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Janine Davidson

Senior Fellow for Defense Policy

Expertise

Defense strategy and policy, military operations, national security, and civil-military relations

Bio

Dr. Janine Davidson is senior fellow for defense policy at the Council on Foreign Relations. Additionally, she serves as an adjunct professor at Georgetown University; as a member of the Reserve Forces Policy board; and as a senior advisor to the Office of the Secretary of Defense and NATO. Her areas of expertise include defense strategy and policy, military operations, national security, and civil-military relations.

Before joining CFR, Davidson was an assistant professor in the School of Public Policy at George Mason University, where she taught courses on national security, civil-military relations, counterinsurgency, and public policy. From 2009 to 2012, she served in the Obama administration as the deputy assistant secretary of defense for plans, where she oversaw the development of guidance for military campaign and contingency plans. She also led policy efforts for U.S. global defense posture, including the military's rebalance to Asia, and international agreements related to U.S. forces stationed overseas.

Previously, Dr. Davidson served as director for stability operations capabilities in the Office of the Assistant Secretary of Defense for Special Operations and Low Intensity Conflict (2006–2008), where she founded and directed the Consortium for Complex Operations (2007–2008), an innovative interagency project to enhance education, training, coordination, and performance in complex emergencies and interventions. As an associate at DFI International (2003–2004), she researched reserve affairs and Air Force mobility operations and strategy. As a research and adjunct fellow at the Brookings Institution (2004; 2008) and as director of counterinsurgency studies at Hicks and Associates (2005–2006), she conducted research on counterinsurgency, peacekeeping, and military adaptation and learning.

Dr. Davidson began her career in the United States Air Force, where she was an aircraft commander and senior pilot for the C-130 and the C-17 cargo aircraft. She flew combat support and humanitarian air mobility missions in Asia, Europe and the Middle East and was an instructor pilot at the U.S. Air Force Academy.

Dr. Davidson’s writing has been published in Foreign Affairs, Foreign Policy, the Washington Post, the Diplomat Magazine, and the National Interest, among others. She has appeared on PBS NewsHour, Fox News’ Shepard Smith Reporting, and MSNBC’s Morning Joe. She writes and edits the Defense in Depth web blog for the Council on Foreign Relations.

Her recent publications and monographs include “Retrench or Rebalance: America’s Evolving Defence Strategy,” Chatham House (September 2014); "Civil-Military Friction and Presidential Decision-Making: Explaining the Broken Dialogue," Presidential Studies Quarterly, (March 2013); "Obama's New Global Posture: The Logic of U.S. Foreign Deployments," co-author Michele Flournoy, Foreign Affairs, (July/August 2012). Her 2010 book, Lifting the Fog of Peace: How Americans Learned to Fight Modern War, was published by the University of Michigan Press.

In 2012, Dr. Davidson was awarded the Secretary of Defense Medal for Outstanding Public Service, and from 2013-2014 she served as a presidentially appointed member of the National Commission on the Structure of the Air Force. She is a life member of the Council on Foreign Relations and a member of the Board of Advisors of the Truman National Security Project.

Dr. Davidson received her PhD and a Master's of Arts degree in international studies from the University of South Carolina and a BS in architectural engineering from the University of Colorado at Boulder.

Mending the Broken Dialogue: Civil-Military Friction and Presidential Use of Force

As commander-in-chief, the president of the United States has great responsibility and authority in deciding when and how to use military force abroad. However, a mismatch in expectations and expertise between most presidents and their senior military advisors often leads to friction in the decision-making process. What has popularly been presented as a personality-driven or political debate between the commander-in-chief and his strong-minded military advisors seeking to "box him in" in fact has much deeper institutional and cultural roots. Military officers have certain expectations about how to craft "best military advice" that are deeply embedded into the organizational culture, reinforced in military education, and hard-wired into detailed military planning processes. Such expectations about the roles civilian leadership will play in providing guidance are in many ways out of sync with the expectations of the president, who for a variety of reasons seeks multiple options and creative solutions that the military planning process is not well suited to deliver. Working with senior military leaders, educators and civilian policy makers, this project seeks to uncover the deeper civilian and military drivers of this friction and make recommendations to improve both the development and delivery of "military advice." In doing so, the project might also increase understanding of military issues by civilian policy makers.

