Janine Davidson

Defense in Depth

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

Time for Congress to Reconsider the Counterterrorism Partnership Fund

by Sam Ehrlich Thursday, May 7, 2015
U.S. Special Operations Command Africa commanding general Brigadier General James Linder (R) shakes hands with a Nigerien military officer during Flintlock 2014, a U.S.-led international training mission for African militaries, in Niamey, March 9, 2014. (Joe Penne/Courtesy Reuters) U.S. Special Operations Command Africa commanding general Brigadier General James Linder (R) shakes hands with a Nigerien military officer during Flintlock 2014, a U.S.-led international training mission for African militaries, in Niamey, March 9, 2014. (Joe Penne/Courtesy Reuters)

In his address to West Point cadets last May, President Obama announced a new plan to combat the spread of terrorism in Africa and the Middle East, specifically through the use of a $5 billion Counterterrorism Partnership Fund (CTPF). By August 2014, the White House drafted a comprehensive approach to counterterrorism efforts in Africa. The statement included a plan to partner with and train African militaries to fight against al-Shabab, Boko Haram, and al-Qaeda, among others.

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Building a Survivable, Exquisite, Expensive Unmanned Aircraft Misses the Point

by Robert A. Newson Tuesday, March 31, 2015
An X-47B Unmanned Combat Air System demonstrator flies near the aircraft carrier USS George H.W. Bush (CVN 77) after launching from the ship in the Atlantic Ocean in this May 14, 2013 handout photograph released on May 16, 2013 by the U.S. Navy. (Erik Hildebrandt/U.S. Navy/Courtesy Reuters) An X-47B Unmanned Combat Air System demonstrator flies near the aircraft carrier USS George H.W. Bush (CVN 77) after launching from the ship in the Atlantic Ocean in this May 14, 2013 handout photograph released on May 16, 2013 by the U.S. Navy. (Erik Hildebrandt/U.S. Navy/Courtesy Reuters)

By Robert Newson

The Navy’s Unmanned Carrier Launched Surveillance and Strike (UCLASS) aircraft should be at the heart of a comprehensive debate about the future of unmanned technology and related concept of operations. Unfortunately, the current debate is narrowly focused on how advanced, large, and expensive to make the UCLASS.

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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 Thursday, March 5, 2015
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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Ash Carter’s Nomination Hearing: What to Watch For

by Janine Davidson Wednesday, February 4, 2015
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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Seven Defense Items To Look for in Tonight’s State of the Union Address

by Janine Davidson Tuesday, January 20, 2015
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 »

With Final FY15 Defense Budget, the Devil’s in the Details

by Janine Davidson Thursday, December 18, 2014
U.S. Representative Buck McKeon (R-CA) (L) holds up a media release as he and Senator Carl Levin (D-MI) (R), chairmen of the House and Senate Armed Services Committees, hold a news conference to talk about progress between the two chambers on the National Defense Authorization Act for fiscal year 2014, at the U.S. Capitol in Washington December 9, 2013. (Jonathan Ernst/Courtesy Reuters) U.S. Representative Buck McKeon (R-CA) (L) holds up a media release as he and Senator Carl Levin (D-MI) (R), chairmen of the House and Senate Armed Services Committees, hold a news conference to talk about progress between the two chambers on the National Defense Authorization Act for fiscal year 2014, at the U.S. Capitol in Washington December 9, 2013. (Jonathan Ernst/Courtesy Reuters)

After a process that could generously be described as touch-and-go, President Obama signed a $1.1 trillion dollar omnibus and continuing resolution spending package—the “cromnibus”—on Tuesday evening. It obligates $554 billion dollars for defense spending, which includes $490 billion for the base Pentagon budget and another $64 billion to the Overseas Contingency Fund (OCO). As Military Times reports, this marks an $18 billion dollar decrease from FY14—although the entirety of that reduction comes from a reduced OCO concurrent with the drawdown in Afghanistan. This top-line figure lines up almost exactly with President Obama’s original March request.

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The New Republican Congress (II): In Foreign Policy Debates Ahead, Look to Echoes of ’06

by Janine Davidson and Emerson Brooking Thursday, November 6, 2014
U.S. President George W. Bush (R) is joined by Defense Secretary Robert Gates before the start of the Army versus Navy football game in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, December 6, 2008. (Tim Shaffer/Courtesy Reuters) U.S. President George W. Bush (R) is joined by Defense Secretary Robert Gates before the start of the Army versus Navy football game in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, December 6, 2008. (Tim Shaffer/Courtesy Reuters)

By Janine Davidson and Emerson Brooking

As Democrats lick their wounds following Tuesday’s midterms, President Obama will no doubt be contemplating the messages the electorate was trying to send. Breaking gridlock and “getting stuff done” might be a good place to start. This seems to have been where President Obama’s predecessor, George W. Bush started eight years ago following a similar shellacking in the midterms during his second term.  Bush seized the moment for one of the most significant foreign policy shifts of his tenure. It’s worth the look back as we contemplate the Obama administration’s next steps.

