Defense review to focus on handling of irregular threats

Officials to recommend more resources for fighting terrorism and protecting against weapons of mass destruction.

The forthcoming U.S. Quadrennial Defense Review will focus heavily on confronting weapons of mass destruction and terrorism threats through work with allies and new technological capabilities, a top Defense Department official said Tuesday.

The department's work on the review, which is an extension of the March 2005 National Defense Strategy, centered on providing the president and military commanders with more options for handling "asymmetric" threats, U.S. Principal Defense Undersecretary for Policy Ryan Henry said.

"It came up with capability sets that are going to move us in that direction," Henry said in a speech organized by the American Enterprise Institute at the Australian Embassy.

Henry said he would provide "themes" but few details of the review since top Pentagon officials have not signed off on a final version. He said the review, which is to be delivered Feb. 6 to Congress, "represents the thinking of the upper level, of the four-stars and senior civilians in the department."

The review, said Henry, will call on the department to reorient capabilities toward threats that are "irregular," "catastrophic" or "disruptive" in nature, and away from the "traditional" threats toward which current capabilities are overly directed.

Such a reorientation, he said, would mean more options for the president in four "fundamental focus areas" -- fighting with allies against terrorists, protecting U.S. soil, dealing with "countries at a strategic crossroads," and preventing states and nonstate entities from obtaining weapons of mass destruction. Those demands require flexible capabilities, Henry said.

"We need to provide them [combatant commanders] more capabilities to guarantee effects," Henry said. "We don't know how we're going to use the force in the future, and so we have to have a capabilities set that will span all reasonable futures."

Offering one example of the new capabilities being discussed, Henry said the Pentagon in the future would "continue to emphasize a robust nuclear capability" but will also rely more on other weapons to support nuclear deterrence.