Janine Davidson

Defense in Depth

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

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An AUMF at Last; One More Try for Ukrainian Ceasefire; Afghanistan Exit in Flux?

by Janine Davidson
U.S. President Barack Obama is flanked by Vice President Joe Biden (L) and Secretary of State John Kerry (R) as he delivers a statement on legislation sent to Congress to authorize the use of military force against the Islamic State, from the Roosevelt Room at the White House in Washington February 11, 2015. Obama asked Congress on Wednesday to authorize military force against Islamic State that would bar any large-scale invasion by U.S. ground troops and limit operations to three years. (Jonathan Ernst/Courtesy Reuters) U.S. President Barack Obama is flanked by Vice President Joe Biden (L) and Secretary of State John Kerry (R) as he delivers a statement on legislation sent to Congress to authorize the use of military force against the Islamic State, from the Roosevelt Room at the White House in Washington February 11, 2015. Obama asked Congress on Wednesday to authorize military force against Islamic State that would bar any large-scale invasion by U.S. ground troops and limit operations to three years. (Jonathan Ernst/Courtesy Reuters)

President Obama, after six months of using the 2001 Authorization for Use of Military Force (AUMF) to justify the fight against ISIS, has released his draft for a new, ISIS-specific AUMF. In a public statement on Wednesday, Obama outlined his vision and expectations for the new authorization. Members of Congress have raised criticism on the issues of associated terrorist groups, geographic limits, and the use of ground forces. Representative Adam Schiff (D-CA 28) and Senator Tim Kaine (D-VA) noted that the lack of geographic limitations could allow the President to pursue terrorist groups in North and West Africa. Senator Jim Inhofe (R-IA) attacked the draft for its vague language, asserting that it was, “ambiguous and could leave us in perpetual debate on what the military is authorized to do.” With so much criticism from both parties, the stage is set for a wide-ranging congressional debate. The bill will appear before Congress next week.

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The 2015 Munich Security Conference: Debate Among Allies? Yes. Disunity? No.

by Janine Davidson
Ukraine's President Petro Poroshenko holds Russian passports to prove the presence of Russian troops in Ukraine as he addresses during the 51st Munich Security Conference at the 'Bayerischer Hof' hotel in Munich February 7, 2015. (Michael Dalder/Courtesy Reuters) Ukraine's President Petro Poroshenko holds Russian passports to prove the presence of Russian troops in Ukraine as he addresses during the 51st Munich Security Conference at the 'Bayerischer Hof' hotel in Munich February 7, 2015. (Michael Dalder/Courtesy Reuters)

This weekend I had the opportunity to attend the fifty-first Munich Security Conference. This annual event provides a high level forum for transatlantic leaders—and increasingly leaders from other parts of the world—to meet and debate major security issues. The sidebar meetings and “bilats,” among the participants are as important as the major plenary sessions, where leaders take the opportunity to express their country’s positions or in many cases propose new approaches to solving problems. Munich is where the major powers annually reaffirm their continued commitment to transatlantic cooperation in service to core Western values: democracy, rule of law, human rights.

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Ash Carter’s Nomination Hearing: What to Watch For

by Janine Davidson
Ash Carter, President Obama's nominee to be the next Secretary of Defense, arrives to meet with Senate Armed Services Committee ranking member Senator Jack Reed (D-RI) (not pictured) at Reed's office on Capitol Hill in Washington, January 22, 2015. (Jonathan Ernst/Courtesy Reuters) Ash Carter, President Obama's nominee to be the next Secretary of Defense, arrives to meet with Senate Armed Services Committee ranking member Senator Jack Reed (D-RI) (not pictured) at Reed's office on Capitol Hill in Washington, January 22, 2015. (Jonathan Ernst/Courtesy Reuters)

Ash Carter faces the Senate Armed Services Committee today for his confirmation hearing. You can watch it live on CSPAN at 9:30 a.m. EST.

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Putin’s Invasion Continues to Widen. Let’s Give Ukraine What It Needs to Push Back.

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

Amid renewed fighting between Ukrainian forces and Russian-backed separatists (as well as Russian regulars), the New York Times reports that U.S. senior officials are finally considering providing lethal aid to Ukraine’s beleaguered military. U.S. advocates reportedly include General Phillip Breedlove, Supreme Allied Commander, Europe; General Martin Dempsey, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff; Secretary of State John Kerry; and even national security adviser Susan Rice, who has been critical of such proposals to date. This potential shift comes at a critical time: according to NATO, Ukrainian separatists, with substantial support from Russian forces, have captured 500 square kilometers (193 square miles) of new territory since the “official” September 5 ceasefire. Likewise, the deployment of Russian heavy armor and artillery has accelerated since the beginning of 2015, sending a clear signal that Vladimir Putin intends—at best—to keep Ukraine in a state of bloody stasis. At worst,  he could expand his invasion further.

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

by Janine Davidson
Afghan National Army (ANA) soldiers take part in a training exercise at a military base in Kabul November 23, 2014. (Omar Sobhan/Courtesy Reuters) 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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Charts, Charts, Charts: Everything You Need to Understand the Military Compensation Debate

by Janine Davidson and Guest Blogger for Janine Davidson
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) 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)

By Janine Davidson and Jesse Sloman

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
A Ukrainian serviceman fires a weapon during fighting with pro-Russian separatists in Pesky village, near Donetsk January 21, 2015. (Oleksandr Klymenko/Courtesy Reuters) 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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Seven Defense Items To Look for in Tonight’s State of the Union Address

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