Janine Davidson

Defense in Depth

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

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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
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 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
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) 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 Janine Davidson and Emerson Brooking
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) 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
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) 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
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) 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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Russia Masses for a New Offensive in Eastern Ukraine; Number of Displaced Iraqis Now Exceeds Peak of Iraq War

by Janine Davidson
Military vehicles drive along a road at the Russian southern town of Matveev Kurgan, near the Russian-Ukrainian border in Rostov region, Russia, May 24, 2015. (Stringer/Courtesy Reuters) Military vehicles drive along a road at the Russian southern town of Matveev Kurgan, near the Russian-Ukrainian border in Rostov region, Russia, May 24, 2015. (Stringer/Courtesy Reuters)

The “clearest evidence to date” that Russia is overseeing a concerted military buildup, roughly thirty miles from the Ukrainian border. The makeshift base, located at the Kuzminsky firing range, now has three times the equipment it did in March. These are multiple rocket launchers, tanks, and self-propelled howitzers—all weapons used by eastern Ukrainian separatists—stripped of Russian markings. 

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On Memorial Day, Those Sacrifices Less Remembered

by Janine Davidson
A member of the Third U.S. Infantry Regiment (The Old Guard) takes part in a "Flags-In" ceremony, ahead of Memorial Day, at Arlington National Cemetery in Washington May 21, 2015. In advance of Memorial Day, soldiers of the 3rd U.S. Infantry Regiment (The Old Guard) place American flags at the foot of more than 228,000 graves during the annual "Flags-In" ceremony at Arlington National Cemetery." (Carlos Barria/Courtesy Reuters) A member of the Third U.S. Infantry Regiment (The Old Guard) takes part in a "Flags-In" ceremony, ahead of Memorial Day, at Arlington National Cemetery in Washington May 21, 2015. In advance of Memorial Day, soldiers of the 3rd U.S. Infantry Regiment (The Old Guard) place American flags at the foot of more than 228,000 graves during the annual "Flags-In" ceremony at Arlington National Cemetery." (Carlos Barria/Courtesy Reuters)

Twenty-three-year-old U.S. Marine Corps Corporal Sara A. Medina went to Nepal to help people. She died in a helicopter crash on May 12, alongside five other Marines. Thirty-year-old U.S. Air Force Captain William DuBois was killed on November 30 when his F-16 went down shortly after takeoff, in the midst of combat operations against the self-declared Islamic State. U.S. Army Major General Harold Greene and Specialist John Dawson were killed respectively on August 5 and April 8 while providing assistance to Afghan forces. One man was fifty-five. The other was twenty-two. These are the men and women, along with countless others from previous generations, for whom Memorial Day exists.

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The Islamic State Advances on Both Fronts; A “Real War” in Ukraine; Tragedy in Hawaii

by Janine Davidson
Tourists walk near columns in the historical city of Palmyra, May 13, 2010. Islamic State fighters in Syria have entered the ancient ruins of Palmyra after taking complete control of the central city, but there are no reports so far of any destruction of antiquities, a group monitoring the war said on May 21, 2015. Picture taken May 13, 2010. (Mohamed Azakir/Courtesy Reuters) Tourists walk near columns in the historical city of Palmyra, May 13, 2010. Islamic State fighters in Syria have entered the ancient ruins of Palmyra after taking complete control of the central city, but there are no reports so far of any destruction of antiquities, a group monitoring the war said on May 21, 2015. Picture taken May 13, 2010. (Mohamed Azakir/Courtesy Reuters)

The self-declared Islamic State increased its presence in both Iraq and Syria this week. The Institute for the Study of War provides several updated maps of Islamic State-held territory. The militants have seized more than half of Syria’s land, this now includes the ancient city of Palmyra. In Iraq, the ISIS offensive on Ramadi, or rather the retreat of Iraqi forces according to General Dempsey, has created a shift in U.S. strategy to combat the Islamic State in Iraq.

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Deserters Offer New Proof of Russia’s Worst-Kept Secret; Air Strikes Take Their Toll on Islamic State Leadership

by Janine Davidson
Opposition activist Ilya Yashin speaks to the media during a presentation of the report about Russian military presence in Ukraine that murdered opposition leader Boris Nemtsov was working on shortly before his death, in Moscow, Russia, May 12, 2015. Moscow spent more than 53 billion roubles ($1.04 billion) supplying a separatist rebellion in east Ukraine and at least 220 Russian soldiers have been killed there, a report by Russian opposition activists said on Tuesday. (Maxim Zmeyev/Courtesy Reuters) Opposition activist Ilya Yashin speaks to the media during a presentation of the report about Russian military presence in Ukraine that murdered opposition leader Boris Nemtsov was working on shortly before his death, in Moscow, Russia, May 12, 2015. Moscow spent more than 53 billion roubles ($1.04 billion) supplying a separatist rebellion in east Ukraine and at least 220 Russian soldiers have been killed there, a report by Russian opposition activists said on Tuesday. (Maxim Zmeyev/Courtesy Reuters)

Russia is experiencing limited troop desertion. Several Russian soldiers, taking issue with the war in Ukraine, are quitting the fight. Some of these men have released their accounts of the crisis—confirming that the Kremlin did indeed intend for them to cross the border. A report compiled by the slain opposition leader Boris Nemtsov has been released; its research indicates that more than 200 Russian soldiers have been killed in the Ukrainian conflict.

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2014 Sees Record Number of Conflict Refugees; Little Help for Afghanistan’s Wounded Warriors

by Janine Davidson
Ghazal, 4, (L) and Judy, 7, carrying 8-month-old Suhair, react after what activists said was shelling by forces loyal to Syria's President Bashar al-Assad near the Syrian Arab Red Crescent center in the Douma neighborhood of Damascus May 6, 2015. The shelling happened during the visit by a Syrian Arab Red Crescent convoy to deliver medical aid to their center in Douma, activists aid. (Bassam Khabieh/Courtesy Reuters) Ghazal, 4, (L) and Judy, 7, carrying 8-month-old Suhair, react after what activists said was shelling by forces loyal to Syria's President Bashar al-Assad near the Syrian Arab Red Crescent center in the Douma neighborhood of Damascus May 6, 2015. The shelling happened during the visit by a Syrian Arab Red Crescent convoy to deliver medical aid to their center in Douma, activists aid. (Bassam Khabieh/Courtesy Reuters)

A record thirty-eight million people were displaced by violence in 2014. 2.2 million Iraqis alone were displaced by the self-declared Islamic State. Conflicts in Syria, Iraq, South Sudan, Nigeria, and the Democratic Republic of Congo drove the total number of refugees to the highest in a generation. For the first time in a decade, even Europe has seen large numbers of displaced people, with 650,000 Ukrainians fleeing the violence stoked by Russia.

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