Janine Davidson

Defense in Depth

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

Apache, Not Fort Apache: How a Light U.S. Footprint Can Help Defeat the Islamic State

by Robert A. Newson Tuesday, June 30, 2015
Then-Staff Sgt. Bart Decker, Air Force combat controller, on horseback with Northern Alliance forces. (U.S. Army/Wikimedia)

By Robert Newson

As Iraqi government forces struggle to hold their own against the self-declared Islamic State, the limitations of the current U.S. strategy have become clear. Our side is losing both individual battles and the larger war. Although the fight against the Islamic State will not be won by ground combat alone—Vietnam taught us too well the gap between tactical success and strategic victory—we must begin by winning on the battlefield. In turn, this will require a reexamination of how U.S. forces in the region operate, as well as what level of risk senior leaders are able to accept.

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The Battle for Kunduz; NATO Defense Spending Declines for Third Straight Year

by Janine Davidson Friday, June 26, 2015
Afghan forces prepare for battle with Taliban on the outskirts of Kunduz city, northern Afghanistan June 21, 2015. (Stringer/Courtesy Reuters)

On Monday, Taliban forces closed within four miles of the city of Kunduz in Northern Afghanistan. If they capture the city, it will be the first time the Taliban has controlled a city away from the battlefields in the southeast of Afghanistan since 2001. Also on Monday, seven Taliban fighters launched a coordinated assault on the parliament building in Kabul that left two dead and thirty-one wounded.

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Why Putin’s ICBM Announcement Does Not Signal a New Nuclear Arms Race

by Adam Mount Thursday, June 25, 2015
Russian President Vladimir Putin (L) and Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu arrive for the opening of the Army-2015 international military forum in Kubinka, outside Moscow, Russia, June 16, 2015. (Vasily Maximov/Courtesy Reuters)

By Adam Mount

Last week, Russian President Vladimir Putin gave brief remarks at the opening ceremony of ARMY-2015, an exposition where Russia’s defense contractors demonstrated new military technology for foreign weapons buyers. The speech was relatively sedate. It omitted much of the aggressive rhetoric that has become commonplace for the Kremlin, amounting to little more than a sales pitch for Russia’s military systems. Highlighting several pieces of Russia’s plan to modernize its military, Putin mentioned that, “This year we will supply more than forty new intercontinental ballistic missiles [ICBMs] to our nuclear force.”

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What It Would Take to Embed U.S. Troops in Iraq; Chinese Hack of OPM “Worse than Snowden?”

by Janine Davidson Friday, June 19, 2015
A map of China is seen through a magnifying glass on a computer screen showing binary digits in Singapore in this January 2, 2014 photo illustration. Picture taken January 2, 2014. (Edgar Su/Courtesy Reuters)

A renewed debate over U.S. “boots on the ground” in the fight against the self-declared Islamic State. In a Wednesday hearing of the House Armed Services Committee, Secretary of Defense Ash Carter and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff General Martin Dempsey reiterated that “winning” in Iraq will rest on the capacity and political will of the Iraqi government. They did not, however, rule out the ground presence of U.S. troops as Joint Tactical Air Controllers (JTACs).

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What’s on “Defense in Depth’s” Summer Bookshelf?

by Janine Davidson Friday, June 19, 2015
A U.S. Army combat tank team member reads a book sitting beside his M1A1 Abrams tank in the desert outside Kuwait City, March 14, 2003. (Courtesy Reuters)

I was invited to appear on CFR’s “The World Next Week,” a weekly podcast hosted by Jim Lindsay and Robert McMahon (the whole episode is worth a listen). This week was about books, books, books: what people have read, what they want to read, and what texts they think provide the best window into the world and how it works. Here are my top three picks:

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How the Overseas Contingency Operations Fund Works—and Why Congress Wants to Make It Bigger

by Emerson Brooking and Janine Davidson Tuesday, June 16, 2015
U.S. Marines with the 15th Marine Expeditionary Unit's Maritime Raid Force fast-rope from an MH-60R during maritime interoperability training off the coast of Santa Barbara, Calif., Jan. 16, 2015. (Sgt. Jamean Berry/U.S. Marine Corps/Flickr)

