By any measure, the seven official studies surveyed in the preceding pages are extensive and wide ranging in the issues that they raise and the departures that they promote. Together, they put forth fully 671 pages of analysis for launching the national security strategies and defense plans of a new administration, a total that far surpasses the comparable publications of other incoming administrations for more than the past two decades. All of these studies are excellently written and cogently argued. They succeed in their core task of providing high-level, path-setting guidance to U.S. Government departments and agencies on creating new-era strategic goals and implementing agendas. In the process of providing an unusual degree of transparency, they offer the American people, as well as foreign countries, a great deal of material to chew on and digest. Regardless of whether their key judgments are accepted or rejected, those who read these studies will come away with a better sense of what the administration is thinking and where it proposes to lead the United States and the world.
Each of these seven studies is important in its own right and deserves to be read and evaluated on its individual merits. Equally important, they should be read and judged collectively because they combine to create a comprehensive blueprint for guiding how future strategies, policies, and plans are to unfold in ways intended to be mutually reinforcing and to produce cumulating results. This blueprint is not heavily infused with ideology from either end of the U.S. political spectrum. Instead, it comes across as mostly centrist, pragmatic, and technical in its thinking, but with features that have left some liberals perceiving too much conservatism at work, and some conservatives perceiving too much liberalism. Taken as a whole and judged in strategic terms, this blueprint can help promote bipartisan consensus in the field of national security strategy and defense planning. However, to the extent that it triggers partisan debate, it illustrates the difficulties of building full-f ledged bipartisanship in today’s polarized political climate.
A Blueprint of Continuity and Change. The seven studies form a comprehensive blueprint because they perform different functions that are designed to interlock in complementary ways. Essentially, the National Security Strategy of 2010 (NSS 2010) provides the political foundations for a new U.S. strategy that employs American economic renewal and a whole-of-government approach as engines for driving an assertive, refocused strategy of engagement abroad. A blend of continuity and change, this new strategy is focused on such top strategic priorities as strengthening homeland defense, defeating al Qaeda and succeeding in Afghanistan, preventing further proliferation of weapons of mass destruction (WMD), making the Middle East more secure, and building improved alliances and partnerships. These are all part of a larger effort aimed at creating a cooperative international order for handling common security challenges. Mainly preoccupied with articulating an integrated set of goals, this new strategy is both hopeful and ambitious. It not only employs multiple instruments, including diplomacy and civilian assets for comprehensive approaches in turbulent places, but it also acknowledges a need for strong U.S. military forces to help achieve national goals in peace, crisis, and war. By providing this political foundation for U.S. national security strategy, the NSS 2010 creates a framework for determining how the five subsequent studies, which mainly focus on military and defense issues, can be incorporated into the comprehensive blueprint.
The Quadrennial Defense Review (QDR) Report aspires to provide a new approach to U.S. defense planning that can serve the new national security strategy. Aimed at pursuing four strategic goals by strengthening U.S. military forces for six high-priority missions, it calls upon the Department of Defense (DOD) to pursue an agenda of rebalance and reform in ways that devote special attention to improving capabilities for current wars while remaining attentive to longer term imperatives. Its top priorities for rebalancing include defending the U.S. homeland, succeeding in counterinsurgency, stability, and counterterrorism operations, building the security capacity of partner states, improving U.S. military capabilities for performing in antiaccess environments, preventing WMD proliferation, and operating effectively in cyberspace. It calls for future U.S. military forces that are f lexible and adaptable in ways enabling them to handle a wide spectrum of contingencies, including two concurrent major operations. Although it cancels or scales back several expensive weapons acquisition programs, its reform agenda is focused on making DOD efforts in that area more effective, timely, and affordable.
Although written as a criticism of the QDR Report, the congressionally mandated QDR in Perspective (QDRP) Report is valuable as a complementary contribution because of the heightened attention that it devotes to forcesizing constructs, the need for a larger Navy, long-term modernization of U.S. forces, and vigorous reforms to the weapons acquisition process. It also calls for changes to the interagency process in ways that will enhance strategic planning at the onset of each administration. Together, the QDR Report and QDRP Report in particular provide a framework for judging how U.S. conventional forces should be improved and how new regional security and deterrence architectures are to be built.
