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Quadrennial Defense Review (QDR) 2014

The 2014 Quadrennial Defense Review (QDR) seeks to adapt, reshape, and rebalance our military for the strategic challenges and opportunities we face in the years ahead. The QDR describes the tough choices being made in a period of fiscal austerity to maintain the worlds finest fighting forces. These include reducing force structure and expanding critical capabilities, modernizing the forces, and investing in readiness. Although the future force will be smaller, it will be ready and capable to project power over great distances.
Quadrennial Defense Review (QDR) 2014

Quadrennial Defense Review (QDR) 2014

Executive Summary

The United States faces a rapidly changing security environment. We are repositioning to focus on the strategic challenges and opportunities that will define our future: new technologies, new centers of power, and a world that is growing more volatile, more unpredictable, and in some instances more threatening to the United States. Challenges to our many allies and partners around the globe remain dynamic and unpredictable, particularly from regimes in North Korea and Iran. Unrest and violence persist elsewhere, creating a fertile environment for violent extremism and sectarian conflict, especially in fragile states, stretching from the Sahel to South Asia, and threatening U.S. citizens abroad. Meanwhile, modern warfare is evolving rapidly, leading to increasingly contested battlespace in the air, sea, and space domains – as well as cyberspace – in which our forces enjoyed dominance in our most recent conflicts.

Our sustained attention and engagement will be important in shaping emerging global trends, both positive and negative. Unprecedented levels of global connectedness provide common incentives for international cooperation and shared norms of behavior, and the growing capacity of some regional partners provides an opportunity for countries to play greater and even leading roles in advancing mutual security interests in their respective regions. In addressing the changing strategic environment, the United States will rely on our many comparative advantages, including the strength of our economy, our strong network of alliances and partnerships, and our military’s human capital and technological edge. Doing so will require exceptional agility in how we shape, prepare, and posture the Joint Force.

The Department of Defense is also facing a changing and equally uncertain fiscal environment. Beginning with the Fiscal Year (FY) 2012 appropriations, the Department began absorbing significant impacts from the $487 billion, ten-year cut in spending due to caps instituted by the Budget Control Act (BCA) of 2011. The BCA also instituted a sequestration mechanism requiring cuts of about $50 billion annually. The Bipartisan Budget Act of 2013 provided modest immediate relief from sequestration, but unless Congress acts, annual sequestration cuts are set to resume in FY2016. To protect the security interests of the United States most effectively while recognizing the fiscal imperative of deficit reduction, the President’s FY2015 Budget reduces projected defense budgets by about $113 billion over five years compared to levels requested in the FY2014 Budget. The President’s Budget provides a balanced and responsible path forward given continuing fiscal uncertainty. It reflects the strict constraints on discretionary funding required by the Bipartisan Budget Act in FY2015, but it does not accept sequestration levels thereafter, funding the Department at about $115 billion more than projected sequestration levels through 2019.

Given this dynamic environment, the 2014 Quadrennial Defense Review (QDR) is principally focused on preparing for the future by rebalancing our defense efforts in a period of increasing fiscal constraint. The 2014 QDR advances three important initiatives. First, it builds on the Defense Strategic Guidance, published in 2012, by outlining an updated defense strategy that protects and advances U.S. interests and sustains U.S. leadership. Second, the QDR describes how the Department is responsibly and realistically taking steps to rebalance major elements of the Joint Force given the changing environment. Third, the QDR demonstrates our intent to rebalance the Department itself as part of our effort to control internal cost growth that is threatening to erode our combat power in this period of fiscal austerity. We will protect the health of the All-Volunteer Force as we undertake these reforms.

The QDR makes clear that this updated national defense strategy is right for the Nation, sustaining the global leadership role of the United States and providing the basis for decisions that will help bring our military into balance over the next decade and responsibly position us for an era of both strategic and fiscal uncertainty. The FY2015 funding levels requested by the President will allow the military to protect and advance U.S. interests and execute the updated defense strategy – but with increased levels of risk for some missions. We will continue to experience gaps in training and maintenance over the near term and will have a reduced margin of error in dealing with risks of uncertainty in a dynamic and shifting security environment over the long term. The President’s “Opportunity, Growth, and Security” Initiative would add $26 billion in FY2015 defense investments, allowing the Department to continue restoring and sustaining readiness, investing in weapons modernization, and making needed facilities improvements – significantly mitigating these risks. Overall, the Department can manage these risks under the President’s FY2015 Budget plan, but the risks would grow significantly if sequester-level cuts return in FY2016, if proposed reforms are not accepted, or if uncertainty over budget levels continues. It is essential that we work closely with Congress to ensure that, as we put our Nation’s fiscal house in order, we provide sufficient resources to preserve our national security.


