Janine Davidson

Defense in Depth

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

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Korea: Not a Shrimp Anymore

by Clint Hinote
South Korean honor guards perform before a joint commissioning ceremony for 6,478 new officers from the Army, Navy, Air Force and Marines at the military headquarters in Gyeryong March 12, 2015. (Kim Hong-Ji/Courtesy Reuters) South Korean honor guards perform before a joint commissioning ceremony for 6,478 new officers from the Army, Navy, Air Force and Marines at the military headquarters in Gyeryong March 12, 2015. (Kim Hong-Ji/Courtesy Reuters)

South Korea faces a great challenge, and it has a great opportunity. Its handling of a relatively obscure issue will provide great insight into its future in a vital and volatile area.

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Afghanistan’s Riddle: For Lasting Stability, U.S. Presence Is One Important Step Among Many

by Guest Blogger for Janine Davidson
U.S. President Barack Obama (R) and Afghanistan President Ashraf Ghani arrive for a joint news conference in the East Room of the White House in Washington March 24, 2015. (Gary Cameron/Courtesy Reuters) U.S. President Barack Obama (R) and Afghanistan President Ashraf Ghani arrive for a joint news conference in the East Room of the White House in Washington March 24, 2015. (Gary Cameron/Courtesy Reuters)

By James West

Yesterday’s announcement of a new timeline for U.S. troop withdrawal will see the full 9,800 U.S. contingent remain in Afghanistan through at least the end of 2015. This marks an important, positive step in building Afghan stability as it acknowledges that while the combat mission may have ended, much work remains to be done. Equally important is the pledge to request Congress’ continued funding of the Afghan National Security Forces (ANSF), maintaining a goal of 352,000 soldiers and policemen through 2017 and costing roughly $4 billion dollars. Continuing U.S. support will be required as Afghanistan seeks to develop and diversify its infrastructure and economy, secure international aid, and enhance regional integration necessary to prevent disintegration along ethnic lines and an amplified civil war. All of these steps are necessary to keep Afghanistan safe, free, and secure.

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In Planning for the Future, U.S. Army Must Look to the Fight Against Boko Haram

by Michael W. Rauhut
A Chadian soldier poses for a picture at the front line during battle against insurgent group Boko Haram in Gambaru, February 26, 2015. (Emmanuel Braun/Courtesy Reuters) A Chadian soldier poses for a picture at the front line during battle against insurgent group Boko Haram in Gambaru, February 26, 2015. (Emmanuel Braun/Courtesy Reuters)

The collective security response to Boko Haram’s emergence as a regional existential threat reveals a growing appreciation and desire for effective countermeasures to the terrorist group, now potentially allied with ISIS.  Eric Schmitt’s recent New York Times article, “African Training Exercise Turns Urgent as Threats Grow” reflects proven foreign internal defense approaches, but absent a broader, enduring landpower network—a network of established relationships with partnered land forces able to shape security environments—any progress may prove temporary.

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The Air Force’s Argument to Retire the A-10 Warthog Doesn’t Add Up. Here’s Why.

by Ben Fernandes
A U.S. Air Force A-10 Thunderbolt aircraft from Bagram Air Base flies a combat mission over Afghanistan, in this handout photograph taken on June 14, 2009 and obtained on May 20, 2014. (Staff Sgt. Jason Robertson/Courtesy Reuters) A U.S. Air Force A-10 Thunderbolt aircraft from Bagram Air Base flies a combat mission over Afghanistan, in this handout photograph taken on June 14, 2009 and obtained on May 20, 2014. (Staff Sgt. Jason Robertson/Courtesy Reuters)

The U.S. Air Force and the rest of the military desperately need to cut billions of dollars while minimizing the loss to combat capabilities. Eliminating platforms provides the greatest cost savings due to the fixed costs associated with each platform. The Air Force plan: retire the A-10 Warthog. As an Army officer relying on anecdotal experience and public evidence, I find this decision perplexing, as do Air Force ground controllers, Senator Kelly Ayote (R-NH), and Senator John McCain (R-AZ), Chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee. I cannot find systemic evidence articulating the impact of losing the A-10 on the Air Force’s close air support (CAS) capability because the Air Force has failed to articulate this information. Instead the Air Force provides irrelevant or misleading information.

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Engage…or Isolate?

by Robert A. Newson
U.S. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel (L) and his Chinese counterpart Chang Wanquan (R) listen to the Chinese national anthem during a welcoming ceremony at the Chinese Defense Ministry headquarters, prior to their meeting in Beijing April 8, 2014.  (Alex Wong/Courtesy Reuters) U.S. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel (L) and his Chinese counterpart Chang Wanquan (R) listen to the Chinese national anthem during a welcoming ceremony at the Chinese Defense Ministry headquarters, prior to their meeting in Beijing April 8, 2014. (Alex Wong/Courtesy Reuters)

Engage or isolate? This is the national security question that will drive the United States’ response to near-peer competitors like China and Russia, destabilizing middle powers like Iran and North Korea, and even the relatively powerless Cuba. Consistent engagement, even with adversary states, is beneficial. It can help avoid miscalculations, improve U.S. ability to clarify intentions, and decipher ambiguous signals. It also can increase understanding of adversary motivations and interests, which facilitates negotiation and potential development of conflict off-ramps. Conversely, isolation can limit adversaries’ options, negatively feed their fears, and wound their pride—obstructing alternative, preferred paths.