The Nuclear Posture Review (NPR) Report complements the QDR Report and QDRP Report by providing a new strategy toward U.S. nuclear forces and preparations. It is focused on preventing WMD proliferation and WMD terrorism, reducing the role of U.S. nuclear forces in national security strategy, maintaining strategic deterrence and stability at reduced force levels, strengthening regional deterrence, reassuring allies and partners, and maintaining a safe and effective nuclear arsenal. As part of a large set of policies for reducing the role of nuclear weapons in U.S. strategy and preventing WMD proliferation, it strengthens already existing assurances that U.S. nuclear weapons will not be used against nonnuclear states that comply with Non-Proliferation Treaty provisions. In addition, it introduces the new and distant goal of ultimately achieving a world without nuclear weapons. For the long period until this goal can be accomplished, the NPR Report is attentive to U.S. requirements for capable nuclear forces at lower levels than now. It endorses the New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (START) reduction of U.S. and Russian forces to 700 strategic delivery vehicles and 1,550 warheads and calls for even larger reductions in subsequent negotiations. But it also calls for retaining a sizable triad of intercontinental ballistic missiles, ballistic missile submarines and submarine-launched ballistic missiles, and heav y bombers, for modernizing them in moderate ways and for strengthening management of the nuclear arsenal.
Of the five defense studies, the Ballistic Missile Defense Review (BMDR) Report puts forth the biggest change and newest thinking of all. Rather than continue solely with the Ground-based Midcourse Defense program aimed at defending the U.S. homeland from ballistic missile threats posed by such countries as North Korea and Iran, it proposes instead to broaden the ballistic missile defense effort by deploying significant numbers of SM–3 interceptors to defend regional allies and partners in Europe, Asia, and the Middle East. Judged in historical and strategic terms, this missile defense program is truly a sea-change in U.S. defense strategy with wider implications. The BMDR Report proposes to blend enhanced missile defenses with U.S. conventional forces and nuclear commitments to provide integrated military forces for underwriting efforts to create new security and defense architectures in all three regions. It suggests that as the contributions of missile defenses as well as U.S. and allied conventional forces increase, nuclear forces and commitments can play a reduced role. Consequently, the BMDR Report ushers into existence a new era for U.S. thinking about how best to achieve security and stability in Europe, Asia, and the Middle East.
Whereas all of these defense studies largely focus on U.S. military preparedness efforts, the NATO 2020: Assured Security; Dynamic Engagement (ASDE Report) focuses intently on how to energize the defense efforts of North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) Allies in Europe. Written to help advise NATO on how to write a new strategic concept, it calls upon NATO strategic planning to address new-era missions in Europe and distant regions. It proposes a set of changes aimed at enhancing the NATO ability to protect its exposed borders and to defend against such new-era threats as missile attack, terrorism, and cyber attacks. In addition, it calls upon the Alliance to improve its military forces and capabilities for expeditionary missions, embrace comprehensive approaches, and broaden its cooperation with partners from multiple regions. The effect is to give NATO plenty of new ideas and departures to think about as it charts the future over the coming decade.
The Quadrennial Diplomacy and Development Review (QDDR) Report puts forth a lengthy, intensive analysis of how U.S. civilian power should be increased, how diplomacy and development policies in troubled regions should be carried out, and how internal Department of State and U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) structures and operations should be reformed. Provided it is strongly implemented, it will enhance the capabilities of State and USAID to operate effectively in the coming years. The effect is to give the State Department and USAID a demanding but promising agenda to carry out in future years.
Lingering Issues. The comprehensive blueprint created by the seven official studies leaves lingering issues and controversies in its wake, all of which create reasons for further analysis aimed at resolving them in ways that further strengthen the blueprint while eliminating gaps and inconsistencies:
Future Analytical Challenges. In addressing these lingering issues, future analyses and studies will be well focused if they include the following topics:
Bottom Line. Individually and collectively, the seven official studies go a long way toward equipping the new U.S. national security strategy and defense plans with sound intellectual capital, including goals, policies, and improvement priorities. But they do not preclude the need for further thinking, analyzing, and refining. Indeed, they open the door to a new era of studies and analyses whose dimensions are now only beginning to be understood. Meeting this challenge will be a key part of handling the security, defense, diplomatic, and development agenda ahead.