Janine Davidson

Defense in Depth

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

The Invisible Cost of Combat Readiness

by Janine Davidson Wednesday, January 20, 2016
Corporal Derek Detzler, a bugler with the 2nd Marine Division Band, performs Taps during the 32nd Beirut Memorial Observance Ceremony in Jacksonville, North Carolina, Oct. 23, 2015. (Cpl. Todd F. Michalek/U.S. Marine Corps Flickr)

Last night, the U.S. Coast Guard suspended its search for twelve Marines lost off the Hawaii coast, missing since Thursday evening. It was a nighttime training mission: according to an eyewitness, two CH-53E Super Stallion helicopters collided in a fireball, plummeting into choppy seas. Rescuers have recovered all four of the emergency rafts, but no survivors.

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

by Amy Schafer and Jesse Sloman Friday, May 15, 2015
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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In Much-Needed Manpower Reform, U.S. Navy Set To Be the Next Proving Ground

by Jesse Sloman Monday, January 5, 2015
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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Enough with “Boots on the Ground:” What Will the U.S. Advisory Mission in Iraq Look Like?

by Robert A. Newson Tuesday, September 23, 2014
A U.S. and Iraqi soldier take part in a shooting exercise at an Iraqi military base south of Baghdad August 30, 2010. (Saad Shalash/Courtesy Reuters)

This commentary comes courtesy of Captain Robert A. Newson, CFR’s U.S. Navy fellow and a SEAL officer. CAPT Newson recently served Special Operations Command (Forward) Commander in Yemen 2010-2012, where he helped coordinate military advising efforts in the region. He argues that the reintroduction of U.S. advisory personnel to Iraq does not automatically set the military on a “slippery slope” to full-scale intervention. Rather, the chance of escalation will be determined by three factors: the total required forces, the concept of operations, and any applicable mission restraints. This question will become only more important with late-breaking news of anti-ISIS air strikes’ expansion into Syria.

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It’s Time to Talk About the Role of U.S. Civilians in Modern War

by Guest Blogger for Janine Davidson and Janine Davidson Monday, July 28, 2014
usaid-iraq-afghanistan Rear Admiral Gregory Smith (L), director of the Multi-National Force – Iraq’s Communications Division, and Denise Herbol, deputy director of USAID – Iraq, in Baghdad January 13, 2008. (Wathiq Khuzaie/Courtesy Reuters)

By Janine Davidson and Phillip Carter

There is a new bill currently languishing in Congressional committee, the “Combat Zone Tax Parity Act,” which would grant federal civilian employees deployed to combat zones the same tax benefits as the military servicemen who fight alongside them. It comes long overdue.

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Want To Fix Retention? Start by Making the Military a Real Meritocracy

by Amy Schafer Monday, July 14, 2014
Marines with Combat Logistics Battalion 15, Combat Logistics Regiment 17, 1st Marine Logistics Group, run in formation along Red Beach Training Area, Dec. 6, 2013. (Sgt. Sarah Fiocco, USMC/Courtesy Marines Flickr)

This commentary comes courtesy of Amy Schafer, research intern for defense policy at the Council on Foreign Relations. She notes that an inflexible promotions structure and rigid “all or nothing” pension system push too many talented servicemembers to leave the military early in pursuit of other opportunities. A better system, Schafer argues, would emulate some of the best practices of Silicon Valley by rewarding high achievers and allowing more freedom in choice of assignment.

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Seventy Years Ago, We Did the Impossible. Could We Do It Again?

by Guest Blogger for Janine Davidson Friday, June 6, 2014
d-day Landing on the coast of France under heavy Nazi machine gun fire are these American soldiers, shown just as they left the ramp of a Coast Guard landing boat, June 6, 1944. (Robert F. Sargent/Courtesy National Archives)

By William J. Parker III

This commentary comes courtesy of Captain William J. Parker III, CFR’s own U.S. Navy fellow and a surface naval warfare officer by trade. Parker traces the years of intensive logistical and operational planning that culminated in the famous June 6, 1944 landing at Normandy. He argues that D-Day was ultimately the result of many seemingly disparate operations. Parker also asks an important question: with all the transformations in modern warfighting, could the United States today accomplish a similarly impressive feat?

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A Commission on the Structure of the Army? Careful What You Wish For

by Guest Blogger for Janine Davidson Thursday, May 22, 2014
army commission U.S. Army Generals stand ready to testify at a Senate Armed Services Committee on Capitol Hill in Washington, June 4, 2013. (From L to R) Judge Advocate General of the Army Lt. General Dana K. Chipman, Army Chief of Staff General Raymond T. Odierno, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff General Martin Dempsey and Legal Counsel to the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Brig. General Richard C. Gross. (Larry Downing/Courtesy Reuters)

By F.G. Hoffman

F.G. Hoffman offers another perspective on Adam Maisel’s argument for a Commission on the Structure of the Army to revisit issues related to the National Guard and Reserve Component. Hoffman observes that a call for a commission might denigrate the work already done by the Guard’s defenders. He also suggests that the outcome of such a commission would not necessarily be in the favor of those advocating for it.

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Paging Dr. Abrams: Why This Soldier Thinks We Need a Commission on the Structure of the Army

by Guest Blogger for Janine Davidson Tuesday, May 6, 2014
calvary soldiers at attention U.S. Army soldiers stand at attention to receive their spurs following a 24 hour Cavalry "Spur Ride" for members of the US Army's 6th Squadron, 6th Cavalry Regiment in Fort Drum, New York, September 30, 2010. (Lucas Jackson/Courtesy Reuters)

By Adam Maisel

As markup of the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2015 gets underway, senior leaders in the Army and Army National Guard are sharpening their knives. Stemming from a contentious aviation restructuring plan in the proposed budget in which the Army Guard would lose all of its attack aviation (as well as cuts to tens of thousands of soldiers, should sequestration return in FY16), both sides are girding for an Active-Guard war. Congress has responded in kind by advocating for an independent commission to study the force structure of the Army, similar in scope to the National Commission on the Structure of the Air Force formed in 2013.

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Slash Manpower, Impair Readiness? For the Air Force, There’s a Better Way

by Janine Davidson Thursday, April 10, 2014
Mechanic Sgt. Stephen Fink watches a F-35B Lightning II joint strike fighter Mechanic Sgt. Stephen Fink watches a F-35B Lightning II joint strike fighter from the Marine Fighter Attack Training Squadron 501, at Eglin Air Force Base, Florida, in this September 18, 2012 photo. (Master Sgt. Jeremy T. Lock, USAF/Courtesy Reuters)

I have a new article out in The Hill co-authored with my colleague,  Dr.  Meg Harrell, a manpower expert at RAND and a fellow member of the National Commission on the Structure of the Air Force (NCSAF). We argue that the Air Force’s proposed cuts of 25,000 airmen is the wrong approach: it voids a huge training investment and accepts too much strategic risk by hampering the Air Force’s ‘surge’ capabilities. We propose a less risky strategy that will shift more airmen to the Air Force Reserve and Air Guard. This carries several important benefits: Read more »