Understanding U.S. Military Power: The Art, Politics, and Business of Defense

The U.S. military must stand ready to respond to a dizzying number of contingencies: spiraling violence in Syria and Iraq; Russian aggression in Ukraine; maritime disputes in the South and East China seas; threats of genocide and global terrorism; piracy and drug trafficking; and a variety of natural disasters from earthquakes and floods to the spread of the Ebola virus. What are the proper doctrinal concepts and broader strategies for dealing with these myriad security threats? After over a decade of war and nearly seventy years of globally postured force structure, how much, if at all, can the U.S. military retrench and still ensure America's national security interests? In an increasingly austere budget environment, at what level, and to what degree of technological sophistication, should America's armed forces be funded? And how, given this array of challenges, should the all-volunteer force be organized, trained, and equipped? Through expert roundtable meetings, op-eds, and blog posts, I explore these issues and make sense of the debates over the employment of U.S. military power and the structure and purpose of America's armed forces.

All Publications

Article

Book Reivew: Band of Sisters: Elite Group of Female Army Soldiers Battled Under Harrowing Conditions

Author: Janine Davidson
New York Times

Writing for the New York Times and Women in the World, Janine Davidson reviews Gayle Tzemach Lemmon’s Ashley’s War. She discusses the institutional and physical challenges faced by this historic band of female battlefield operatives, and reflects on her own experience as the first woman to pilot C-130s in the Air Force.

See more in United States; Women; Military Operations

Article

America's Rebalance to the Asia-Pacific: On Track

Authors: Janine Davidson and Lauren Dickey
The Diplomat

Janine Davidson and Lauren Dickey, writing in the Diplomat Magazine, assess the military, diplomatic, and economic measures taken in accordance with the U.S. rebalance to the Asia-Pacific. While the rebalance has so far been a success, they argue that it must be embraced by the next U.S. president in order to become an enduring national policy.

See more in Asia and Pacific; Grand Strategy

Op-Ed

In Foreign Policy Debates Ahead, Look to Echoes of 2006

Authors: Janine Davidson and Emerson Brooking
Defense One

Writing in Defense One, Janine Davidson and Emerson Brooking reflect on the recent U.S. 2014 Midterm Elections, which saw a strong Republican resurgence. Looking ahead, they argue that President Obama may focus more on foreign policy initiatives in his last two years in office – just as President Bush after 2006.

See more in United States; Presidents and Chiefs of State

Op-Ed

The Campaign Against ISIL Could Cost $1.5B a Month

Authors: Janine Davidson and Emerson Brooking
Defense One

Writing in Defense One, Janine Davidson and Emerson Brooking assess the ramifications of the anti-ISIS air campaign's expansion into Syria. They argue that the campaign will be stymied without robust regional partnerships. They conclude that, should the campaign escalate further, both domestic funding and political authorization will become significant issues of debate.

See more in United States; Syria; Military Operations; Defense Budget

Interview

NATO's Brave New World

Janine Davidson interviewed by Bernard Gwertzman

With crises brewing in Ukraine and the Middle East, the transatlantic alliance must develop new capabilities to address the rising threat of unconventional warfare, says CFR's Janine Davidson.

See more in Ukraine; NATO

Op-Ed

America Has No Strategy to Stop ISIL

Author: Janine Davidson
Defense One

Janine Davidson writes in Defense One, assessing the U.S. decision to use airstrikes to halt the advance of the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria's (ISIS) advance into Iraqi territory. She concludes that, so long as ISIS can harbor freely in Syria, the strikes will have limited strategic impact.

See more in Iraq; Syria; Conflict Assessment

Recent Activity from Defense in Depth

CFR Events

The 2015 National Security Strategy

Speakers: Robert D. Blackwill, Henry A. Kissinger Senior Fellow for U.S. Foreign Policy, Council on Foreign Relations, Janine Davidson, Senior Fellow for Defense Policy, Council on Foreign Relations
Presider: Stewart M. Patrick, Senior Fellow and Director of the International Institutions and Global Governance Program, Council on Foreign Relations
February 10, 2015 12:30–1:30 p.m. ()

This meeting is on the record.

