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airpower, defense budget, Quadrennial Defense Reviews, QDRs, Department of Defense, DOD, Air Force, national defense


“Vexing” is certainly the right word to describe the state of resource allocation in the national security community. Despite still sizable defense budgets, serious economic constraints combine with a wide range of complicated threats to create extremely difficult choices for policy makers. To help them work through the decision-making process, Congress mandates Quadrennial Defense Reviews (QDRs). QDRs “are intended to guide the services in making resource allocation decisions when developing future budgets.” The 2010 QDR rightly insists that “America’s interests and role in the world require armed forces with unmatched capabilities.”6 Recent resource decisions, however, do not provide much comfort for those who believe that the high-tech equipment—to include especially advanced airpower7—provides the most efficient, effective, and flexible means of addressing the most dangerous security challenges of the twenty-first century. Indeed, this essay argues that such forces are deserving of stronger resource support than is currently the case. It contends that misapprehensions of key issues—reflected in the QDR and elsewhere—are eroding the United States’ “unmatched” capabilities, at least insofar as the air and space domains are concerned.

Library of Congress Subject Headings

Department of Defense--Appropriations and expenditures, Military planning, Armed Forces--Appropriations and expenditures, Department of Defense, Air Force, Air power, Military readiness, United States