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The New Republican Congress: Can the Hill Finally Pass the 2015 Defense Budget?

by Janine Davidson Wednesday, November 5, 2014
U.S. Republican Senator Rand Paul from Kentucky (L) waves with Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) and McConnell's wife, former United States Secretary of Labor Elaine Chao, at McConnell's midterm election night victory rally in Louisville, Kentucky, November 4, 2014. (John Sommers II/Courtesy Reuters) U.S. Republican Senator Rand Paul from Kentucky (L) waves with Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) and McConnell's wife, former United States Secretary of Labor Elaine Chao, at McConnell's midterm election night victory rally in Louisville, Kentucky, November 4, 2014. (John Sommers II/Courtesy Reuters)

The results of the 2014 midterm elections are in: Republicans had a fantastic night. The GOP has further solidified its control of the House of Representatives with roughly 245 seats (the biggest Republican majority since the Truman administration) and regained control of the Senate with at least seven new seatsthe first time since 2006. In the long run, this shift is likely to test the significant differences in foreign policy outlook that have opened between leading Republicans (and potential 2016 presidential candidates). In the medium term, Senator John McCain (R-AZ)’s long-sought chairmanship of the Senate Armed Services Committee will likely lead to more direct confrontations between Congress and the White House regarding current defense policy, war powers, and ISIS strategy. Most immediately, however, the conclusion of the midterm elections raises another pressing question: can Congress pass the FY15 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) before the end of this year? And if so, what might the final bill look like?

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Why Is a Comedian the Only One Talking About the Plight of Afghan Interpreters?

by Emerson Brooking and Janine Davidson Thursday, October 23, 2014
A translator for the U.S. Army listens during a security meeting with various members of the Afghan National Security Forces near Combat Outpost Hutal in Maiwand District, Kandahar Province, Afghanistan, January 21, 2013. (Andrew Burton/Courtesy Reuters) A translator for the U.S. Army listens during a security meeting with various members of the Afghan National Security Forces near Combat Outpost Hutal in Maiwand District, Kandahar Province, Afghanistan, January 21, 2013. (Andrew Burton/Courtesy Reuters)

By Emerson Brooking and Janine Davidson

If you tuned in for last Sunday’s Last Week Tonight with John Oliver, you also watched some of the most thorough reporting to date regarding efforts to secure Special Immigration Visas (SIVs) for Afghan and Iraqi  translators who have served for years alongside U.S. military personnel. When American servicemen rotate away, these translators remain—often becoming top-priority targets for reprisal attacks. Unfortunately, the State Department program intended to get Afghan translators and their families to safety has long been stuck in a bureaucratic swamp, stranding more than 6,000 Afghans across various stages of the process. With the visa program slated to end on December 31, many of these Afghans are now in very real danger of being abandoned. This raises two difficult questions: first, why has this been allowed to happen? And second, what now—at this late stage—can still be done to save them?

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Bob Work Speaks: Out of the Spotlight, The Asia-Pacific Rebalance Continues on Course

by Janine Davidson Wednesday, October 1, 2014
U.S. And Philippine soldiers pose for photos in front of a U.S. Marine Corps MV-22 Osprey aircraft during an Air Operations and Aircraft Static Display as part of the BALIKATAN 2013 (shoulder-to-shoulder) combined U.S.-Philippines military exercise at the formerly U.S. bases, Clark Air Base, Pampanga province, north of Manila April 13, 2013. (Romeo Ranoco/Courtesy Reuters) U.S. And Philippine soldiers pose for photos in front of a U.S. Marine Corps MV-22 Osprey aircraft during an Air Operations and Aircraft Static Display as part of the BALIKATAN 2013 (shoulder-to-shoulder) combined U.S.-Philippines military exercise at the formerly U.S. bases, Clark Air Base, Pampanga province, north of Manila April 13, 2013. (Romeo Ranoco/Courtesy Reuters)

The Council on Foreign Relations hosted Deputy Secretary of Defense Robert O. Work on September 30 for one of his first public events since his confirmation five months ago. Work, an experienced hand in maritime strategy and force disposition, explained the quiet steps by which the military rebalance to the Asia-Pacific has continued on course. Amid the loud headlines out of Iraq, Syria, and Ukraine, it is easy to forget that much of U.S. foreign policy is still being developed in anticipation of a “Pacific Century.” While unexpected contingencies like ISIS have dictated the tempo and focus of deployed troops, they have, according to Deputy Secretary Work, not hindered the overall rebalance, which largely continues apace.

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