Read Listen

What to Worry About in 2015

Speakers: Jim Brooks, President & CEO for Americas, Control Risks, Mark L. Schneider, Senior Vice President, International Crisis Group, Paul B. Stares, General John W. Vessey Senior Fellow for Conflict Prevention and Director of the Center for Preventive Action, Council on Foreign Relations
Presider: Janine Davidson, Senior Fellow for Defense Policy, Council on Foreign Relations
January 7, 2015

This meeting is on the record.

ListenWatch

U.S.-Led Airstrikes in Syria

Speakers: Max Boot, Jeane J. Kirkpatrick Senior Fellow for National Security Studies, CFR, Janine Davidson, Senior Fellow for Defense Policy, CFR
Presider: Jonathan Tepperman, Managing Editor, Foreign Affairs
September 24, 2014

This meeting is on the record.

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ISIS and Islamic Extremism

Speakers: Janine Davidson, Senior Fellow for Defense Policy, Council on Foreign Relations, Ed Husain, Adjunct Senior Fellow for Middle Eastern Studies, Council on Foreign Relations
Moderator: Jonathan Masters, Deputy Editor, CFR.org
August 27, 2014

This meeting is on the record.

Listen

Risk and Military Planning

Speakers: Max Boot, Jeane J. Kirkpatrick Senior Fellow for National Security Studies, Council on Foreign Relations, Janine Davidson, Senior Fellow for Defense Policy, Council on Foreign Relations, Theo Farell, Head of the War Studies Department, King's College London
Presider: John A. Nagl, Headmaster, The Haverford School; Former President, Center for a New American Security; Visiting Professor, King's College London
March 25, 2014 9:45–10:45 a.m. ()

This meeting is on the record.

ListenWatch

Press/Panels

Video Interview

ISIS Could Convert Drones into "Flying IEDs"

Janine Davidson, appearing on Shepard Smith Reporting, discusses reports that ISIS has begun using UAVs for reconaissance, paving the way toward potential weaponization.

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Video Interview

How should the US handle ISIS?

Appearing on MSNBC's NOW With Alex Wagner, Janine Davidson assesses U.S. military options that might effectively blunt ISIS' momentum.

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Radio Interview

The NATO Summit

Janine Davidson, speaking on the Tavis Smiley Radio Show, identifies the most significant challenges facing NATO in the run up to its 2014 summit.

Listen

Video Interview

Analysis: What's Next for Ukraine?

Janine Davidson analyzes the security situation in eastern Ukraine on WSJ Live, responding to reports that Russia has bombarded Ukrainian military sites.

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Video Interview

Will US-Russia tensions escalate?

Janine Davidson appears on MSNBC's PoliticsNation with Al Sharpton to assess the political fallout and military consequences of the MH17 tragedy.

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Video Interview

The Iraq Crisis

Janine Davidson discusses the crisis in Iraq on Defense News TV, assessing options available to the United States to help achieve conciliation within the Iraqi government.

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Radio Interview

No Quick or Easy Solution On Iraq, Expert Says

On Wisconsin Public Radio's Joy Cardin Show, Janine Davidson analyzes the courses of action available to President Obama following an uptick in violence by Sunni extremists in Iraq.

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Video Interview

U.S. Weighs Potential Military Response in Iraq

Janine Davidson assesses the availability—and potential ramifications—of potential U.S. military options following a dangerous deterioration in Iraqi security on PBS NewsHour.

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Radio Interview

Obama's Foreign Policy Shift

On KQED Radio Forum, Janine Davidson discusses the significance of President Obama's May 29 foreign policy speech at West Point, as well as the feasibility of a globally focused U.S. foreign policy in a time of dwindling resources.

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Video Interview

The Next Big Challenge in Afghanistan is Payroll

On Marketplace World, Janine Davidson responds to news of a residual force of 9,800 American troops in Afghanistan, to remain after the end of formal combat operations in December 2014.

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Video Interview

Putin Employing 'Clever' Strategy in Ukraine: Defense Expert

On Kevin Newman LIVE, CTV News, Janine Davidson discusses Russian President Vladimir Putin's "stealth invasion" of east Ukraine using irregular troops. Their lack of affiliation maintains the Russian government's plausible deniability.

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Video Interview

Boost in Air Force Reserves

On DefenseNews TV Janine Davidson argues for better integration of Air Force reserve and Air Guard units, whose skills will become of increasing use in midst of budgetary drawdown.

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