The United States exercises global leadership in support of our interests: U.S. security and that of our allies and partners; a strong economy in an open economic system; respect for universal values; and an international order that promotes peace, security, and opportunity through cooperation. Protecting and advancing these interests, consistent with the National Security Strategy, the 2014 QDR embodies the 21st century defense priorities outlined in the 2012 Defense Strategic Guidance. These priorities include rebalancing to the Asia-Pacific region to preserve peace and stability in the region; maintaining a strong commitment to security and stability in Europe and the Middle East; sustaining a global approach to countering violent extremists and terrorist threats, with an emphasis on the Middle East and Africa; continuing to protect and prioritize key investments in technology while our forces overall grow smaller and leaner; and invigorating efforts to build innovative partnerships and strengthen key alliances and partnerships. The 2014 QDR builds on these priorities and incorporates them into a broader strategic framework. The Department’s defense strategy emphasizes three pillars:

  • Protect the homeland, to deter and defeat attacks on the United States and to support civil authorities in mitigating the effects of potential attacks and natural disasters.
  • Build security globally, in order to preserve regional stability, deter adversaries, support allies and partners, and cooperate with others to address common security challenges.
  • Project power and win decisively, to defeat aggression, disrupt and destroy terrorist networks, and provide humanitarian assistance and disaster relief.

These pillars are mutually reinforcing and interdependent, and all of the military Services play important roles in each. Our nuclear deterrent is the ultimate protection against a nuclear attack on the United States, and through extended deterrence, it also serves to reassure our distant allies of their security against regional aggression. It also supports our ability to project power by communicating to potential nuclear-armed adversaries that they cannot escalate their way out of failed conventional aggression. Building security globally not only assures allies and partners and builds their capacity but also helps protect the homeland by deterring conflict and increasing stability in regions like the Middle East and North Africa. Our ability to project forces to combat terrorism in places as far away as Yemen, Afghanistan, and Mali – and to build capacity to help partners counter terrorism and counter the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction (WMD) – reduces the likelihood that these threats could find their way to U.S. shores.

Across each of the three pillars of the updated defense strategy, the Department is committed to finding creative, effective, and efficient ways to achieve our goals and assist in making strategic choices. Innovation – within our own Department and in our interagency and international partnerships – is a central line of effort. We are identifying new presence paradigms, including potentially positioning additional forward deployed naval forces in critical areas, and deploying new combinations of ships, aviation assets, regionally aligned or rotational ground forces, and crisis response forces, all with the intention of maximizing effects while minimizing costs. With our allies and partners, we will make greater efforts to coordinate our planning to optimize their contributions to their own security and to our many combined activities. The impacts of climate change may increase the frequency, scale, and complexity of future missions, including defense support to civil authorities, while at the same time undermining the capacity of our domestic installations to support training activities. Our actions to increase energy and water security, including investments in energy efficiency, new technologies, and renewable energy sources, will increase the resiliency of our installations and help mitigate these effects.

Reflecting the requirements of this updated defense strategy, the U.S. Armed Forces will be capable of simultaneously defending the homeland; conducting sustained, distributed counterterrorist operations; and in multiple regions, deterring aggression and assuring allies through forward presence and engagement. If deterrence fails at any given time, U.S. forces will be capable of defeating a regional adversary in a large-scale multi-phased campaign, and denying the objectives of – or imposing unacceptable costs on – a second aggressor in another region.

The President’s Budget provides the resources to build and sustain the capabilities to conduct these operations, although at increased levels of risk for some missions. With the President’s Budget, our military will be able to defeat or deny any aggressor. Budget reductions inevitably reduce the military’s margin of error in dealing with risks, and a smaller force strains our ability to simultaneously respond to more than one major contingency at a time. The Department can manage these risks under the President’s FY2015 Budget plan, but the risks would grow significantly if sequester-level cuts return in FY2016, if proposed reforms are not accepted, or if uncertainty over budget levels continues.


