Janine Davidson

Defense in Depth

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

A Bold Proposal for Military Compensation Reform; Curtains Close on Afghan War Transparency

by Janine Davidson Friday, January 30, 2015
Afghan National Army (ANA) soldiers take part in a training exercise at a military base in Kabul November 23, 2014. (Omar Sobhan/Courtesy Reuters)

The Military Compensation and Retirement Modernization Commission (MCRMC) released their recommendation on military compensation reforms on ThursdayMilitary compensation encompasses current pay, retirement, health care, and quality of life. Defense in Depth has compiled its own tally of facts, figures, and graphs to help contextualize this debate. The MCRMC, first created by the FY 2013 NDAA, will be tasked with updating this system for the first time in twenty years.

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Before Calling for More U.S. Troops, Let’s Figure Out What Their Mission Is

by Robert A. Newson Thursday, January 29, 2015
U.S. soldiers from D Troop of the 3rd Cavalry Regiment walk on a hill after finishing with a training exercise near forward operating base Gamberi in the Laghman province of Afghanistan December 30, 2014. (Lucas Jackson/Courtesy Reuters)

Senators John McCain and Diane Feinstein recently discussed the need to review the current counter-terrorism strategy and warned that the United States may need more troops in Yemen and across the Middle East. The national media focused almost exclusively on the question of more troops. This is a common oversight. Sending additional troops puts the cart before the horse or, more to the point, the troops before the strategy. More troops to do what?

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Charts, Charts, Charts: Everything You Need to Understand the Military Compensation Debate

by Janine Davidson and Jesse Sloman Wednesday, January 28, 2015
Snapshot of a graph depicting the growth of per-soldier costs over time. The cost of an active duty U.S. service member nearly doubled between 1998 and 2014. (Emerson Brooking/Defense in Depth, Council on Foreign Relations)

This week marks the much-awaited release of the Military Compensation and Retirement Modernization Commission’s (MCRMC) final report. This independent panel was established in 2013 “to conduct a review of the military compensation and retirement systems and to make recommendations to modernize such systems.” Proponents and opponents of future changes are preparing themselves for a bitter legislative and bureaucratic fight as soon as the report hits the street.

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U.S. Navy Prepares for Yemen Evacuation; The Battle(s) for Donetsk Airport; The New Cyber Arms Race

by Janine Davidson Friday, January 23, 2015
A Ukrainian serviceman fires a weapon during fighting with pro-Russian separatists in Pesky village, near Donetsk January 21, 2015. (Oleksandr Klymenko/Courtesy Reuters)

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

Yemen, the U.S. hope for a counterterrorism ally in the region, is falling into civil war. News came Thursday of the resignation of Yemeni President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi, adding to the deterioration of the country. As the home to al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP), Yemen was a key partner in the fight against terrorism. While Yemen was an integral part of President Obama’s anti-terror strategy, it is unclear how the U.S. will proceed. With an attempt for peace and a constitutional revision clearly failed, the U.S. will assess its next actions carefully. With widespread violence and clashes continuing this week, the U.S. Navy is taking preparatory steps for a possible evacuation, should American officials in Yemen face unacceptable risk.

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Does America Have a Warrior Caste?

by Amy Schafer Thursday, January 22, 2015
Members of the Armed Forces Color Guard and drummers from he U.S. Air Force Band, all based in Washington, D.C., perform during the Super Bowl XLV game at Cowboys Stadium in Arlington, Texas, Feb. 6, 2011. U.S. Air Force photo (Senior Airman Melissa Harvey/U.S. Army Flickr)

Who is truly bearing the burden of repeated deployments and protracted conflicts? Who comprises our shrinking all-volunteer force? As the daughter of an A-10 pilot, I see my fellow military brats enlisting and being commissioned at incredible rates. Anecdotally, it has seemed at least one child in every military family tends to serve, while the ROTC programs in the Ivy League are some of the smallest in the country, and military service is left unconsidered as a viable career option for most young Americans.

