Thursday, December 8, 2005

The Pentagon, in a major four-year decision, has decided to stick with having the capability of being able to fight two major conflicts at once, The Washington Times has learned.

Two officials said that when the Quadrennial Defense Review (QDR) is completed next month, it will retain the requirement that the Pentagon maintain active forces and reserves able to repel and occupy an enemy in one war and defeat a second enemy but not necessarily occupy the capital.

The decision is one of the most important that Pentagon leaders make every four years in the congressionally mandated QDR. From the two-war requirement, other major decisions flow, such as the number of active and reserve troops, fighter air wings and Navy carrier battle groups, and major weapons systems to be procured.

Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld is expected to approve the new QDR next month and present it to Congress in February. A Pentagon spokesman said no public comment on the QDR decisions would be issued until then.

The 2005 QDR, two sources said, generally will endorse the current military strategy known as “1421.”

The first number represents defending the home front. The “four” is the ability to deter hostilities in four global regions. The “two” is the overriding requirement to defeat two enemies nearly simultaneously. The final “one” is having the capability of decisively defeating one of those enemies and occupying the country if necessary.

Pentagon planning groups have been brainstorming over major QDR decisions for months and at one point considered reducing the military’s two-war-plus requirement. But planners, using a tenet that came to be known as “operational availability,” decided that a transformed force, even while being used in the global war on terror, still can meet its major war requirements.

Officials think that transforming the 10-division active Army into 70 mobile brigades allows the service to meet future challenges with fewer soldiers.

“The new brigades are so much more mobile and lethal than they used to be,” said a senior defense official, citing better precision-guided weapons, improved intelligence links and shorter logistics tail. “They are easier to get to the fight. … A new Army brigade has more firepower than an old Army division.”

Likewise, Navy planners think the fleet today, with 11 carrier battle groups instead of 12, represents more firepower because of better weapons and intelligence links.

“We’re able to be more lethal with lower numbers,” said the source, who, like the other official, asked not to be named.

In a speech Monday, Mr. Rumsfeld revealed his thinking as the QDR deadline neared.

“I think if I had to pull out one lesson that we’ve learned over the past four or five years, it would be that in the 21st century we’re going to have to stop thinking about things, numbers of things, and mass, and think also and maybe even first about speed and agility and precision,” he said.

“The Navy, for the sake of argument, has been able to go from X number of ships down to a much lower number,” but each carrier group’s firepower is “vastly greater than it was five years ago.”

The Pentagon is not likely to terminate any major weapons systems for the 2005 QDR, after killing the Army’s next general scout-attack helicopter and self-propelled howitzer. Defense sources said planners may trim the Air Force’s buy of F-22 Raptor stealth fighters and order the Army to restructure its Future Combat System, a network of armored vehicles and aircraft.

Mr. Rumsfeld also shepherded the 2001 QDR, but it was being finalized on September 11, 2001, and planners did not have time to fully incorporate the war on terror into the document.

Besides the Afghanistan and Iraq wars, the Pentagon has created Northern Command, with the principal task of defending the United States, and empowered Special Operations Command to head the global war on terror.

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