Given major changes in our nation’s security environment – including geopolitical changes, changes in modern warfare, and changes in the fiscal environment – our updated defense strategy requires that the Department rebalance the Joint Force in several key areas to prepare most effectively for the future.

Rebalancing for a broad spectrum of conflict. Future conflicts could range from hybrid contingencies against proxy groups using asymmetric approaches, to a high-end conflict against a state power armed with WMD or technologically advanced anti-access and area-denial (A2/AD) capabilities. Reflecting this diverse range of challenges, the U.S. military will shift focus in terms of what kinds of conflicts it prepares for in the future, moving toward greater emphasis on the full spectrum of possible operations. Although our forces will no longer be sized to conduct large-scale prolonged stability operations, we will preserve the expertise gained during the past ten years of counterinsurgency and stability operations in Iraq and Afghanistan. We will also protect the ability to regenerate capabilities that might be needed to meet future demands.

The Joint Force must also be prepared to battle increasingly sophisticated adversaries who could employ advanced warfighting capabilities while simultaneously attempting to deny U.S. forces the advantages they currently enjoy in space and cyberspace. We will sustain priority investments in science, technology, research, and development both within the defense sector and beyond. The Department is taking steps to ensure that progress continues in areas most critical to meeting future challenges such as full-spectrum cyberspace capabilities and where the potential for game-changing breakthroughs appears most promising. We will actively seek innovative approaches to how we fight, how we posture our force, and how we leverage our asymmetric strengths and technological advantages. Innovation is paramount given the increasingly complex warfighting environment we expect to encounter.

The United States will maintain a worldwide approach to countering violent extremists and terrorist threats using a combination of economic, diplomatic, intelligence, law enforcement, development, and military tools. The Department of Defense will rebalance our counterterrorism efforts toward greater emphasis on building partnership capacity, especially in fragile states, while retaining robust capability for direct action, including intelligence, persistent surveillance, precision strike, and Special Operations Forces. We will remain focused on countering WMD, which undermine global security. We will sustain efforts to strengthen key alliances and partnerships, placing more focus on deepening existing cooperation as well as building new and innovative partnerships. Finally, Combatant Commanders will invigorate their efforts to adjust contingency planning to reflect more closely the changing strategic environment.

Rebalancing and sustaining our presence and posture abroad to better protect U.S. national security interests. In striving to achieve our three strategic objectives, the Department will also continue to rebalance and sustain our global posture. We will continue our contributions to the U.S. rebalance to the Asia-Pacific region, seeking to preserve peace and stability in a region that is increasingly central to U.S. political, economic, and security interests. Faced with North Korea’s long-range missiles and WMD programs – particularly its pursuit of nuclear weapons – the United States is committed to maintaining peace and security on the Korean Peninsula. As part of our broader efforts for stability in the Asia-Pacific region, the United States will maintain a robust footprint in Northeast Asia while enhancing our presence in Oceania and Southeast Asia. As we end combat operations in Afghanistan, we are prepared to transition to a limited mission focused on counterterrorism and training, advising, and assisting Afghan security forces.

The United States also has enduring interests in the Middle East, and we will remain fully committed to the security of our partners in the region. We will continue to maintain a strong military posture in the Gulf region – one that can respond swiftly to crisis, deter aggression, and assure our allies and partners – while making sure that our military capabilities evolve to meet new threats. Given our deep and abiding interests in maintaining and expanding European security and prosperity, we will continue our work with allies and partners to promote regional stability and Euro-Atlantic integration, as well as to improve capacity, interoperability, and strategic access for coalition operations. Across the globe, we will ensure the access needed to surge forces rapidly in the event of a crisis.

