Janine Davidson

Defense in Depth

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

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Understanding the Past, Present, and Future of U.S. Precision Strike

by Zachary Austin
A B-2 Spirit flies into position June 11, 2014, during a refueling mission over the North Atlantic Ocean. The B-2 is conducting training flights and regional familiarization in the U.S. European Command area of operations. The B-2 is a multi-role bomber capable of delivering both conventional and nuclear munitions. (Sgt. Paul Villanueva/U.S. Air Force Flickr)

By Zachary Austin

On average, it took 1,000 sorties of B-17 bombers dropping nearly two-and-a-half million pounds of “dumb” bombs to successfully knock out a significant Nazi target in 1944. By contrast, during the 2003 invasion of Iraq, a B-2 bomber could reliably achieve the same result with a single 2,000 pound “smart” bomb—and then go on to strike up to fifteen more targets in a single mission.

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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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How No-Fly Zones Work

by Clint Hinote
F-16 Fighting Falcons from the Arizona Air National Guard's 162nd Wing in Tucson fly over an eastern Arizona training range April 8, 2015. (Master Sgt. Jeffrey Allen/U.S. Air Force Flickr)

When conflict rears its ugly head around the world, there is usually a call for the United States to “do something.” One option that is frequently mentioned is the no-fly zone. The United States and its allies enjoy a significant advantage over most potential adversaries in the air. No-fly zones, therefore, are attractive due to the perceived lower cost and risk when compared to other options. Despite this, setting up a no-fly zone is anything but a “no brainer.” Depending on the circumstances, there may be steep costs and unseen risks. This short primer is intended to introduce readers to the way no-fly zones really work.

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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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Explainer: How Defense Offsets Help Drive the Global Defense Industry

by Guest Blogger for Janine Davidson
General Dynamics employees work on an Abrams battle tank during a tour of the Joint Systems Manufacturing Center, Lima Army Tank Plant, in Lima, Ohio, April 23, 2012. (Matt Sullivan/Courtesy Reuters)

By Patrick Costello

This explainer comes courtesy of Patrick Costello, deputy director of CFR’s Congress and U.S. Foreign Policy program. He offers a concise introduction to the complex world of defense offsetscompensation agreements whereby defense companies invest in foreign governments in return for their business. Costello explores the history, growth, and future of the offsets market. If you want to learn about this issue, this is the best place to start.

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Explainer: This Graph Shows How NATO’s Military Capability Has Evolved Since 1949

by Janine Davidson
Leaders watch their flags as they participate in a NATO Summit Session One: Meeting on Afghanistan and ISAF at the Celtic Manor Resort in Newport, Wales September 4, 2014. (Larry Downing/Courtesy Reuters)

As representatives of twenty-eight NATO member nations convene in Wales for the 2014 NATO summit, there are a number of significant issues under discussion. One overriding concern, however, remains the proportional defense spending and overall military capability of the alliance. In order to provide context for this debate, we have visualized a publicly available dataset on military expenditures compiled by the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI). This graph traces, in constant U.S. 2011 dollars, the annual spending trends of each alliance member. To our knowledge, this represents the most comprehensive timeline of NATO’s 65-year evolution:
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