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U.S. Department of State

Diplomacy in Action

Preview of the 2014 Quadrennial Defense Review (QDR)

Deputy Under Secretary of Defense for Strategy, Plans, and Force Development Christine Wormuth
Washington, DC
March 5, 2014

3:30 P.M. EST


MS. WORMUTH: Thank you all for coming this afternoon. I hope you can hear me okay. It’s not a very big room, so I don’t want to shout at you. As Margaret* said, my name is Christine Wormuth. I’m the Deputy Under Secretary for Strategy, Plans, and Forces at the Department of Defense, and I wanted to take the opportunity this afternoon to talk to you all a little bit about the highlights of our QDR 2014. This is a strategic document that, as you all probably know, the Department of Defense puts out every four years. It’s an opportunity for the Secretary to articulate his vision for the Department of Defense for the next ten to 20 years and to talk about how that vision will inform our efforts in the Department to plan and program for our future U.S. military.

Before I sort of go into the substance of the document, I do want to underscore that this is a Department-wide effort. We undertake this process with the Office of the Secretary of Defense, the Joint Staff, the services, the combatant commanders around the world. So it’s very much a comprehensive effort. We also work closely with our partners in the interagency and the rest of the U.S. Government and at the National Security Council. So it’s very much a holistic approach to looking at our defense strategy.

This year’s QDR report has three primary themes. The first is to offer an updated defense strategy that builds on the defense strategic guidance that the Administration put out in 2012. The second major theme in the document is to talk about how we are responsibly and realistically rebalancing the military going forward in the next ten years, particularly given changes in the security environment but also changes in our fiscal environment, which I’m sure all of you have been monitoring closely. And the third major theme is talking about how the Department intends to rebalance itself internally to try and make itself more efficient to get more buying power for our defense dollars. And a particularly important piece of that is our effort to try to control internal cost growth, particularly in our compensation programs, which make up a very substantial part of our overall defense budget.

I would say that the QDR defense strategy, which is also called our national defense strategy, is an updated defense strategy, again, that builds on the priorities that were articulated in the 2012 defense strategic guidance. The first part of our QDR really looks at the security environment, and this is where we look out – we try to look out 20 years in the future to think about what are the challenges we think we may face, what kinds of threats are on the horizon, but also what kind of opportunities we see for the United States and our allies and partners to work together on common security challenges.

I would just highlight a couple of pieces in terms of the security environment. We continue to pay close attention to events in the Asia Pacific region. That’s obviously a very dynamic region where we see a lot of opportunity. We are, of course, concerned, however, about the activities in particular of North Korea in the Asia Pacific.

We also see a lot of continued instability in the Middle East. Particularly, we’re concerned about Sunni-Shia tensions and also the ongoing political transitions that are coming out of the Arab Spring in the last couple of years. Those transitions we expect to continue to take some time to resolve themselves.

We’re also focused on the terrorist threat. I think it’s fair to say, while we see that we have significantly degraded core al-Qaida in the FATA regions and the threat to the – the direct threat to the United States may be reduced compared to what it was immediately after the 9/11 attacks, al-Qaida and its affiliates have definitely spread and sort of franchised in various places around the world. We pay close attention to that and are very serious about making sure we have investments to deal with our counterterrorism capabilities, for example.

And finally I think I would flag the general influence of technology and the sort of empowerment and enabling of information technology that we see. We’re also very focused on the technological side at developments in the cyber and space domains. This is – cyber and space capabilities are obviously very important enablers for all of our operations across all of the parts of our strategy. We are also monitoring very closely the investments of other countries in the areas of space and cyber. We want to make sure that we have a good understanding and a good plan to protect against our vulnerabilities in those areas, and also to make sure that we have appropriate capabilities in those areas going forward.

In terms of the actual defense strategy that we articulate in the report, it really has three pillars. These pillars are, I would say, interrelated and interdependent. They’re not mutually exclusive. And again, they sort of incorporate important pieces of the defense strategic guidance, like the rebalance to Asia Pacific, like our continued focus on the Middle East, and working with allies and partners in the United States.

