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QDR affect on Stewart still unclear
SecDef Gates mug
Secretary of Defense Robert Gates
The Department of Defense released its 2010 Quadrennial Defense Review on Monday. For the first time since the QDR was established in 1997, the report concentrates on the nation’s current conflicts, which today are being waged in Iraq and Afghanistan.
“Achieving our objectives in Afghanistan and Iraq has moved to the top of the institutional military’s budget, policy and program priorities,” U.S. Secretary of Defense Robert Gates said at a pentagon briefing Monday. “We now recognize that America’s ability to deal with threats for years to come will depend importantly on our success in the current conflicts.”
In addition to releasing the QDR, DoD officials presented the department’s budget requests.
The base budget for fiscal year 2011 is $548.9 billion. The 2011 overseas contingency operations fund is $159.3 billion, which will support operations in Afghanistan and Iraq. The $33 billion supplemental request for 2010 will cover the cost for the force build-up in Afghanistan.
Gates listed a number of objectives for Afghanistan, including enhancing intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance capabilities. The QDR calls for a 75 percent increase in unmanned aerial vehicles — drones — during the next several years, he said.
Gates said the QDR recommends adding two new Army combat aviation brigades and endorses $9 billion be invested in helicopters.
The defense secretary also said U.S. Special Operations Command would grow by nearly 2,800 people and operational systems would expand.
Navy Adm. Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, who also spoke at the pentagon briefing, said the fiscal 2010 supplemental and fiscal 2011 overseas contingency operations requests should “provide our troops what they’ll need to complete a responsible drawdown in Iraq, and execute the president’s strategy in Afghanistan and Pakistan.”
Mullen said $1 billion would fund operations in Iraq in 2010 and $2 billion would fund military efforts there in 2011.
Both Mullen and Gates also addressed the military’s changed mission in Iraq.
According to the QDR, “By Aug. 31, 2010, U.S. forces will have transitioned from combat and counterinsurgency activities to a more limited focus on training and advising the Iraqi Security Forces, conducting targeted counterterrorism operations, providing force protection for U.S. military and civilian personnel and facilities, and supporting civilian agencies and international organizations in their capacity-building efforts. U.S. forces also continue to provide key enablers to the Iraqi Security Forces, who have assumed the lead for security responsibility in Iraq.”
The QDR also states all U.S. forces would redeploy from Iraq by Dec. 31, 2011.
“The pace of the drawdown will be commensurate with Iraq’s improving security while providing U.S. commanders sufficient flexibility to assist the Iraqis with emerging challenges. Even as U.S. forces are redeployed, the United States will continue to pursue sustained political engagement and regional diplomacy,” the review reads.
Despite the redeployment timeline outlined in the QDR, combat brigades currently deployed to Iraq from Fort Stewart are not now expected to return earlier than their current redeployment dates.
Col. Charles Sexton, commander of the 2nd Heavy Combat Brigade Combat Team, which deployed in October, said this week during a telephone interview from a forwarding base in Iraq, he has not received any official word of an early return.
“Right now, we’re scheduled to be here until October (2010),” Sexton said. “That will be our one-year mark. That’s what we came over with, that’s what we’re planning for.”
With the troop buildup in Afghanistan, national, state and local officials have said Fort Stewart is in the running to receive extra troops.
Despite the cancellation of a fifth brigade at Fort Stewart last year, construction continues on post. Installation officials have previously said Fort Stewart is ready and able to support additional troops.
However, no official confirmation has yet been made. Fort Stewart garrison commander Col. Kevin Milton, prior to a community leaders lunch last week, said he has not received official word Fort Stewart would receive any troops from Europe.
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