Opening Statement of Senator Carl Levin,Senate Armed Services Committee Hearing on the Report of the Quadrennial Defense Review Independent Panel

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Good morning. The committee meets this morning to receive testimony on the report of the Quadrennial Defense Review (QDR) Independent Panel. Our witnessesthe co-chairs of the independent panelare well known leaders with long careers in and out of government.

We are grateful for the willingness of former Secretary of Defense, William J. Perry and former National Security Advisor Stephen J. Hadley to serve as co-chairs.

We are also thankful for the efforts of your 16 other panel members. They have brought a breadth and depth of expertise that is evident throughout a report that is comprehensive, insightful, and even provocative in its many findings and recommendations.

The QDR is a congressionally-mandated comprehensive examination of our national defense strategy, force structure, modernization, budget plans, and other defense plans and programs intended to shape defense priorities, operational planning, and budgets projected as far as 20 years into the future.

In 2007, Congress required that the Secretary of Defense create an independent panel of experts to conduct a review of the Department's QDRan independent review that had not been done since the very first QDR back in 1997. This new independent panel is tasked with providing Congress its assessment of the QDR's stated and implied assumptions, findings, recommendations, vulnerabilities of the underlying strategy and force structure, and providing alternative force structures, including a review of their resource requirements.

Last February, the Defense Department delivered its QDR report. This is another explicitly "wartime" QDR, as was the last report in 2006, that emphasizes the need to succeed in the conflicts in Iraq, Afghanistan, and against al Qaeda and ensuring that our strategy and resource priorities support that objective. The QDR also argues for realignment of investments from programs that it sometimes describes as relics of the Cold War, toward those that support critical joint missions, including countering anti-access strategies; building the capacity of partner states; and ensuring access to cyberspace. The QDR report also proposes measures to reform institutional procedures, including acquisition, security assistance, and export control processes.

The independent panel acknowledges the QDR is a wartime review that is "understandably and appropriately" focused on responding to the threats America now faces. However, they are also critical that, like previous QDR's, it fails to provide long term planning guidance for the threats the nation could face in the more distant future. In taking its own longer, fiscally unconstrained view of America's strategic challenges, the independent panel makes findings and recommendations that raise important questions and provide policy and program options that we will explore in the months, even years ahead.

The panel's report begins with the recognition of the many shortfalls in civilian capacity necessary to meet the modern demands of the current and future security and stability environment. The panel reiterates the long-standing call for participation of U.S. and international civilians (both government and non-government) in preventing conflict and managing post-conflict stability situations.

In some of the panel's most far-reaching and provocative recommendations, they challenge both the administration and Congress to reform our national security institutions and processes. Among other changes, the panel calls for restructuring the U.S. Code to realign and integrate executive department and agency responsibilities and authorities; expanding the deployable capabilities of civilian agencies; and consolidating the budgeting processes and appropriations of the Departments of Defense and State and the intelligence community. We will want to learn more from our witnesses about these proposals and which of them, in their view, are the most important to address in the near and long term.

The panel goes on to warn us about what it calls the "growing gap" between what the military is capable of doing and what they may be called upon to do in the future. To reduce this gap, the panel essentially argues that defense spending should be substantially increased, despite the current economic environment and the department's plans for modest real growth for the foreseeable future.

With respect to force structure, the panel's most significant recommendation would increase the size of the Navy to 346 ships to promote and protect our strategic interests in the Pacific. We'd be interested to know from our witnesses in what way the QDR force is inadequate to this challenge and what specific additional capabilities the panel believes are necessary for that region and what missions are the priorities.

In the area of personnel, the panel commends the QDR's emphasis on the strategic importance of sustaining the all-volunteer force that has performed so magnificently over the last almost ten years of war. The panel notes, however, that the recent and dramatic cost growth of the all-volunteer force is unsustainable for the long term and will likely lead to reductions in force structure and benefits, or a compromised volunteer system altogether. Higher cost per service-member, as the panel points out, could mean fewer service-members, resulting in an increased number of deployments for those in service and greater stress on them and their families. It is a vicious budgetary cycle. Nevertheless, the panel recommends increasing the Navy end strength while maintaining the current strengths of the other services. We are interested to hear from our witnesses more about their recommendations in this area, which include some kind of a bifurcated compensation and assignment system for career and non-career military members.

Many of the panel's acquisition-related recommendations echo Congress's long-standing concerns and legislation previously enacted by this committee. For example, the panels call for the increased use of competition and dual sourcing parallels requirements enacted in last years Weapon Systems Acquisition Reform Act. The same is true of the panels call for increased emphasis on technologically mature programs that can be delivered in the shortest practical time. Similarly, the panels call for shortening the acquisition process for wartime response to urgent needs appears to be consistent with provisions already included in the National Defense Authorization Act reported by our committee earlier this year.

The panels recommended realignment of acquisition process responsibilities and authorities, however, is less clear. We look forward to learning more from the witnesses regarding the panel's recommendations for adjustments to the lines of authority established two decades ago in response to the recommendations of the Packard Commission and to the increased role that the combatant commanders are already playing in the acquisition process.

Finally, the Independent Panel followed our statutory guidance and conducted its review of the QDR and strategic assessments from a fiscally unconstrained perspective. When reading their report, however, one cannot escape questioning the affordability of many of their recommendations, particularly given the current state of our economy and budget deficit.

The panel recommends that, in order to meet the greater costs associated with its recommendations for force structure increases, the department and Congress should restore fiscal responsibility to the budget process that was lost when balanced budget rules were set aside at the beginning of the war. Those rules force decision makers to make tradeoffs and identify offsets to cover those increased costs. Does the panel recommend other steps to generate the resources necessary to pay for its many proposals?

We thank our witnesses and their panel colleagues for this significant contribution to our ongoing national security debate. There is much here to discuss as we work together to meet the challenges that confront our nation today and well into the future.