Janine Davidson

Defense in Depth

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

It’s Time for the U.S. Military to Double Down in the Asia-Pacific

by Stephen E. Liszewski Tuesday, April 14, 2015
A Chinese People's Liberation Army (PLA) Navy personnel stands on the deck of the Chinese naval guided missile destroyer Haikou (171) during a welcome ceremony as it docks at the Ngong Shuen Chau Naval Base in Hong Kong April 30, 2012. (Tyrone Siu/Courtesy Reuters) A Chinese People's Liberation Army (PLA) Navy personnel stands on the deck of the Chinese naval guided missile destroyer Haikou (171) during a welcome ceremony as it docks at the Ngong Shuen Chau Naval Base in Hong Kong April 30, 2012. (Tyrone Siu/Courtesy Reuters)

The Council on Foreign Relations’ newly released Council Special Report, Revising U.S. Grand Strategy Toward China, proposes a new approach to address the challenges and potential dangers posed by China’s economic, diplomatic and military expansion. The new, proactive approach from Ambassador Robert D. Blackwill and Dr. Ashley J. Tellis moves beyond old models based simply on integration and engagement. The military element of the recommended grand strategy calls for significant investment in “Capabilities and capacity specifically to defeat China’s emerging anti-access capabilities and permit successful U.S. power projection even against concerted opposition from Beijing.”

Read more »

Overstretched and Under Pressure, the U.S. Air Force Remains the Backbone of Current Operations

by Janine Davidson and Guest Blogger for Janine Davidson Tuesday, April 7, 2015
Twelve Air Force KC-135 Stratotankers from the 909th Air Refueling Squadron taxi onto the runway during Exercise Forceful Tiger on Kadena Air Base, Japan, April 1, 2015. During the aerial exercise, the Stratotankers delivered 800,000 pounds of fuel to about 50 aircraft. (Staff Sgt. Marcus Morris/U.S. Air Force/U.S. Air Force Flickr) Twelve Air Force KC-135 Stratotankers from the 909th Air Refueling Squadron taxi onto the runway during Exercise Forceful Tiger on Kadena Air Base, Japan, April 1, 2015. During the aerial exercise, the Stratotankers delivered 800,000 pounds of fuel to about 50 aircraft. (Staff Sgt. Marcus Morris/U.S. Air Force/U.S. Air Force Flickr)

By Janine Davidson and Sam Ehrlich

U.S. Air Force Secretary Deborah James visited the Council on Foreign Relations late last month to discuss the present and future of the Air Force. James, who was confirmed as the twenty-third Secretary of the Air Force in December 2013, spoke on a number of capabilities and institutional challenges within the Air Force, everything from the nuclear enterprise reform to proposed platform retirement. Her bottom line—repeated often—was that available resources are falling far short of the Air Force’s growing responsibilities. Read more »

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.

Read more »

Four Myths That Drive (and Endanger) U.S. Defense Policy

by Janine Davidson Tuesday, March 3, 2015
Maserati Alfieri car is pictured during the media day ahead of the 84th Geneva Motor Show at the Palexpo Arena in Geneva March 4, 2014. (Arnd Wiegmann/Courtesy Reuters) Maserati Alfieri car is pictured during the media day ahead of the 84th Geneva Motor Show at the Palexpo Arena in Geneva March 4, 2014. (Arnd Wiegmann/Courtesy Reuters)

U.S. defense planning has evolved since the mid 1970s, with the end of the Vietnam War and the founding of the All-Volunteer Force (AVF). Since then, at least four troubling myths have become baked into doctrine, strategy, and force planning processes. These beliefs focus on our strengths, but have in some ways blinded us to the enduring nature of conflict. They have hindered our ability to institutionalize lessons from our most frustrating operational experiences in favor of constructs like the Revolution in Military Affairs (RMA), “rapid, decisive, operations” and (most recently) AirSea Battle. As the Pentagon grapples with diminishing resources and an accelerating technology curve, it is worth reflecting on these myths and how we can overcome 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.

Read more »

On the U.S. Marine Corps’ 239th Birthday, New Challenges on the Horizon

by Stephen E. Liszewski Monday, November 10, 2014
Corporal Scott Bradley and Lance Cpl. Dakota Marshall, two Marines with Black Sea Rotational Force 14 from 3rd Battalion, 8th Marine Regiment, reach the peak of a cliff with two Romanian soldiers of the 17th Mountain Troop Bn. during Exercise Platinum Lynx in the Carpathian Mountains, May 8, 2014.  (Marine Corps Flickr) Corporal Scott Bradley and Lance Cpl. Dakota Marshall, two Marines with Black Sea Rotational Force 14 from 3rd Battalion, 8th Marine Regiment, reach the peak of a cliff with two Romanian soldiers of the 17th Mountain Troop Bn. during Exercise Platinum Lynx in the Carpathian Mountains, May 8, 2014. (Marine Corps Flickr)

Today the United States Marine Corps celebrates its 239th birthday.  Marines and their families will remember the illustrious history of the Corps and renew their commitment to serve the nation, “In every clime and place.”  Marines will also reflect on the status of their beloved Corps.   The Marines’ mission in Helmand Province has just ended and General Joseph F. Dunford has taken his post as the thirty-sixth Commandant of the Marine Corps.

Read more »

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?

Read more »

“Winning In A Complex World:” The Army Gets It. Now Can the Lesson Stick?

by Janine Davidson Thursday, October 16, 2014
Outgoing Commander of U.S. Forces in Iraq General Raymond Odierno speaks during a change of command ceremony in Baghdad September 1, 2010. (Jim Watson/Courtesy Reuters) Outgoing Commander of U.S. Forces in Iraq General Raymond Odierno speaks during a change of command ceremony in Baghdad September 1, 2010. (Jim Watson/Courtesy Reuters)

This week, thousands of soldiers and industry representatives descended on Washington, DC for the Association of the U.S. Army’s (AUSA) annual conference.  Amid the standard panel discussions about military acquisitions, organization, and veterans benefits, there also ran a new undercurrent of uncertainty—and excitement—regarding the future role of the Army. Increasingly, Army soldiers at every level are looking beyond the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq and asking what sorts of missions might come next and how they should prepare.

Read more »

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.

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.

Read more »