The U.S. Defense Department has called for changes to its structure and capabilities to make the U.S. military more effective at facing the challenges of the 21st century. On Friday, the department published the results of a long awaited review of its policies and operations, in a document designed to shape U.S. defense policy for years to come.
The man who coordinated the document, Deputy Undersecretary of Defense Ryan Henry, says there is no major strategy change in it. He told a news conference the main goals of U.S. defense policy continue to be to provide strength for allies, to deter potential adversaries, partly by demonstrating that armed conflict would be futile, and to defeat any enemy if that becomes necessary. But he said there will be important changes in how that strategy is implemented. "We need to adjust how we apply that strategy beyond the traditional set of challenges, which we have prepared for and equipped for for the last century, because in this century we have a different set of challenges," he said.
Undersecretary Henry says those new challenges include insurgencies, the potential for terrorists to attack with weapons of mass destruction and attacks on the U.S. technological infrastructure or economy. "What we need to do is we need to provide our commander-in-chief more options with which to deal with those challenges in the coming years," he said.
To do that, the document called the Quadrennial Defense Review calls for an increase in military special forces, including commando-style units that can strike quickly anywhere in the world, an increased focus on homeland defense and more cooperation with other countries. Undersecretary Henry says that includes more authority for the Defense Department to train foreign military forces like it is doing now in Afghanistan and Iraq, well beyond what current security assistance programs provide. "We want to be able to come up with authorities that we're able to do a better job across the U.S. government of being able to develop capabilities in other countries," he said.
Undersecretary Henry mentioned Africa in particular as an area where there have been successful U.S. military training programs, and where more can be done. He also said the United States will increase efforts to work with countries at what he called "strategic crossroads." He listed China, India and Russia as being among such countries. The document also calls for more help for countries that have trouble controlling their territory, creating areas where terrorists can operate.
The Quadrennial Defense Review, or QDR, also maintains a strategy laid out in the last such document four years ago, the need to be able to fight two major wars simultaneously. But Undersecretary Henry says now the Pentagon recognizes that one of those wars might be against an insurgency rather than a traditional state-to-state conflict.
The undersecretary says the 2007 budget, which is to be released on Monday, will include some investments designed to begin moving the department in the directions laid out in the QDR. But he says most of the spending will come in later years, and as much as possible will be funded from cuts in other defense programs.
Undersecretary Henry says one intangible but important result of the review process was a unified understanding of U.S. defense goals among senior officials and military commanders, and a new, more cooperative spirit among the sometimes competing branches of the U.S. military. He says now he wants to expand that understanding to the broader U.S. society. "We think that it's appropriate now, despite the fact we've been inclusive and brought in different departments and different countries and consulted outside groups in doing this QDR, we think it needs to enter into a larger public debate about where the country is and how do we pursue this long war," he said.
That phrase, "long war," is a new way U.S. officials are describing the global war on terrorism. "Long war" is a term Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld says is designed to convey that the United States, its allies and other countries, including Muslim countries, are involved in a long, multi-faceted struggle against radical Islam, just as many of those same countries fought and won the lengthy Cold War against communism.