Janine Davidson

Defense in Depth

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

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Showing posts for "Department of Defense"

The Moral Cost of Torture

by Robert A. Newson
Demonstrator Maboud Ebrahimzadeh is held down during a simulation of waterboarding outside the Justice Department in Washington November 5, 2007. (Kevin Lamarque/Courtesy Reuters)

By Robert Newson

When I am asked about torture or, more frequently, when I feel the need to speak out against torture, I don’t talk about the fact that it doesn’t work (it doesn’t), nor the fact that it contributes to the enemy’s narrative and recruiting (it does). Instead, I talk about its gravest cost—what it does to the Americans whom we ask to conduct torture and what it does to the character and fiber of an entire nation that embraces it.

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Five Key Takeaways from the New U.S. National Military Strategy

by Janine Davidson
Army Gen. Martin E. Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, aboard a CH-47 traveling from Bagram to Kabul, Afghanistan, for meeting with ISAF, CENTCOM, State Dept. and Afghanistan military leadership Aug. 20, 2012. (D. Myles Cullen/U.S. Army Flickr)

General Martin Dempsey, outgoing Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, has just released a new, remarkably readable National Military Strategy (NMS). This document, alongside the President’s National Security Strategy (NSS) and the Secretary of Defense’s National Defense Strategy (NDS), forms the three pillars  of top-level U.S. defense strategy. The NMS offers the Chairman’s professional assessment of the global threat environment, which he describes as “the most unpredictable I have seen in forty years of service.” While the entire document is worth a read, here are five big takeaways from the new strategy:

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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
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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A Heavy Lift: Reforming the U.S. Military’s “Calcified” Personnel System

by Amy Schafer and Jesse Sloman
Soldiers of Company C, 2nd Battalion, 23rd Infantry Regiment, 1st Stryker Brigade Combat Team, 4th Infantry Division, work as a six member team to lift a heavy log over their heads 20 times while competing in the Ivy Heptathlon during Iron Horse Week, Jan. 28, 2015. Teams executed seven events in accordance with Army Regulation 7-22 in the fastest time possible. (U.S. Army/Flickr)

By Jesse Sloman and Amy Schafer

Last month, acting Undersecretary of Defense for Personnel and Readiness Brad Carson sent a memo to Secretary of Defense Ash Carter outlining a series of ambitious and long overdue proposals to update the United States military’s manpower management system.  Carson’s memo comes on the heels of the rollout of the Defense Secretary’s new “force of the future” initiative, a campaign that aims to implement reforms across the Department of Defense (DoD) in order to ensure the military is able to recruit and retain “the best of the best in every generation.”

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Ash Carter’s “Force of the Future” Personnel Reforms Can’t Come Soon Enough

by Jesse Sloman
U.S. Secretary of Defense Ash Carter delivers remarks to troops at Camp Arifjan, Kuwait February 23, 2015. (Jonathan Ernst/Courtesy Reuters)

Last week, Secretary of Defense Ashton Carter gave a speech at his former high school that laid out his vision for reforming the military’s manpower policies. For those like myself who have argued that the current system is inflexible, antiquated, and poorly adapted for the needs of millennial service members, it was refreshing to see a sitting defense secretary stake out such a forward-thinking position on personnel issues. Carter laid out an array of different policy proposals, three of which I found particularly intriguing: Read more »

Prioritize Operations, Ban PowerPoint: Ash Carter Is off to a Good Start

by Janine Davidson
U.S. Secretary of Defense Ash Carter (C) holds a regional security meeting at Camp Arifjan, Kuwait February 23, 2015. (Jonathan Ernst/Courtesy Reuters)

On February 17, Ash Carter was formally sworn in as the twenty-fifth Secretary of Defense. Within his first week on the job, he’s wrapped up intensive, fact-finding trips to both Afghanistan and Kuwait. This sends a powerful message about his priorities: although Carter previously distinguished himself as a thoughtful student of Pentagon bureaucracy, budgeting, and acquisitions, in his new role, current opsand getting the strategy rightcome first.

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

by Janine Davidson and Jesse Sloman
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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In Much-Needed Manpower Reform, U.S. Navy Set To Be the Next Proving Ground

by Jesse Sloman
A U.S. Navy sailor holds the U.S. flag during a takeover ceremony, where the U.S. took control of the Naval Aggrupation Standing NATO Maritime Group 2 (SNMG2) from Spain, at Malaga port in Malaga, southern Spain, July 8, 2014. (Jon Nazca/Courtesy Reuters)

The Chief of Naval Personnel, Vice Admiral William Moran, visited the Council on Foreign Relations (CFR) last month to discuss his vision for reforming the current manpower system. Since assuming his position in 2013, VADM Moran has been pushing hard to implement programs that will better align the Navy’s manpower policies with the expectations and aspirations of its younger sailors—especially millennials, those individuals born between 1980 and the mid-2000s.

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Can Ash Carter Finally Tame the Defense Acquisitions Behemoth?

by Guest Blogger for Janine Davidson
Then-Pentagon acquisitions chief Ashton Carter takes a reporter's question after it was announced that Boeing won a contract to build new refueling planes for the U.S. Air Force at the Pentagon in Washington, February 24, 2011. President Obama formally nominated Carter on December 5, 2014 to serve as the twenty-fifth secretary of defense. (Jim Young/Courtesy Reuters)

By Alex Haber and Jeff Jeffress

For decades, pundits and policymakers have bemoaned the Pentagon’s cumbersome, sluggish procurement processes and rampant overspending, especially compared to industry counterparts. Though these arcane protocols will be challenging to improve, the stars appear to be aligning for actual reform.

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