits plus 80% of the interest on the debt.

Chinese Views about Preemptive Warfare

Chinese defense officials argued that the US had not backed away from its insistence on trying to maintain its military supremacy and an absolute advantage in weapons, "preserving its option to wage “Preemptive Warfare” and keeping its global reach. They treated Q.D.R. as “Beijing’s 2005 defense white paper”. Chinese defense officials stressed that China has no military bases outside its borders and that the U.S. has more than 100 foreign bases and 100,000 troops in Asia. General Peng Guanghian said that the Q.D.R. functioned primarily to help the U.S. arms industry.

Concluding Remarks

The Third Quadrennial Defense Review [Q.D.R.] lacks of focus and fail to prioritize threats and responses to them. It indicates that the U.S. defense planners and establishment have yet to make the transition from a uni-polar to a multi-polar mechanism. It could not understand the configuration of world power, and are caught between the two visions, attempting to satisfy the demands of both. Many defense analysts, think tanks and political pundits treated it anti-Chinese and lack of clarity of vision and focus. They viewed it as unrealistic in light of impending budgetary restraints, leaving the difficult task of prioritization to Congress and the jockeying among interest groups, and further down the road to the next U.S. president.

Severe tussle is going on between the US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice (pioneer of multi-polar policy), and Vice President Dick Cheney, Rumsfeld US Secretary of defence (uni-polar) and senior officials of Pentagon. It is predicted that the US may select a middle path between uni-polar and multi-ploar policies.