Work has begun on the Quadrennial Defense Review, and Air Force Maj. Gen. Steven L. Kwast believes the review can help leaders understand the security environment and tailor forces to best operate in a new world.
Kwast heads the Air Force QDR office at the Pentagon and says this is a unique time for the review. He spoke to the Defense Writers Group March 15.
“We’re coming out of Afghanistan and Iraq, we have a new strategic guidance that shifts the balance towards Asia, and we have a global fiscal reality that is unique,” he said. “Those things all come together in a way … that makes this an opportunity to have a significant discussion about strategy for the next 20 years and whether this is one of those inflection points … to adjust that strategy.”
Congress requires the report, and it is due in 2014. Leaders in both the executive and legislative branches of government use the review to assess risks, make budgeting decisions and look at resources.
“Whenever we have uncertainty in budget, whenever we have uncertainty in the strategic environment, there is nothing more important than stepping back and thinking strategically,” Kwast said. “What is that we’re trying to do here, and how can we ensure that we are formed for the purpose that we are created for?”
Kwast said DOD is in a “crazy place” right now in regards to finances and resources. But even with this uncertainty, “as long as we build things that have the attributes – flexibility, adaptability and resilience – then you can fuse and form and swarm your way to fit the problem that emerges.”
The military also can adjust capabilities and capacities for the budget topline. “The real genius of this work … is that we articulate a strategic vision for how we approach the defense of this nation that is consistent regardless of political party and regardless of topline,” he said. “We can adjust and still maintain our core purpose.”
The QDR expresses “the theology” behind defense strategy, Kwast said. “We are still on this journey from a Cold War structure … and shaping it into a structure that has more agility, flexibility and resilience,” he said.
The review seeks to understand the entire battlespace – land, sea, air, space and cyber. All these realms are interconnected and leaders must understand these connections as they approach national security, he said.
The other services are working with the Air Force, Joint Staff and Defense leaders to formulate strategy and capitalize on savings by building a joint force.
“We must be more integrated in a fuller way,” Kwast said. “If we continue clinging to our tribalism in a way that does not provide solutions to the nation, that truly have the efficiencies and agilities that come with the cross-domain capability, then we will be insufficient for the tasks that appear in our future.
“If we do that, then we’re going to fail the nation,” he continued. “We have to do this jointly. There’s no other option.”