David Ochmanek, deputy assistant secretary of defense for force development, rebutted criticisms Tuesday of the Pentagon's Quadrennial Defense Review made by the chairman of the House Armed Services Committee. (Darrell Hudson/US Defense Department)
WASHINGTON — A senior Pentagon official fired back at House Armed Services Committee Chairman Rep. Buck McKeon, who rejected the US Defense Department’s latest military strategy review earlier this month.
McKeon has said the Quadrennial Defense Review (QDR) is “in defiance of the law.” The California Republican, in a statement issued on March 4 shortly after the QDR was released, charged that the document “provides no insight into what a moderate-to-low risk strategy would be, is clearly budget driven, and is shortsighted.”
David Ochmanek, deputy assistant secretary of defense for force development, dismissed, point-by-point, McKeon’s three major criticisms of the QDR. Ochmanek, who works in the Pentagon’s policy office, was part of the team that conducted and wrote the QDR.
“I admit there is a certain pride of authorship,” Ochmanek said Tuesday during a question-and-answer session following a speech at a Precision Strike Association conference in Springfield, Va. “I’m probably not an objective judge of our product, but at least the three specific charges that Chairman McKeon leveled at the QDR are at least debatable.”
McKeon immediately rejected the QDR upon its release, saying the strategy document is “heavily constrained by low budget levels.
“The law requires the QDR to identify resources not included in the Pentagon’s [five] year spending plan,” McKeon said. “The whole point of the review is to identify the budget needed to address the evolving threat.”
Ochmanek takes issue with that argument.
“We were resource informed, but we were strategy driven,” he said. “A budget-driven approach simply says to everybody [that] everyone gets a 10 percent cut, go take your cut. This wasn’t that, I could tell you.”
McKeon also called the QDR, “shortsighted,” saying it only looked out five years, “instead of the 20 years required by law.”
Ochmanek rejected that statement, saying the QDR team looked into the 2030s during their assessment.
“We looked at scenarios in 2030, we looked at the security environment in 2030 [and] we looked at the force and programs in 2030,” he said. “The report will show you the force structure at the end of the [five-year future years defense plan], because that’s as far as we’ve programmed for, but it is not factually correct to say that the QDR did not [look out 20 years] whatsoever.”
Finally, McKeon said the QDR “assumes too much risk.”
“The law requires the QDR to offer a low-to-moderate risk plan for our forces and mission,” McKeon said. “By Secretary Hagel’s own admission, this QDR accepts additional risks.”
Ochmanek said DoD’s analysis says otherwise.
“I can tell you what my boss said, what [Defense] Secretary [Chuck] Hagel said, which is that the force we are programming at the president’s budget level will be capable of executing the strategy,” he said. “There will be some elevated risk in some mission areas, but those risks, we judge, will be manageable.”
McKeon said he would “require the department to rewrite and resubmit a compliant report.”
Ochmanek said DoD would re-do the QDR if mandated by legislation.■