Janine Davidson

Defense in Depth

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

In First Speech as Army Chief, General Milley Sets the Tone

by Janine Davidson Wednesday, August 19, 2015
Incoming Army Chief of Staff Gen. Mark A. Milley addresses the audience during a change of responsibility ceremony at Joint Base Myer-Henderson Hall's Summeral Field in Arlington, Va., Aug. 14, 2015. (Eboni L. Everson-Myart/U.S. Army/DVIDS) Incoming Army Chief of Staff Gen. Mark A. Milley addresses the audience during a change of responsibility ceremony at Joint Base Myer-Henderson Hall's Summeral Field in Arlington, Va., Aug. 14, 2015. (Eboni L. Everson-Myart/U.S. Army/DVIDS)

Last week, General Mark Milley assumed command as the thirty-ninth chief of staff of the United States Army. It was an occasion replete with ceremony—rows of distinguished guests,  a B-52 and a C-17 flyover, a display by the Old Guard, and a traditional “pass and review” by both the outgoing General Odierno and the incoming General Milley — reminders of the peaceful transition of authority that characterizes the U.S. military. Amid the excitement, however, it was also the first chance to note the new Chief of Staff’s priorities and outlook as he approaches the heavy responsibility before him. Among my takeaways from his speech:

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On Memorial Day, Those Sacrifices Less Remembered

by Janine Davidson Monday, May 25, 2015
A member of the Third U.S. Infantry Regiment (The Old Guard) takes part in a "Flags-In" ceremony, ahead of Memorial Day, at Arlington National Cemetery in Washington May 21, 2015. In advance of Memorial Day, soldiers of the 3rd U.S. Infantry Regiment (The Old Guard) place American flags at the foot of more than 228,000 graves during the annual "Flags-In" ceremony at Arlington National Cemetery." (Carlos Barria/Courtesy Reuters) A member of the Third U.S. Infantry Regiment (The Old Guard) takes part in a "Flags-In" ceremony, ahead of Memorial Day, at Arlington National Cemetery in Washington May 21, 2015. In advance of Memorial Day, soldiers of the 3rd U.S. Infantry Regiment (The Old Guard) place American flags at the foot of more than 228,000 graves during the annual "Flags-In" ceremony at Arlington National Cemetery." (Carlos Barria/Courtesy Reuters)

Twenty-three-year-old U.S. Marine Corps Corporal Sara A. Medina went to Nepal to help people. She died in a helicopter crash on May 12, alongside five other Marines. Thirty-year-old U.S. Air Force Captain William DuBois was killed on November 30 when his F-16 went down shortly after takeoff, in the midst of combat operations against the self-declared Islamic State. U.S. Army Major General Harold Greene and Specialist John Dawson were killed respectively on August 5 and April 8 while providing assistance to Afghan forces. One man was fifty-five. The other was twenty-two. These are the men and women, along with countless others from previous generations, for whom Memorial Day exists.

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

by Jesse Sloman and Amy Schafer 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) 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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It’s Time for Congress to Get Serious About Military Compensation

by Jesse Sloman Tuesday, May 13, 2014
congress capitol hill A general view of the U.S. Capitol Dome in Washington, October 6, 2013. (Jonathan Ernst/Courtesy Reuters)

This commentary comes courtesy of Marine Corps veteran and CFR research associate Jesse Sloman.  He addresses one of the most conspicuous “third rail” issues between Congress and the Pentagon: the question of compensation and benefits.  He calls on Congress to get the spiraling spending under control. The alternative will be a “hollow force”—well compensated but undertrained and unequipped to tackle future contingencies.

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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 »

An Un-Hollow Force: Readiness in the FY15 Budget Request

by Guest Blogger for Janine Davidson Wednesday, March 19, 2014
U.S. soldiers walk while on patrol in Kandahar Province, southern Afghanistan, in August 2012. U.S. soldiers walk while on patrol in Kandahar Province, southern Afghanistan, in August 2012 (Baz Ratner/Courtesy Reuters).

By Russell Rumbaugh

The debate about the defense budget suffers a fundamental disconnect: even as the national conversation focuses on deep cuts, the actual force remains the most awe-inspiring military force in the world. Some of that disconnect stems from blurring the distinction between a smaller force and a hollow force. While a hollow force—a force that claims capabilities on paper but in reality isn’t ready to execute—is without doubt a bad thing, it is not inevitably an outcome of a smaller force. In fact, a smaller force makes a hollow force less likely. And the president’s recently released  budget request takes significant steps to prevent a hollow force.

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