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Quadrennial Defense Review: 2010 Report Addressed Many but Not All Required Items

GAO-10-575R Published: Apr 30, 2010. Publicly Released: Apr 30, 2010.
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The Department of Defense (DOD) is facing the complex challenge of simultaneously supporting continuing operations in Iraq and Afghanistan and preparing its military forces to meet emerging threats of the new security environment. Congress appropriated $626 billion for DOD's fiscal year 2010 budget and to support current operations. As we have emphasized in previous reports, the federal government is facing serious long-term fiscal challenges, and DOD may confront increased competition over the next decade for federal discretionary funds. The 2010 Quadrennial Defense Review (QDR), the fourth since 1997 and the second since the start of operations in Afghanistan and Iraq, articulates DOD's strategic plan to rebalance capabilities in order to prevail in current operations and develop capabilities to meet future threats. The QDR acknowledged that the country faces fiscal challenges and that DOD must make difficult trade-offs where warranted. Also, the QDR results are intended to guide the services in making resource allocation decisions when developing future budgets. This letter provides our assessment of the degree to which DOD addressed each of these items in its 2010 report on the QDR and the supplemental information provided to the defense committees.

DOD used the 2008 National Defense Strategy as the starting point for the 2010 QDR review. The strategy described an environment shaped by globalization, violent extremist movements, rogue and unstable states, and proliferation of weapons of mass destruction. For its 2010 QDR analyses, DOD examined forces needed for three different sets of scenarios, each consisting of multiple concurrent operations, chosen to reflect the complexity and range of events that may occur in multiple theaters in overlapping timeframes in the mid-term (5 to 7 years in the future). The range of potential operations included homeland defense, defense support to civil authorities responding to a catastrophic event in the United States, a major stabilization operation, deterring and defeating regional aggressors, and a medium-sized counterinsurgency mission. According to the QDR report, DOD used the results of its analyses to make decisions on how to size and shape the force and to inform its choices on resourcing priorities. For example, according to DOD officials, the proposed fiscal year 2011 defense budget focuses investments toward the priorities outlined in the QDR report, such as rebalancing the force. Our analysis showed that of the 17 required reporting items, DOD addressed 6, partially addressed 7, and did not directly address 4. The items not directly addressed included items addressing the anticipated roles and missions of the reserve component, the advisability of revisions to the Unified Command Plan, the extent to which resources must be shifted among two or more theaters, and the appropriate ratio of combat to support forces. According to DOD officials, these items were not directly addressed for a variety of reasons such as changes in the operational environment, the difficulty of briefly summarizing a large volume of data generated through the QDR analyses, or departmental plans to report on some items separately. The 2010 QDR report presented the results of DOD's review and, together with the supplemental information, addressed many of the reporting items that are required by law. The reasons for not directly addressing four of the required items are varied and include: reporting on items separately; the changing operational environment; or difficulty in succinctly characterizing voluminous data resulting from the scenario analyses.

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