Janine Davidson

Defense in Depth

Janine Davidson examines the art, politics, and business of American military power.

A Taliban Resurgence; A Preview of Cyberwar To Come

by Janine Davidson Saturday, December 20, 2014
People light candles in memory of victims of the Taliban attack on the Army Public School, along with others in a rally in Peshawar, December 17, 2014. At least 132 students and nine staff members were killed on Tuesday when Taliban gunmen broke into the school and opened fire, witnesses said, in the bloodiest massacre the country has seen for years. (Khuram Parvez/Courtesy Reuters) People light candles in memory of victims of the Taliban attack on the Army Public School, along with others in a rally in Peshawar, December 17, 2014. At least 132 students and nine staff members were killed on Tuesday when Taliban gunmen broke into the school and opened fire, witnesses said, in the bloodiest massacre the country has seen for years. (Khuram Parvez/Courtesy Reuters)

Your Weekend Reader, parsing the best stories of the week. Defense in Depth will be on hiatus until January 5, 2015. In lieu of new updates, I’ll be posting some of our best stories from the past year. 

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With Final FY15 Defense Budget, the Devil’s in the Details

by Janine Davidson Thursday, December 18, 2014
U.S. Representative Buck McKeon (R-CA) (L) holds up a media release as he and Senator Carl Levin (D-MI) (R), chairmen of the House and Senate Armed Services Committees, hold a news conference to talk about progress between the two chambers on the National Defense Authorization Act for fiscal year 2014, at the U.S. Capitol in Washington December 9, 2013. (Jonathan Ernst/Courtesy Reuters) U.S. Representative Buck McKeon (R-CA) (L) holds up a media release as he and Senator Carl Levin (D-MI) (R), chairmen of the House and Senate Armed Services Committees, hold a news conference to talk about progress between the two chambers on the National Defense Authorization Act for fiscal year 2014, at the U.S. Capitol in Washington December 9, 2013. (Jonathan Ernst/Courtesy Reuters)

After a process that could generously be described as touch-and-go, President Obama signed a $1.1 trillion dollar omnibus and continuing resolution spending package—the “cromnibus”—on Tuesday evening. It obligates $554 billion dollars for defense spending, which includes $490 billion for the base Pentagon budget and another $64 billion to the Overseas Contingency Fund (OCO). As Military Times reports, this marks an $18 billion dollar decrease from FY14—although the entirety of that reduction comes from a reduced OCO concurrent with the drawdown in Afghanistan. This top-line figure lines up almost exactly with President Obama’s original March request.

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With Normalized U.S.-Cuba Relations, Border Security Just Got a Lot More Complicated

by Guest Blogger for Janine Davidson Thursday, December 18, 2014
A U.S. Coast Guard boat takes part in a staged interdiction of a smuggling boat during training exercise off the coast of south Florida March 8, 2007. (Hans Deryk/Courtesy Reuters) A U.S. Coast Guard boat takes part in a staged interdiction of a smuggling boat during training exercise off the coast of south Florida March 8, 2007. (Hans Deryk/Courtesy Reuters)

By Pat DeQuattro

President Obama’s surprise announcement yesterday about normalization in U.S.-Cuba relations will significantly change the nature of border security and border control on the waters in the Florida Straits that separate Cuba and South Florida.

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In the Last Days of Afghanistan, Too Many Shadows of Vietnam

by Guest Blogger for Janine Davidson Wednesday, December 17, 2014
A shadow cast by a U.S. soldier from the 3rd Cavalry Regiment shades spent brass strewn on the ground during a joint training mission, near forward operating base Gamberi in the Laghman province of Afghanistan December 12, 2014. (Lucas Jackson/Courtesy Reuters) A shadow cast by a U.S. soldier from the 3rd Cavalry Regiment shades spent brass strewn on the ground during a joint training mission, near forward operating base Gamberi in the Laghman province of Afghanistan December 12, 2014. (Lucas Jackson/Courtesy Reuters)

By Robert A. Newson

Recently, the Council on Foreign Relations hosted a screening of Rory Kennedy’s film Last Days in Vietnam. The stunning documentary, with never-before seen-footage, tells the story of courageous Americans at the U.S. embassy and on ships at sea who put their lives and their careers on the line to rescue 77,000 South Vietnamese during the fall of Saigon. These heroes did all they could as individuals to meet an American obligation to those who stand with us in our foreign wars—those who risk their lives and the lives of their families against a common enemy. The film also tells the story of an American government that came very slow and far too late to uphold this obligation.

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Untangling the Circular Logic of America’s Torture Apologists

by Janine Davidson Tuesday, December 16, 2014
U.S. Vice President Dick Cheney (L) listens as President George W. Bush makes remarks about the U.S. defense budget after meeting with military leaders at the Pentagon in Washington, November 29, 2007. (Larry Downing/Courtesy Reuters) U.S. Vice President Dick Cheney (L) listens as President George W. Bush makes remarks about the U.S. defense budget after meeting with military leaders at the Pentagon in Washington, November 29, 2007. (Larry Downing/Courtesy Reuters)

To watch former Vice President Dick Cheney’s interview on Meet the Press this weekend was to take a fantastical and frightening trip back to a very dark, post-9/11 America. In this world, bad guys can and should be tortured for however long it takes to catch more bad guys. If (inevitable) rumors of the process end up creating new bad guys, it’s beside the point. It’s a system that feeds itself, as amoral as it is strategically unwise.

