By Lewis Stern, PhD, Center for Strategic Research
Senior Vietnamese defense officials have evinced a continuing interest in the U.S. Quadrennial Defense Review (QDR). They have worked hard and read voraciously in order to understand this complex, multi-agency process. In private conversations and formal bilateral meetings in the last two or so years, senior Vietnamese military officials have attempted to grasp this regular review that coincides with presidential terms, imagining at first that it accounted for policy visions with a ten year life span. They have come to equate the QDR with their own national policy review generated in the context of the national congress of the Vietnamese Communist Party (VNCP). Vietnam’s defense strategy coincides with a five year socio-economic strategy, and is separate and distinct from the periodic defense white paper that talks about defense policies and capabilities.
In fact, the Vietnamese strategic blueprint to which senior SRV defense officials refer in attempts to draw a connection between the U.S. defense review and their own process derives from the length party political report system that begins over one year in advance of the national VNCP congress. It is a highly politicized process that involves every level of the VNCP from the district up through provincial, ministerial and national level party committees in the process of generating an agenda of broad national priorities, and inventorying a wide range of social, economic, policy and defense problem sets. It is a system that, once it reaches the national level, generates as a report card on the successes of the party-driven system that provides guidance to governing administrative levels throughout the country, and articulates the party’s vision for the country across all these issue areas. It is part of the process that generates a new slate of party leaders at all local levels as well as electing Central Committee and Politburo members. This preparation for the 11th National Congress, scheduled to convene in early 2011, is underway.