Rebalancing capability, capacity, and readiness within the Joint Force. After more than twelve years of conflict and amid ongoing budget reductions, the Joint Force is currently out of balance. Readiness further suffered due to the implementation of sequestration in FY2013, and the force has not kept pace with the need to modernize. We will need time and funding to reset and reconstitute the Joint Force as we transition from operations in Afghanistan. The President’s FY2015 Budget proposal outlines a range of realistic and responsible adjustments in specific areas the Department believes must be made in the near term to restore balance in the Joint Force. The force will become smaller in the next five years but will gradually become more modern as well, with readiness improving over time. Taking the prudent steps outlined in this QDR in the near term will improve the Department’s ability to meet our national security needs should the fiscal outlook not improve. The longer critical decisions are delayed in the hope that budget caps will be raised, the more difficult and painful those decisions will be to implement, and the more damaging they will be to our ability to execute the strategy if no additional resources are made available. Key end strength and force structure decisions in this QDR include:

  • Maintaining an Air Force with global power projection capabilities crucial for this updated defense strategy. We will modernize next-generation Air Force combat equipment – including fighters and bombers – particularly against advancing modern air defense systems. To free resources for these programs as well as to preserve investments in critical capabilities, the Air Force will reduce or eliminate capacity in some single-mission aviation platforms. If sequestration-level cuts are imposed in FY2016 and beyond, the Air Force would have to retire 80 more aircraft, slow down purchases of the Joint Strike Fighter, and make other difficult adjustments.
  • Sustaining a world-class Army capable of conducting the full range of operations on land, including prompt and sustained land combat as part of large, multi-phase joint and multinational operations by maintaining a force structure that we can man, train, equip, and keep ready. To sustain this force, the Department will rebalance within the Army, across the Active, Guard, and Reserves. The active Army will reduce from its war-time high force of 570,000 to 440,000-450,000 Soldiers. The Army National Guard will continue its downsizing from a war-time high of 358,000 to 335,000 Soldiers, and the U.S. Army Reserve will reduce from 205,000 to 195,000 Soldiers. If sequestration-level cuts are imposed in FY2016 and beyond, all components of the Army would be further reduced, with active duty end strength decreasing to 420,000, the Army National Guard drawing down to 315,000, and the Army Reserves reducing to 185,000.
  • Preserving Naval capacity to build security globally and respond to crises. Through an aggressive effort to reduce acquisition costs and temporary ship lay-ups, the Navy will modernize its fleets of surface ships, aircraft, and submarines to meet 21st century threats. We must ensure that the fleet is capable of operating in every region and across the full spectrum of conflict. No new negotiations beyond 32 Littoral Combat Ships (LCS) will go forward, and the Navy will submit alternative proposals to procure a capable and lethal small surface combatant. If sequestration-level cuts are imposed in FY2016 and beyond, the USS George Washington aircraft carrier would need to be retired before scheduled refueling and overhaul. The Department will have to make this decision, which would leave the Navy with ten carrier strike groups, in the 2016 budget submission.
  • Maintaining the role of the Marine Corps as a vital crisis response force, protecting its most important modernization priorities and ensuring readiness, but planning for an end strength of 182,000 active Marines. This end strength includes almost 900 more Marines for the Embassy Security Guard program, which will protect U.S. interests and installations abroad. If sequestration-level cuts are imposed in FY2016 and beyond, the Marines would continue their drawdown to an end strength of 175,000.

As the Joint Force rebalances so that it remains modern, capable, and ready, the Department will take the following additional steps that are consistent with the President’s FY2015 Budget submission to protect key capability areas in support of our strategy:

  • Cyber. We will invest in new and expanded cyber capabilities and forces to enhance our ability to conduct cyberspace operations and support military operations worldwide, to support Combatant Commanders as they plan and execute military missions, and to counter cyberattacks against the United States.
  • Missile Defense. We are increasing the number of Ground-Based Interceptors and deploying a second radar in Japan to provide early warning and tracking. We will make targeted investments in defensive interceptors, discrimination capabilities, and sensors; and we are studying the best location for an additional missile defense interceptor site in the United States if additional interceptors are needed.
  • Nuclear Deterrence. We will continue to invest in modernizing our essential nuclear delivery systems; warning, command and control; and, in collaboration with the Department of Energy, nuclear weapons and supporting infrastructure.
  • Space. We will move toward less complex, more affordable, more resilient systems and system architectures and pursue a multi-layered approach to deter attacks on space systems while retaining the capabilities to respond should deterrence fail.
  • Air/Sea. We will continue to invest in combat aircraft, including fighters and long-range strike, survivable persistent surveillance, resilient architectures, and undersea warfare to increase the Joint Force’s ability to counter A2/AD challenges.
  • Precision Strike. We will procure advanced air-to-surface missiles that will allow fighters and bombers to engage a wide range of targets and a long-range anti-ship cruise missile that will improve the joint ability of U.S. air forces to engage surface combatants in defended airspace.
  • Intelligence, Surveillance, and Reconnaissance (ISR). We will rebalance investments toward systems that are operationally responsive and effective in highly contested environments, while sustaining capabilities appropriate for more permissive environments in order to support global situational awareness, counterterrorism, and other operations.
  • Counter Terror and Special Operations. We will grow overall Special Operations Forces end strength to 69,700 personnel, protecting our ability to sustain persistent, networked, distributed operations to defeat al Qa’ida, counter other emerging transnational threats, counter WMD, build the capacity of our partners, and support conventional operations.