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CIA Interrogation Report; How ISIS Was Hatched in Iraq’s Camp Bucca Prison

by Janine Davidson Friday, December 12, 2014
Senate Intelligence Committee chair Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) (R) talks to reporters after coming out of the Senate in Washington December 9, 2014. "Enhanced interrogation" techniques used by the CIA on militants detained in secret prisons were ineffective and never produced information which led to the disruption of imminent terrorist plots, a declassified report by the Senate Intelligence Committee found. (Gary Cameron/Courtesy Reuters) Senate Intelligence Committee chair Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) (R) talks to reporters after coming out of the Senate in Washington December 9, 2014. "Enhanced interrogation" techniques used by the CIA on militants detained in secret prisons were ineffective and never produced information which led to the disruption of imminent terrorist plots, a declassified report by the Senate Intelligence Committee found. (Gary Cameron/Courtesy Reuters)

Your Weekend Reader, parsing the best stories of the week:

The U.S. Senate Select Committee on Intelligence released its controversial report on CIA interrogation methods this past Tuesday.  The report characterized the CIA as brutal, ineffective, and misleading. Many questions remain as to the involvement of Bush administration officials in authorizing and overseeing this program. Republican Senators on the committee (with the exception of Senator Susan Collins (R-ME) have issued their own report rebutting many claims of impropriety. Likewise, six former CIA directors and deputy directors penned a Wall Street Journal op ed assailing the report’s credibility. Senator John McCain (R-AZ) crossed the partisan boundary to endorse the document, including his experience as a prisoner of war in Vietnam as testimony.

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Can Ash Carter Finally Tame the Defense Acquisitions Behemoth?

by Guest Blogger for Janine Davidson Wednesday, December 10, 2014
Then-Pentagon acquisitions chief Ashton Carter takes a reporter's question after it was announced that Boeing won a contract to build new refueling planes for the U.S. Air Force at the Pentagon in Washington, February 24, 2011. President Obama formally nominated Carter on December 5, 2014 to serve as the twenty-fifth secretary of defense. (Jim Young/Courtesy Reuters) Then-Pentagon acquisitions chief Ashton Carter takes a reporter's question after it was announced that Boeing won a contract to build new refueling planes for the U.S. Air Force at the Pentagon in Washington, February 24, 2011. President Obama formally nominated Carter on December 5, 2014 to serve as the twenty-fifth secretary of defense. (Jim Young/Courtesy Reuters)

By Alex Haber and Jeff Jeffress

For decades, pundits and policymakers have bemoaned the Pentagon’s cumbersome, sluggish procurement processes and rampant overspending, especially compared to industry counterparts. Though these arcane protocols will be challenging to improve, the stars appear to be aligning for actual reform.

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It’s Ash Carter; Iran Joins the Anti-ISIS Air Campaign; The FY15 NDAA Inches Ahead

by Janine Davidson Friday, December 5, 2014
Ashton Carter listens while U.S. President Barack Obama announces that he will be his choice to replace outgoing U.S. Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel while in the Roosevelt Room of the White House in Washington, December 5, 2014. (Larry Downing/Courtesy Reuters) Ashton Carter listens while U.S. President Barack Obama announces that he will be his choice to replace outgoing U.S. Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel while in the Roosevelt Room of the White House in Washington, December 5, 2014. (Larry Downing/Courtesy Reuters)

Your Weekend Reader, parsing the best stories of the week:

Ashton Carter is officially announced as the twenty-fifth secretary of defense. The best profile of Carter has been written by the man himself—an autobiographical account of his early life and interest in defense policy, published as a faculty profile by Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government. His appointment has received praise from Senators Carl Levin and John McCain alike. Carter takes office at a time when crises balloon around the globe and the Pentagon’s bureacratic challenges continue to mount: he’ll have little chance to learn on the job. At Slate, Fred Kaplan asks a significant but largely unexplored question: in today’s complex world, what makes a person qualified to lead the United States’ largest public or private institution?

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Congress Just Took an Important Step Toward Real Military Compensation Reform

by Guest Blogger for Janine Davidson Thursday, December 4, 2014
U.S. troops march during a military parade celebrating Romania's National Day in Bucharest December 1, 2014. (Radu Sigheti/Courtesy Reuters) U.S. troops march during a military parade celebrating Romania's National Day in Bucharest December 1, 2014. (Radu Sigheti/Courtesy Reuters)

By Jesse Sloman

On Tuesday, the U.S. House and Senate reached an agreement on the 2015 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA). The bill, setting the Pentagon’s expenditures and budget, is one of  the least controversial items on Congress’ annual agenda; an NDAA has been passed every year for the past 52 years.

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Explainer: How Defense Offsets Help Drive the Global Defense Industry

by Guest Blogger for Janine Davidson Thursday, December 4, 2014
General Dynamics employees work on an Abrams battle tank during a tour of the Joint Systems Manufacturing Center, Lima Army Tank Plant, in Lima, Ohio, April 23, 2012. (Matt Sullivan/Courtesy Reuters) General Dynamics employees work on an Abrams battle tank during a tour of the Joint Systems Manufacturing Center, Lima Army Tank Plant, in Lima, Ohio, April 23, 2012. (Matt Sullivan/Courtesy Reuters)

By Patrick Costello

This explainer comes courtesy of Patrick Costello, deputy director of CFR’s Congress and U.S. Foreign Policy program. He offers a concise introduction to the complex world of defense offsetscompensation agreements whereby defense companies invest in foreign governments in return for their business. Costello explores the history, growth, and future of the offsets market. If you want to learn about this issue, this is the best place to start.

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