But we’ve tried to put that in a broader framework that highlights three big muscle movements. The first is an emphasis on protecting the homeland, and it’s in this part of our strategy where we think about the importance of our nuclear triad, for example, as a deterrent. This is where we are making investments in terms of our national missile defense system, again to protect against missile threats from countries like North Korea, but also the growing capabilities that Iran has. And this is also where we pay attention to capabilities we need to provide support to our own civil authorities here at home to protect against natural disasters or man-made events. That’s obviously a very important part of what we do in the Department. And ever since 2005 with Hurricane Katrina, we have been growing and developing and refining our capabilities in that area.

The second big pillar of our strategy is building security globally. This is a very important part of our strategy. It’s a major piece of our strategy where we work very closely with allies and partners. Here we are really talking about our forward presence, which is important in terms of deterring conflict, deterring coercive behavior, in regions around the world. This is where we would think about building partnership capacity, which is a very important part of our strategy. That’s a theme that’s been in our previous QDR 2010 and our Defense Strategic Guidance, but it’s a very important part of our strategy. This is also, I think, where you would see again our focus on continuing to implement the rebalance to Asia Pacific through things like transitioning 60 percent of our Naval fleet to the Asia Pacific region by 2020, for example; things like deploying the [Littoral Combat Ship] (LCS) to Singapore – the joint high-speed vessel, for example – those type of commitments, but also just a real emphasis on growing our alliances and partnerships in that region, in conducting more exercises of greater depth, and having a lot of senior leader engagements, which we’ve certainly been doing in the last year or two and continue – plan to continue doing that.

The third pillar in our strategy is sort of the more kinetic part of our strategy, which is projecting power and maintaining the ability to win decisively. And I think it’s fair to say that the ability of the U.S. military to go anywhere in the world quickly is sort of a signature of our military and one of our core competencies, if you will. We intend to sustain that, and under this pillar, in addition to being able to project power for things like helping allies and partners respond to natural disasters, for example like the recent typhoon in the Philippines, or the tsunami and earthquake in Japan a couple of years ago. This is also where we would think about the capabilities we need to respond to crises, potentially unforeseen crises. This is obviously where we would have our capabilities to be able to respond to a provocation, for example, on the Korean Peninsula.

This is also where we would think about a lot of our counterterrorism capabilities. And in the area of counterterrorism, the Department plans to continue to keep all of our capabilities to conduct direct action against terrorist groups where appropriate, where we see a direct and imminent threat. But we also are going to sort of rebalance our focus in this area to really emphasize building partnership capacity with countries around the world to help them strengthen their own internal capacity to deal with terrorist threats. So again, I think part of what we want to do here is use our special operations forces, as well as our general purpose forces, to be able to help allies and partners build that capacity.

Those are really the sort of the three pillars, and I would say underpinning all three of those pillars is a real emphasis on innovation and adaptability. So we’re trying to not just as a Department think about things like better business practices. We’re also trying to be more innovative in terms of how we deploy our forces around the world. So for example, we may deploy our carrier strike groups in new ways. We may break them up into smaller pieces so that they can do more in terms of exercises and port visits. We’re also looking at how we can deepen our strategic planning with close allies like the UK, for example, and we are exploring things like joint training ranges with countries around the world. That kind of innovation, we think, is very important to pursue.

At the President’s budget level, which is about $115 billion above the Budget Control Act level caps – I’m sure you’ve all heard a lot about sequester here in the United States and a lot of debate about that – the President yesterday put forward a budget that actually asks for more resources than we would get if sequestration were to continue. And he did that because he feels like we need those resources to be able to execute the updated strategy that I just sort of highlighted for you all. We can execute the strategy at that level of resources with some increased risk in a couple of mission areas.

