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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. 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), Dr. Davidson 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.

Recent publications include "Civil-Military Friction and Presidential Decision-Making: Explaining the Broken Dialogue," Presidential Studies Quarterly, (March 2013); "Beyond the Last Resort: The U.S. Military and Conflict Prevention," Building Peace (Fall 2013); "Obama's New Global Posture: The Logic of U.S. Foreign Deployments," co-author Michele Flournoy, Foreign Affairs, (July/August 2012), "Misinterpreting DoD's Strategic Guidance Repeats Mistakes, Ignores Emerging Trends and Leads to Failure," ForeignPolicy.com, (July 2012); and "Making Government Work: Pragmatic Priorities for Interagency Coordination," Orbis, (Summer 2009). 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 in 2013 she was appointed by President Obama as a member of the National Commission on the Structure of the Air Force. She 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

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

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

Op-Ed

Why No One Is Buying the Air Force’s Argument To Ditch the A-10

Author: Janine Davidson
Defense One

Janine Davidson evaluates the heated, often emotional discussion surrounding the Air Force's decision to retire the A-10 Warthog. She argues that the A-10 debate speaks to larger issues surrounding the future of close air support, and that—while there are good arguments to divest from the A-10—the Air Force has so far done a poor job communicating them.

See more in United States; Defense Technology

Recent Activity from Defense in Depth

CFR Events

Media Conference Call

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.

Listen

Media Conference Call

ISIS and Islamic Extremism

Speakers:

Ed Husain, Adjunct Senior Fellow for Middle Eastern Studies, Council on Foreign Relations, Janine Davidson, Senior Fellow for Defense Policy, Council on Foreign Relations

Moderator:

Jonathan Masters, Deputy Editor, CFR.org
August 27, 2014

This meeting is on the record.

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Symposium

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

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.

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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

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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