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Digging into the Compensation Commission’s Proposals: Great for Troops AND the Pentagon Bottom Line

by Guest Blogger for Janine Davidson
Alphonso Maldon, Jr., chairman of the Department of Defense Military Compensation and Retirement Modernization Commission, asks for service members' ideas for improvement aboard Camp Pendleton, Calif., March 25, 2014. (Defense Video & Imagery Distribution System) Alphonso Maldon, Jr., chairman of the Department of Defense Military Compensation and Retirement Modernization Commission, asks for service members' ideas for improvement aboard Camp Pendleton, Calif., March 25, 2014. (Defense Video & Imagery Distribution System)

By Jesse Sloman

Last week, the Military Compensation and Retirement Modernization Commission (MCRMC) released its long-awaited final report, outlining fifteen recommendations for updating military pay and benefits. The Pentagon, Congress, military advocacy organizations, and think tanks are all studying the proposed reforms to determine who stands to gain, who stands to lose, and what their positions will be.

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Before Calling for More U.S. Troops, Let’s Figure Out What Their Mission Is

by Robert A. Newson
U.S. soldiers from D Troop of the 3rd Cavalry Regiment walk on a hill after finishing with a training exercise near forward operating base Gamberi in the Laghman province of Afghanistan December 30, 2014. (Lucas Jackson/Courtesy Reuters) U.S. soldiers from D Troop of the 3rd Cavalry Regiment walk on a hill after finishing with a training exercise near forward operating base Gamberi in the Laghman province of Afghanistan December 30, 2014. (Lucas Jackson/Courtesy Reuters)

Senators John McCain and Diane Feinstein recently discussed the need to review the current counter-terrorism strategy and warned that the United States may need more troops in Yemen and across the Middle East. The national media focused almost exclusively on the question of more troops. This is a common oversight. Sending additional troops puts the cart before the horse or, more to the point, the troops before the strategy. More troops to do what?

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Does America Have a Warrior Caste?

by Guest Blogger for Janine Davidson
Members of the Armed Forces Color Guard and drummers from he U.S. Air Force Band, all based in Washington, D.C., perform during the Super Bowl XLV game at Cowboys Stadium in Arlington, Texas, Feb. 6, 2011. U.S. Air Force photo (Senior Airman Melissa Harvey/U.S. Army Flickr) Members of the Armed Forces Color Guard and drummers from he U.S. Air Force Band, all based in Washington, D.C., perform during the Super Bowl XLV game at Cowboys Stadium in Arlington, Texas, Feb. 6, 2011. U.S. Air Force photo (Senior Airman Melissa Harvey/U.S. Army Flickr)

By Amy Schafer

Who is truly bearing the burden of repeated deployments and protracted conflicts? Who comprises our shrinking all-volunteer force? As the daughter of an A-10 pilot, I see my fellow military brats enlisting and being commissioned at incredible rates. Anecdotally, it has seemed at least one child in every military family tends to serve, while the ROTC programs in the Ivy League are some of the smallest in the country, and military service is left unconsidered as a viable career option for most young Americans.

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Misperception of U.S.-Cuba Policy Shift Among Cuban Migrants Threatens Tragedy

by Pat DeQuattro
Fifteen Cuban migrants prepare to set sail in their 14-foot homemade boat after a brief overnight stop offshore Grand Cayman Island, November 21, 2014. (Peter Polack/Courtesy Reuters) Fifteen Cuban migrants prepare to set sail in their 14-foot homemade boat after a brief overnight stop offshore Grand Cayman Island, November 21, 2014. (Peter Polack/Courtesy Reuters)

In the first five days of 2015, a total of ninety-six Cuban migrants were interdicted at sea during seven events in the Florida Straits. All seven interdictions involved dangerous conditions that included unseaworthy, homemade vessels that posed significant risk to the migrants attempting to make the perilous, ninety-mile journey across the open ocean of the Florida Straits. In the month of December, a total of 481 Cuban migrants were either interdicted at sea or landed in the United States during thirty-seven total events. These activities represent a 117 percent increase from December 2013, with a distinct spike in migrants following the President’s announcement on December 17 that U.S-Cuba policy changes were forthcoming.

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Amid Ballooning Chinese Defense Budgets, Force Protection Still Comes Up Dry

by Guest Blogger for Janine Davidson
Frost covers the mask and part of the hat of a soldier of the People's Liberation Army (PLA) as he stand guard near the border of China and Russia in Heihe, Heilongjiang province December 10, 2014 (Stringer/Courtesy Reuters) Frost covers the mask and part of the hat of a soldier of the People's Liberation Army (PLA) as he stand guard near the border of China and Russia in Heihe, Heilongjiang province December 10, 2014 (Stringer/Courtesy Reuters)

By Lauren Dickey and Emerson Brooking

A recent report by the Guangzhou-based Southern Weekly on investments to outfit and equip Chinese soldiers in the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) has sparked controversy both within China and abroad—revealing sharp fissures in China’s ballooning defense budget. With a total defense budget estimated at $132 billion in 2014 and 2.28 million active duty soldiers on payroll, the PLA allocates a mere $1,523 (9,460 yuan) in outfitting each soldier, roughly one-thirteenth the value of the average deploying U.S. serviceman’s personal gear. At a time when the combat-readiness of China’s armed forces is already widely debated, costs of the basic infantrymen kit highlight critical shortcomings of the Chinese military.

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