I think that brings me to sort of the closing part of the QDR, and I’m sure you all know that the full report’s available, if you’re interested, on the Department’s website. But the last part of the report talks in some detail about what we think we would face if we return to sequester-level cuts – excuse me – in FY16 and beyond. And I think it’s fair to say that Secretary Hagel and Chairman Dempsey are quite concerned about what it would mean for our defense strategy if we are unable to find a solution to sequestration, because in addition to the kinds of reductions in the size of the Army and the Marine Corps, for example, that Secretary Hagel rolled out last week, if we don’t fix sequestration, we would have to make further cuts to the size of our military, but also make cuts into modernization, which we think would have negative impacts for our ability to counter anti-access and area denial threats that we see in a few different regions.

We also worry that at sequester-level cuts, we would have insufficient resources to ensure the kind of readiness levels that we need across the force, which is important on a day-to-day basis in terms of our ability to deploy forces around the world for the kinds of forward presence and partnership activities that I talked about, but also could have a real negative impact in terms of our ability to actually respond decisively in a major combat operation. So we would worry about things like conflicts taking longer and having higher casualties for the United States and for allies and partners that might be involved in those campaigns with us. So those are some of the very significant risks, I think, that we’re concerned about and that we have been highlighting particularly to Congress. The Secretary and the Chairman were up earlier in front of Congress today testifying about these issues, and I think we feel very strongly that we very much need Congress to approve the President’s budget level that was put forward so that we can execute this strategy, which we think is the right one for the United States.

So with that, why don’t I close my formal remarks, and I’d be happy to take questions on the QDR report.

MODERATOR: Okay. If you could wait for a microphone, please identify yourself and your outlet.

QUESTION: Thank you very much for doing this. My name is Donghui Yu with China Review News Agency of Hong Kong, and I have two questions, actually. The first one: rebalance to Asia Pacific is listed as the number one priority in the QDR. How important is the China factor to be considered when you prepare the QDR? Is China considered as a major challenge for the United States strategically?

And my second question is: Today China announced its defense budget for this year, which is increasing by 12.2 percent, and the spokesperson of Chinese foreign ministry said the foreign countries should not expect that China is a ‘boy scout’ that will not grow up forever. Do you have any comments on that? Thank you.

MS. WORMUTH: Thank you for your great question. I think we see – you’re correct. The rebalance to Asia Pacific is a very important part of our strategy. I don’t think I would go so far as to say it’s the number one priority. We, as a global leader, have a number of responsibilities and a number of priority areas, but it’s certainly one of the very important elements of our strategy.

I think it’s important to note that some have wanted to interpret the rebalance to Asia Pacific as an effort to contain China. It is not an effort to contain China. We see ourselves as a Pacific power, the United States, and we see a variety of opportunities in the region. It’s a very dynamic area. Our trade relationships are growing there with a number of countries. Certainly we have a very deep trade relationship with China. So I think it’s important to be clear that the rebalance is not aimed at a particular country.

That said, we certainly pay close attention to China’s military modernization and the general trends and directions in China’s military development. I think it’s our view that we would like to see more transparency in terms of Chinese intentions behind the various elements of its modernization, and certainly, in our bilateral discussions with China, have emphasized that we’d like to see more transparency. And so of course, we noted the reports of the investments that China will be making in its defense budget and pay close attention to that, and I think, again, would continue to call for greater transparency about its programs.

I think an important part of gaining that transparency is having a truly sustained and robust military-to-military dialogue with China, with the PLA, with the PLAN, and having a good set of senior leader exchanges. And we’ve put a lot of emphasis on those. Secretary Hagel has been to the region a number of times, and I think we are trying to grow the depth and maturity of that relationship.

MODERATOR: Okay. We’ll go to the last row.

QUESTION: Lee from KBS. What do you think is the most important change in this year’s QDR compared to the last one? I saw some – the increase of the foot soldiers – possibility of increase in foot soldiers to the Korean Peninsula. Is it right? And then also your paper put some stress on the military defense. So what do you think of the relation between the KA – KMD, Korean (inaudible) [Foreign Ministry and Defense Ministries], and then – and your military [Department of] Defense?

