Set: “[T]here are few cases in which the U.S. Armed Forces would engage in sustained large-scale combat operations without the associated need to assist in the transition to just and stable governance.” To be clear, that’s not a promise of more war. It’s a forecast that in the forseeable future, the conceivable universe of conflict looks more like counterinsurgency than not, so the Pentagon needs to invest in the appropriate capabilities.

And spike: “Since 2001, U.S. forces have become far more proficient in operations against insurgents and terrorist groups and in helping partners to provide security to populations threatened by such groups. U.S. forces will need to maintain a high level of competency in this mission for decades to come. Accordingly, the Department is continuing to grow capabilities for critical counterinsurgency, stability and counterterrorism operations in Iraq, Afghanistan and elsewhere. To institutionalize the lessons learned over these years, DoD has made and will continue to make substantial changes in personnel management practices, professional military education and training programs, and career development pathways.”

Years of conceptual rigor, bureaucratic effort and painful experience have been geared toward yielding the active verb “institutionalize” in a document like this one. You’ve come a long way, guys. The achievement and the responsibilities are yours. Don’t let the country down.*

*Bonus Army eyebrow-raiser! Notice on page 24 the QDR discusses how by 2013 the Army will convert a heavy brigade (tankers, basically) to a Stryker brigade. Then it says, “As resources become available and future global demands become clearer, the Department may convert several more BCTs [just call ’em brigades].” Oooohhhhhh… Basically what they’re VERY GENTLY saying is that they don’t know why they should have all of these tanks and armor brigades for a future of infantry-centric ground combat. Too Hot For QDR. For an explanation of why they’d think this way, read the sixth paragraph of this piece.

Spencer Ackerman

Spencer Ackerman