Rebalancing tooth and tail. Finally, the Department itself will rebalance internally to control cost growth and generate greater efficiencies in order to prioritize spending on combat power. The Department has previously submitted three packages of budget proposals aimed at achieving efficiencies and now plans to implement additional overhead reduction efforts. Key ongoing activities include reducing the Department’s major headquarters budgets by 20 percent and decreasing the number of direct reports to the Secretary of Defense. These will lower the Department’s operating costs by $5 billion over the next five years and by more than twice that amount over the next decade. The Department is making selected cutbacks in civilian personnel and contractors to hold down costs and is seeking to harness lower growth in privatesector health care costs in order to slow growth in military health care expenses. In addition, the Department is also improving its financial management, in part to achieve auditable financial statements.

We are also continuing to implement acquisition reform efforts, most notably through the Better Buying Power initiative that seeks to achieve affordable programs by controlling costs, incentivizing productivity and innovation in industry and government, eliminating unproductive processes and bureaucracy, promoting effective competition, improving tradecraft in contracted acquisition of services, and improving the professionalism of the total acquisition workforce. The Department will remain committed to continuously increasing productivity in defense acquisition.

Substantial long-term savings will be realized if the Department is permitted to eliminate unneeded infrastructure. We estimate that we already have more infrastructure than we need, and this will grow as we reduce end strength. The only effective way to eliminate unneeded infrastructure in the United States is through the Base Realignment and Closure (BRAC) process. Congress has denied the Department’s request for another BRAC in each of the past two years. If the Department is to make more effective use of taxpayer dollars, it is imperative that Congress authorize another BRAC round in 2017.


As we restore balance to the Joint Force and the Department, the United States will maintain its two-fold sacred contract with U.S. Service members: to properly compensate and care for our men and women in uniform and their families both during and after their service, and to provide our Service members the best training and equipment possible so they can safely accomplish their missions.

Service members will be treated fairly and equally, on and off the battlefield. The Department last year expanded opportunities for women to serve in the U.S. Armed Forces and is seeking to integrate women successfully into the few remaining restricted occupational fields. Eliminating sexual assault is one of the Department of Defense’s highest priorities, requiring an absolute and sustained commitment to improving the Department’s prevention and response programs – ensuring that we provide a safe environment free from threats to our military personnel. The Department will continue to implement changes needed to realize fully its decision to allow gay men and women to serve openly in the military. For those returning from combat ill or wounded, and for those who require hospitalization or rehabilitation, we will continue to provide the best possible care. And the Department of Defense will continue working with the Departments of Veterans Affairs and Labor to provide the best possible assistance to Service members transitioning into private life.

In a constrained fiscal environment, the Department cannot afford to sustain the rate of growth in military pay and benefits that we experienced over the last decade. The Department and the American people have rightfully been very supportive of our men and women in uniform for more than a decade of war, providing increases in military pay and benefits that have more than closed compensation gaps and have appropriately recognized the sacrifices of those who are serving and have served and their families. The Department is proposing changes that will ensure we can continue to offer a competitive compensation package to recruit and retain our Joint Force of the future. These changes include: restrained annual military pay raises over the next five years; slowing the rate of growth in tax-free housing allowances; simplifying and modernizing the TRICARE programs, including modestly increasing co-pays and deductibles in ways that encourage members to use the most affordable means of care, adjusting pharmacy copay structure, and establishing a modest fee for the TRICARE-for-Life coverage for Medicareeligible retirees; and decreasing commissary subsidies. If implemented fully, these proposals would save approximately $12 billion over the next five years and considerably more by the end of ten years.