MS. WORMUTH: Thank you for that question. I would say the sort of – if I were to pick two things about the updated defense strategy that I think are significantly different from the defense strategic guidance, I would highlight, again, sort of a renewed emphasis on protecting the homeland. This is obviously – protecting the United States and its citizens here at home is our – one of our core responsibilities. It’s a vital national interest. And the Department of Defense in particular puts a lot of emphasis on that role and on that responsibility. We spend more time, I think, talking about it in more detail than we did in the [Defense Strategic Guidance] (DSG), although frankly, it’s been an important part of our strategy and an important mission throughout.

The other piece that I think is new compared to the DSG is the emphasis on innovation and adaptability across all of our strategy. And previously, I think the Department, when it talked about innovation or reform, has been primarily focused on the internal institution and how we’re organized and improving our acquisition systems and things of that nature. Here, we’re really trying to talk more comprehensively about the ways that we are pursuing our strategy. And again, that can be everything from how we work with allies and partners in terms of building joint capabilities to how we deploy forces around the world – our Global Force Management Process – to how we think about operational concepts in our war plans.

So those are sort of the two big new things I would point to. In terms of the – sort of the specific application of our strategy to the Korean Peninsula, I would say again a couple of different things. Our alliance with South Korea is incredibly strong. We take those responsibilities very, very seriously. We are very focused on ensuring that we partner with the ROK to provide security and stability on the Korean Peninsula. It’s an incredibly important relationship, and we are very focused on it. And I think we feel confident that with the force that we have going forward and the strategy that we have, that we will be able to meet our responsibilities with the ROK to address threats that we might see from the DPRK.

MODERATOR: Okay. We’ll go to the middle here, this gentleman.

QUESTION: Hi. Thanks for doing this. I’m Andreas Ross with the German newspaper Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung. Couple of questions, if I may. One of the more surprising elements of what I have read so far of the text was the continual reference to a – I don’t think you formulate it like that, but the crisis of readiness in the armed forces, particularly in Chairman Dempsey’s remarks. Is that something that is, in your assessment, only due to the sequester, basically to budgetary strains, and how does the new strategy address these to make them ready? If you could just speak to that and what that – those problems consist.

The other question is, of course, the timing had it that this comes in the midst of the Ukrainian crisis. You said you tried to look 20 years ahead, and you didn’t come up with a scenario where there might be in at least a not totally unreasonable worst case scenario a civil war in an important European country involving Russia. So if things deteriorated down that road in Ukraine, what’s left of the QDR? Is that – does everything have to be reviewed? Thanks.

MS. WORMUTH: Two very good questions. Why don’t I take the second one first? I think a strategy would not be a very good strategy if it was designed to try to deal with the crisis of next week, next month, even next year. You want to design a strategy that’s broad enough and flexible enough to be able to respond to any number of developments that might come up. I think we are humble about our ability to predict the future, and certainly the United States hasn’t always predicted security events very well when we look to the past. So I think I would argue that our strategy is sufficiently flexible and gives us the tools that we need to be able to address a whole range of crises. And what’s going on in Ukraine right now, I don’t think, invalidates our strategy at all. We – working with our NATO partners and our European partners has been an important part of our strategy, continues to be an important part of our strategy. Making sure that we can live up to our NATO treaty obligations is an important part of our strategy, and we will have the tools available to do what’s needed over time.

I think at this point, in terms of the – what’s going on in Ukraine right now, it’s very important – Secretary Hagel outlined this when he spoke earlier this morning – we’re focused right now on de-escalating the crisis, supporting the new government in Ukraine, and reaffirming our commitment and reassuring our Central European and Eastern European allies. We are, in the Department, focused on supporting the President’s emphasis on economic and diplomatic tools to try to bring solutions to the process. So in terms of the military right now, I think really the focus is on the diplomatic and economic pieces, tools that we have available. So I would definitely push back on the notion that current events right now somehow invalidate our strategy.

