Janine Davidson

Defense in Depth

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

Weekend Reader: Shinseki Leaves the VA; Ukraine Heats Up

by Janine Davidson Friday, May 30, 2014
shinseki United States Veterans Affairs Secretary Eric Shinseki arrives to address The National Coalition for Homeless Veterans conference in Washington May 30, 2014. (Gary Cameron/Courtesy Reuters)

Secretary Eric Shinseki formally submits his resignation as head of Veterans Affairs. Foreign Policy has the story. Even as the chorus of voices calling for his resignation grew, the tone remained often respectful: Shinseki was always “a good man.” As the Huffington Post’s David Wood recounts, Shinseki, who took the reins of the VA following a 38-year Army career—where he rose to become Army Chief of Staff—may simply have trusted too much given his organization’s complexity and inherent flaws.  Time will tell who can replace him.

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The Obama Doctrine

by Janine Davidson Thursday, May 29, 2014
obama doctrine U.S. President Barack Obama arrives for a commencement ceremony at the United States Military Academy at West Point, New York, May 28, 2014. Obama's commencement address was the first in a series of speeches that he and top advisers will use to explain U.S. foreign policy in the aftermath of conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan and lay out a broad vision for the rest of his presidency. (Kevin Lamarque/Courtesy Reuters)

President Obama’s May 28 speech at West Point was long overdue. Chatter about America’s decline, the Pentagon’s budget crunch, deteriorating crises in Syria and Ukraine, and confusion over Obama’s signature foreign policy initiative—the Asia Rebalance—has left many questioning America’s ability or willingness to engage, much less lead, in the world.

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What Next for Afghanistan? Making Sense of President Obama’s Rose Garden Announcement

by Janine Davidson Tuesday, May 27, 2014
afghanistan obama drawdown U.S. President Barack Obama delivers an announcement on the number of U.S. troops that will remain in Afghanistan after the formal troop drawdown at the end of this year, in the White House Rose Garden in Washington, May 27, 2014. (Larry Downing/Courtesy Reuters)

Today, President Obama announced his plan for winding down the thirteen-year intervention in Afghanistan.  On the military side, here is the summary on how many troops will remain and what they will be doing:

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Weekend Reader: In Memoriam, the Dogs of War, and Beyond the QDR

by Janine Davidson Friday, May 23, 2014
memorial day weekend reader A member of the Third U.S. Infantry Regiment (The Old Guard) carries flags during a "Flags-In" ceremony at Arlington National Cemetery in Washington May 22, 2014. The soldiers will place American flags in front of more than 220,000 graves for the Memorial Day. (Kevin Lamarque/Courtesy Reuters)

May 26 is Memorial Day. More than 8,000 coalition troops have given their lives in thirteen years of hard fighting. May 26 is a day to honor them, and the 843,000 fallen Americans  who have come before them.

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A Commission on the Structure of the Army? Careful What You Wish For

by Guest Blogger for Janine Davidson Thursday, May 22, 2014
army commission U.S. Army Generals stand ready to testify at a Senate Armed Services Committee on Capitol Hill in Washington, June 4, 2013. (From L to R) Judge Advocate General of the Army Lt. General Dana K. Chipman, Army Chief of Staff General Raymond T. Odierno, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff General Martin Dempsey and Legal Counsel to the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Brig. General Richard C. Gross. (Larry Downing/Courtesy Reuters)

By F.G. Hoffman

F.G. Hoffman offers another perspective on Adam Maisel’s argument for a Commission on the Structure of the Army to revisit issues related to the National Guard and Reserve Component. Hoffman observes that a call for a commission might denigrate the work already done by the Guard’s defenders. He also suggests that the outcome of such a commission would not necessarily be in the favor of those advocating for it.