Without support from Congress and the American people for reforms to slow the rate of growth in military compensation, the Department will be left with no choice but to take resources away from its ability to field the future Joint Force we need. The Secretary of Defense, the Secretaries of the Military Departments and Service Chiefs, the Senior Enlisted Advisers, and the Department’s senior leadership team support this comprehensive approach to reform and will work in partnership with Congress and the American public to continue to sustain the world’s finest military.


The FY2015 funding levels requested by the President will allow the military to protect and advance U.S. interests and fulfill the updated defense strategy – but with increased levels of risk for some missions. In the near term, U.S. forces will remain actively engaged in building partnerships and enhancing stability in key regions, but our engagement will be even more tailored and selective. We will continue to sustain a heightened alert posture in regions like the Middle East and North Africa. At requested budget levels, we can sustain adequate readiness and modernization that is most relevant to strategic priorities over the near term. Moreover, the President’s “Opportunity, Growth, and Security” Initiative would fund an additional $26 billion in FY2015 defense investments, helping the Department to make faster progress toward restoring readiness, investing in weapons modernization, and making needed facilities improvements. The development of advanced capabilities and sophisticated weapons systems by global rivals and potential adversaries will inevitably pose more risks to our forces and our security. The Department can manage these risks under the President’s FY2015 Budget plan, but the risks would grow significantly if sequester-level cuts return in FY2016, if proposed reforms are not accepted, or if uncertainty over budget levels continues.

If the modest, immediate relief that the Bipartisan Budget Act provides from sequestration – more so in FY2014 and less so in FY2015 – is followed by the return of annual reductions to the sequestration level, the Department would be unable to adjust the size and shape of the Joint Force in the more balanced way envisioned in the President’s Budget submission. Our ability to implement the defense strategy would be significantly reduced over the entire BCA period. The Department’s readiness challenges, particularly in the near term, would greatly reduce both our ability to conduct steady state activities and to respond quickly in a crisis. Critical modernization programs would be slowed or truncated, creating deficiencies in the technological capability of our forces. The United States would likely need to count more on allied and partner contributions in future confrontations and conflicts, assuming they would be willing and able to act in support of shared interests. Reductions in capacity and capability would significantly challenge our ability to respond to strategic surprise, particularly those requiring large numbers of modern forces.

Left unaddressed, continuing sequestration-level cuts would greatly affect what the U.S. military can and cannot do over the next ten years. The American people would have to accept that the level of risk in conducting military operations would rise substantially. Our military would be unbalanced and eventually too small to meet the needs of our strategy fully, leading to greater risk of longer wars with potentially higher casualties for the United States and for our allies and partners in the event of a conflict. Ultimately, continued resourcing at sequestration level would likely embolden our adversaries and undermine the confidence of our allies and partners, which in turn could lead to an even more challenging security environment than we already face.


The United States remains committed to protecting its interests, sustaining U.S. leadership, and preserving global stability, security, and peace. Recognizing current fiscal realities, the Department has made a number of decisions to ensure the Joint Force remains as balanced as possible over time, even as it must begin force structure reductions due to fiscal constraints. We will prepare the Department of Defense for the future and preserve the health of the All- Volunteer Force as we implement reforms.

The President’s FY2015 Budget provides a realistic alternative to sequester-level cuts, supporting the Department’s ability to achieve our updated defense strategy and beginning an efficient transition to a smaller force over time. Resumption of sequestration-level cuts would lead to more immediate and severe risks to the strategy. Ultimately, with sequestration-level cuts, by 2021 the Joint Force would be too small and too outdated to fully implement our defense strategy. As a global leader, the United States requires a robust national defense strategy to protect and advance its interests and to ensure the security of its allies and partners with a military and civilian workforce that can implement that strategy effectively. This can only be achieved by the strategic balance of reforms and reductions that the Department is presenting to Congress and will require Congress to partner with the Department of Defense in making politically difficult choices.




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