Turning to the readiness piece, that’s a great question. I think it’s fair to say that the readiness challenges that we have been experiencing in the past year and that could potentially continue if we return to sequester level cuts are not exclusively due to sequester. We have spent 10 years in Iraq and Afghanistan. Our forces have been deeply engaged and very heavily used. And so just coming out of those two major operations, we’ve had significant readiness issues that we’ve had to address. And we’ve been trying to – prior to [President Obama’s budget for Fiscal Year 2014] (PB14), we’ve been trying to put resources to try to start restoring readiness in our services.

The sequester year in Fiscal Year ’13 was definitely a significant problem for us in terms of readiness, and that was a setback. Again, I think you know the relief that we got through the Balanced Budget Act, the Ryan-Murray legislation that passed relatively recently, particularly in [FY]14, we were able to use those funds to buy back a lot of readiness – training hours, flying hours, things like that. And the $26 billion package that we’ve put forward in FY15, if we were to get that funding from Congress, much of that would go towards trying to address readiness, as well as fix some of our modernization issues.

So it’s not, strictly speaking, sequester, but certainly sequester has deepened the problem. And we’re very mindful of the fact that it takes time, as – that readiness erodes, and it takes time to build that back up. It tends to have some cascading effects that are particularly pernicious.

MODERATOR: Okay. You had a question (inaudible.)

QUESTION: Pat Reber from the German Press Agency. Basically, my colleague back there already asked my question, but I wanted to add to that --

MS. WORMUTH: Great minds think alike. (Laughter.)

QUESTION: Secretary Hagel last week outlined the possibility or the likelihood that there will be more reductions in the U.S. force in Europe, and I’m wondering if you can comment on that in light of, again, the events in Ukraine.

MS. WORMUTH: Yes. I think at this time our focus has been, and we’ve had a process ongoing, looking at how we might consolidate some of our infrastructure in Europe. The Department certainly has made some reductions to its troop presence in Europe over the last few years, but for the moment we’re really more focused on looking at consolidating infrastructure as opposed to additional troop reductions on top of what’s already been done. So we’re really looking at, again – it’s a little bit like – it’s a little analogous to the base closure process that we’d like to see here in the United States. So we’re looking at, to the extent, for example in Germany, that there are many smaller training centers or different types of facilities, do we need to have all of those? Can we consolidate to gain some efficiencies?

We are very focused on ensuring that we have the forces we need in Europe to both partner with NATO countries and other partners, to work on interoperability, to work on, again, maintaining ready forces for NATO, but also in terms of partnering with the Europeans on common threats like terrorist threats. And so as we’ve looked at our posture in Europe, we’ve been very focused also on looking at kind of what we call new normal challenges – after the Benghazi attack, looking at what kind of a posture do we need to be able to be responsive in areas close to but not necessarily in Europe, both to, again, deal with violent extremist threats but also to try to ensure the safety of our personnel and our facilities.

So I think at this point, I would really focus on the fact that we’re looking at our infrastructure and not looking to make substantial reductions in our troop presence. I mean, again, if we were to undergo prolonged sequestration in the future years, and had to go to the lower sized Army, for example, of course at some point we’ll have to look at where those reductions will be taken. But that – we’re not there now.

QUESTION: Thank you.

MODERATOR: Okay. A gentleman in the back there had a question first. I’ll come to you next.

QUESTION: Thank you. I’m Kakumi Kobayashi with Kyodo News of Japan, and I’m going back – would like to go back to the Asia Pacific issues. And I’m wondering if you could give us a little more details about the phrase in the QDR report which is enhancements to the crucial Navy’s presence in Japan. So could you tell us what kind of ideas you have in mind, something like actually increasing number of vessels for deploying in Japan, or replacing the current ships with more modernized ships or something like that? Thank you.