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Seven Defense Items To Look for in Tonight’s State of the Union Address

by Janine Davidson Tuesday, January 20, 2015
U.S. President Barack Obama delivers his State of the Union speech on Capitol Hill in Washington January 28, 2014. (Larry Downing /Courtesy Reuters)

Although military and defense issues are rarely the most prominent topic for the president’s annual State of the Union Address, many of us will still be listening closely tonight for how President Obama uses those few minutes devoted to national security and foreign affairs. 2014 saw serious setbacks and emerging challenges for U.S. international policy that must be handled. If history is a guide, Obama is also likely to look increasingly abroad in the final phase of his presidency. Here are seven defense-oriented issues I expect the president to acknowledge, and what I hope to hear him say about them: Read more »

The Terror of Boko Haram; A Truly Remarkable Soldier; New Ground for the Syrian Opposition

by Janine Davidson Friday, January 16, 2015
A satellite image taken on Jan. 7 and released by Amnesty International shows damage to the town of Doron Baga in northeastern Nigeria after an attack by members of the extremist group Boko Haram. (Amnesty International/DigitalGlobe)

Boko Haram has carried out one of the most devastating terror attacks in history—and it continues to go virtually unreportedAs satellite footage shows, the northern Nigerian town of Baga has been razed to the ground. Official tallies place Boko Haram’s killing spree in the hundreds, but eyewitnesses and analysts estimate a total closer to 2,000. This attack, coupled with a January 10 suicide attack by a girl as young as ten years old, is setting a bitter start to the new year. Ambassador John Campbell of CFR assesses the vast discrepancy in coverage: Read more »

Misperception of U.S.-Cuba Policy Shift Among Cuban Migrants Threatens Tragedy

by Pat DeQuattro Wednesday, January 14, 2015
Fifteen Cuban migrants prepare to set sail in their 14-foot homemade boat after a brief overnight stop offshore Grand Cayman Island, November 21, 2014. (Peter Polack/Courtesy Reuters)

In the first five days of 2015, a total of ninety-six Cuban migrants were interdicted at sea during seven events in the Florida Straits. All seven interdictions involved dangerous conditions that included unseaworthy, homemade vessels that posed significant risk to the migrants attempting to make the perilous, ninety-mile journey across the open ocean of the Florida Straits. In the month of December, a total of 481 Cuban migrants were either interdicted at sea or landed in the United States during thirty-seven total events. These activities represent a 117 percent increase from December 2013, with a distinct spike in migrants following the President’s announcement on December 17 that U.S-Cuba policy changes were forthcoming.

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Amid Ballooning Chinese Defense Budgets, Force Protection Still Comes Up Dry

by Emerson Brooking and Lauren Dickey Monday, January 12, 2015
Frost covers the mask and part of the hat of a soldier of the People's Liberation Army (PLA) as he stand guard near the border of China and Russia in Heihe, Heilongjiang province December 10, 2014 (Stringer/Courtesy Reuters)

A recent report by the Guangzhou-based Southern Weekly on investments to outfit and equip Chinese soldiers in the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) has sparked controversy both within China and abroad—revealing sharp fissures in China’s ballooning defense budget. With a total defense budget estimated at $132 billion in 2014 and 2.28 million active duty soldiers on payroll, the PLA allocates a mere $1,523 (9,460 yuan) in outfitting each soldier, roughly one-thirteenth the value of the average deploying U.S. serviceman’s personal gear. At a time when the combat-readiness of China’s armed forces is already widely debated, costs of the basic infantrymen kit highlight critical shortcomings of the Chinese military.

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Tragedy at Charlie Hebdo; The ISIS Economy; Major U.S.-European Base Realignments

by Janine Davidson Friday, January 9, 2015
Armed French intervention police walk with a sniffer dog are seen at the scene of a shooting in the street of Montrouge near Paris January 8, 2015. (Christian Hartmann/Courtesy Reuters)

Tragedy at the Paris office of satirical magazine Charlie HebdoOn January 7, two gunmen gained entry to the magazine’s offices, executing twelve—including virtually all of the publication’s senior editorial staff. The attack was premeditated, systematic, and professional. The New York Times has woven together eye witness testimony to create a timeline of the attack. The attack bears very likely—but not yet substantiated—links to Al-Qaeda, which had long threatened violence against the magazine. Condemnation of the attacks has been universal, with vigils held at cities around the globe. As of this writing, there were two simultaneous standoffs between Islamist extremist gunmen and police, both for the Charlie Hebdo tragedy and a possibly related attack on a French police officer. For France—for which this is probably the deadliest attack since the 1954-62 Algerian War—this tragedy will likely carry longstanding consequences. If you read one retrospective on the tragedy, George Packer at the New Yorker gets it best: Read more »