By Janine Davidson and Emerson Brooking

For nearly fourteen years, the U.S. military has been on a war footing. Extraordinary amounts of money—often in excess of $100 billion dollars each year—have been appropriated beyond the military’s base budget to fund operations in Iraq, Afghanistan, and elsewhere. At the peak of the Iraq surge in late 2007, $211 billion was allocated for the Overseas Contingency Operations (OCO) fund, on top of $541 billion in base spending. Today, even as most of our troops have redeployed from Afghanistan and Iraq, the OCO fund has remained high. Atop a base budget of $496 billion, Congressional leaders have added an OCO of roughly $89 billion. By contrast, President Obama has requested a base budget of $534 billion with an OCO of $51 billion. While both requests total approximately $585 billion, debate over the size of the OCO has sparked sharp disagreements in Congress and a veto threat from the White House. This whole showdown raises questions: Is this just a political shell game or does it actually matter which pot of money funds what if the total amount is nearly the same? More broadly, why—if the number of U.S. troops in direct combat roles has shrunk to its lowest point since 2001—is the OCO still so large a percentage of the total budget?

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450 More U.S. Troops to Iraq; Many European Citizens Reluctant to Uphold NATO Defense Guarantee

by Janine Davidson Friday, June 12, 2015
Iraqi soldiers train with members of the U.S. Army 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 82nd Airborne Division, at Camp Taji, Iraq, in this U.S. Army photo released June 2, 2015. (Sgt. Cody Quinn/U.S. Army/Courtesy Reuters)

More U.S. advisers are on their way to Iraq. As the Wall Street Journal reports, President Obama requested additional military options against the self-declared Islamic State following the fall of Ramadi in mid-May. The result will be 450 new U.S. advisers, deployed to Al Taqqadum air base in Iraq’s Anbar Province. In return, the White House has sought assurances from Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi that he will incorporate thousands more Sunni fighters into the official, Shia-dominated Iraqi security apparatus.

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Ukraine Braces for “Invasion;” Burial of Fallen U.S. Guardsman Denied by Arlington Cemetery

by Janine Davidson Friday, June 5, 2015
A member of the Ukrainian armed forces holds a tattered Ukrainian national flag at his position near the town of Maryinka, eastern Ukraine, June 5, 2015. Ukraine's president told his military on Thursday to prepare for a possible "full-scale invasion" by Russia all along their joint border, a day after the worst fighting with Russian-backed separatists in months. (Gleb Garanich/Courtesy Reuters)

Following Russian-backed separatist attack on Maryinka, Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenkso warns of “full-scale invasion” from Russia. Ukraine has massed 50,000 troops in the east to respond to new incursions by an indeterminate number of separatists and 9,000 Russian soldiers. Meanwhile, Secretary of Defense Ashton Carter convenes a closed-door meeting of two dozen generals, ambassadors, and other senior leaders to assess American strategy in the region.

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China’s Territorial Strategy Is Gradualist, Asymmetric, and Effective. How Should the United States Respond?

by Lauren Dickey and Robert A. Newson Thursday, June 4, 2015
A U.S. Navy servicemen listens to a walkie-talkie in front of a Chinese national flag onboard U.S. aircraft carrier USS George Washington during its port call in the Hong Kong waters June 16, 2014. (Bobby Yip/Courtesy Reuters)

By Robert Newson and Lauren Dickey

China’s recent release of its new military strategy has rightly captured the attention of many in Washington. Now, more than ever before, the Chinese military has made clear its intentions to develop maritime capabilities that will enable Beijing to assert claims to sovereignty in the South China Sea and project military reach far beyond their immediate periphery. In the South China Sea, over the last two years alone, Chinese efforts have expanded the islands around Firey Cross Reef and Mischief Reef by 2,000 acres – equivalent to nearly 1,500 football fields—and counting. This massive “territory” building and the significant Chinese military build-up coupled with the release of strategic guidelines for the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) has sent clear signals to the Pentagon and U.S. allies in the region. China is a global competitor aggressively pursuing their aims and threatening to upend regional stability.

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