MS. WORMUTH: Thank you for that question. I would make a couple of comments on that. For example, we’re deploying a – excuse me – a second [Transportable Radar Surveillance] (TPY-2) radar to Japan. That’s underway. We are looking at, as part of the broader rebalance to Asia Pacific effort – not specific, necessarily, to Japan – as new capabilities like the F-35, for example, come online, sending those new capabilities out to the Asia Pacific theater first, in advance of going potentially to other places in the world. So I think broadly, we’re talking about those kinds of – those kinds of deployments going forward in the future.

MODERATOR: Okay. Gentleman just in the front there.

QUESTION: Hi. Kim, of Yonhap News Agency, South Korea. What’s your assessment of North Korean factor in your strategy for 20 years? Is there --

MS. WORMUTH: I’m sorry, you said the North Korean --

QUESTION: North Korean factor.

MS. WORMUTH: Oh. Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: Yeah. Is there any contingency plan going on? And within 20 years, a kind of (inaudible) or in (inaudible), what’s the possibility of cooperation with Korea and possibly with China? And there is also the – a transport of the (inaudible) in Korea. And what is your prospect about that and expectation of Korea’s participation in (inaudible)? Thank you.

MS. WORMUTH: Thank you for those questions. I can sort of speak broadly as to how it pertains to the QDR. Some of your more specific questions you may want to address to our public affairs officer, who can probably connect you to people like Dave Helvey [Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for East Asia], who can give you very specific answers. But I think – I would say we are – as the QDR says, we’re concerned, obviously, about developments in North Korea. We see – Kim Jong-un is obviously a new leader is consolidating his power. The regime remains very insular and closed, and has engaged in a series of provocations, not very recently, but – we are working very, very closely, as I said earlier, with South Korea, with the South Korean ministry of defense and military forces, to do everything we can to partner and ensure there is stability on the peninsula.

I think we’ve developed, as I’m sure you know, together with the ROK a counter-provocation plan that’s designed to help us coordinate and respond to potential future provocations more effectively than ever before. So I think we see that as a major challenge for us in the region, but luckily, it’s grounded in an alliance that we think is working very, very well.

On Op-Con transfer, we have spelled out, I think in [Strategic Alliance 2015] (SA 2015), the intention to eventually transfer operational control. That remains, that timeline. We are always, in the context of our alliance with the ROK, assessing the conditions on the peninsula and thinking through sort of when the right time is. So that’s an ongoing dialogue in the context of the alliance, but the parameters of Strategic Alliance 2015 are in place.

MODERATOR: Okay. We’ll go to the last row there.

QUESTION: Hi. Thank you for coming. I’m Kuniaki Kitai from Jiji Press, a Japan news agency. And my question goes for technical side. And my understanding is the last QDR describe about a Joint Air-Sea Battle concept. And my understanding is in this time around, there’s no mention on this concept. So could you give us why you omit the detailed description of the concept from the latest QDR?

MS. WORMUTH: Sure, thank you. I think it’s – please don’t read anything into the fact that this QDR doesn’t have the phrase “air-sea battle concept.” We have an office, as I’m sure you know, responsible for developing and fleshing out the air-sea battle concept. We still have it. My organization works closely with that office and many other offices to think through different elements of our rebalance to Asia Pacific. That concept is an important part of how we’re thinking about operational concepts in the future. We are working on, and I think the QDR does talk about investments we’re making specifically in terms of getting better, a posture that’s more resilient in the Asia Pacific and more able to operate under the threat of missile threats, for example. And so many of the ideas that air-sea battle is exploring, we are now starting to actually put concrete investments against to try to start working on exercises, for example, that would be exercising the dispersal of our forces in the region, again so that we could operate more effectively, making investments in things like airfield repair and damage repair, so the kinds of things that air-sea battle office is looking at are very much things that are still of interest and of importance to the Department.

MODERATOR: Okay. If there are no other questions, thank you very much for coming today.

MS. WORMUTH: Thanks, everyone.


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