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If the Air Force Has Such a Good Argument for Divesting the A-10, Why is No One Buying It?

by Janine Davidson Tuesday, May 20, 2014
a10 divestment U.S. Air Force A-10 Thunderbolt II aircraft are serviced on the flight line at Shaw Air Force Base, South Carolina in this handout photograph taken on December 2, 2005. A U.S. Congressional panel has rejected the military's proposal to retire the entire fleet of A-10 close-air support planes, as the annual defense policy bill continues to make its way through the House of Representatives. The White House said retiring the planes would save $4.2 billion through 2019. (Tech. Sgt. James Arrowood/Courtesy Reuters)

One of the most controversial proposals by the Air Force this year is its plan to divest the A-10 jet aircraft.  The “warthog,” as it is known, is a slow moving, low-flying, ear-piercingly loud jet airplane built around a giant “Avenger” Gatling gun, which has provided intimidating fire power for troops in contact on the ground for nearly 40 years.  By divesting an entire fleet, instead of just a few airplanes, the Air Force saves “billions, not millions” across the board in production and maintenance.

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Weekend Reader: Climate Change, European Elites, and Zombies

by Janine Davidson Friday, May 16, 2014
zombies pentagon A zombie character at the "13th Floor" haunted house poses before a show in Denver, October 19, 2013. (Rick Wilking/Courtesy Reuters)

“Climate change is no longer a ‘future threat’—it’s here now.” This is the stark conclusion of the CNA Corporation’s Military Advisory Board, a group of eleven retired generals and admirals who studied the security implications of rising sea levels and a shrinking Artic. Climate change is poised to shake up regional dynamics as the Artic North becomes traversal, opening up valuable new trade routes through the North Sea (a contingency the Russian military is already preparing for). Climate change will also cause new scarcities in food, water, and energy—particularly in developing nations—compounding local security issues. The whole report is worth a read.

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It’s Time for Congress to Get Serious About Military Compensation

by Guest Blogger for Janine Davidson Tuesday, May 13, 2014
congress capitol hill A general view of the U.S. Capitol Dome in Washington, October 6, 2013. (Jonathan Ernst/Courtesy Reuters)

By Jesse Sloman

This commentary comes courtesy of Marine Corps veteran and CFR research associate Jesse Sloman.  He addresses one of the most conspicuous “third rail” issues between Congress and the Pentagon: the question of compensation and benefits.  He calls on Congress to get the spiraling spending under control. The alternative will be a “hollow force”—well compensated but undertrained and unequipped to tackle future contingencies.

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Weekend Reader: A U.S. Robotics Gap, a New COIN Debate, and a Global Spotlight on Nigeria’s Boko Haram

by Janine Davidson Friday, May 9, 2014
drone aircraft carrier An X-47B pilot-less drone combat aircraft is launched for the first time off an aircraft carrier, the USS George H. W. Bush, in the Atlantic Ocean off the coast of Virginia, May 14, 2013. (Jason Reed/Courtesy Reuters)

As militaries gear up for a robotics arms race, the United States may well get left behind. This is the argument made by Michael C. Horowitz, an expert on military technological adoption, in the lead story for Foreign Policy magazine. Horowitz, an associate professor at the University of Pennsylvania, has literally written the book on the dynamics behind diffusion of military innovation. This same week, Shawn Brimley issued a warning against the Pentagon relegating drones to a “niche capability” and refusing to invest in advanced, carrier-based systems. This follows a February 2014 CSIS report that concluded, “With the effective 2014 end of the Afghanistan War, commitment within [Department of Defense] to explore the broader possibilities of unmanned systems is retreating.”

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Paging Dr. Abrams: Why This Soldier Thinks We Need a Commission on the Structure of the Army

by Guest Blogger for Janine Davidson Tuesday, May 6, 2014
calvary soldiers at attention U.S. Army soldiers stand at attention to receive their spurs following a 24 hour Cavalry "Spur Ride" for members of the US Army's 6th Squadron, 6th Cavalry Regiment in Fort Drum, New York, September 30, 2010. (Lucas Jackson/Courtesy Reuters)

By Adam Maisel

As markup of the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2015 gets underway, senior leaders in the Army and Army National Guard are sharpening their knives. Stemming from a contentious aviation restructuring plan in the proposed budget in which the Army Guard would lose all of its attack aviation (as well as cuts to tens of thousands of soldiers, should sequestration return in FY16), both sides are girding for an Active-Guard war. Congress has responded in kind by advocating for an independent commission to study the force structure of the Army, similar in scope to the National Commission on the Structure of the Air Force formed in 2013.

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