QDR Leak: Access Denied

Most of the comments I’ve seen on the draft QDR that Defense News obtained have focused on the so-called demise of the two-war force construct. But that seems to be more a question of semantic shift than fundamental change.

What I found more interesting is the priority upgrade given to operating in anti-access environments. Certainly Iran would qualify under that rubric, and even more so if they ever actually receive the S300 air defense systems they signed a contract with Russia for. But anti-access is pretty much another way of saying China. So it’s no surprise that the section devoted to it (Deter and Defeat Aggression in Anti-Access Environments) explicitly and repeatedly identifies China.

It looks like China’s anti-satellite test and the anti-ship ballistic missile they’ve developed since the 2006 QDR, as well as the PLA’s broader modernization, were a real wakeup call. The document still gives priority to counterinsurgency and stability operations, which makes sense considering we’re actually engaged in those wars now. But the fear that Defense Department planners would somehow forget about conventional war scenarios with China because of a preoccupation with COIN seems to have been overblown. In fact, those scenarios seem to have gotten more attention, not less, attention, and the planning seems pretty clear-sighted — and sobering.

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