One of the Army's most vocal active-duty critics is retiring from the service and turning his focus to politics.

Lt. Col. Daniel Davis first gained widespread attention in 2012 when he wrote an essay calling on the military to come clean about "the absence of success on virtually every level" in Afghanistan. He followed it up a year later with a piece titled "Purge the generals: What it will take to fix the Army," a call for a sweeping overhaul of top Army leadership.

Davis, a prior-enlisted armor officer with four combat deployments, said he's leaving the Army with just under 21 years of active-duty service.

As he transitions from the Army, Davis is taking on politics and the money that drives it.

He has launched Democracy Awake, a non-profit meant to help educate voters and push the American people to regain the ability to influence who gets elected to Congress.

"It's a given that everybody understands the dysfunction and they don't like it," Davis said. "What many people don't know is it's even worse than you think."

His research showed him a "tiny little group of elite wealthy" have a virtual monopoly over the entire electoral system, Davis said.

"They decide who runs and who wins," he said, adding that every politician who won a seat in the House of Representatives in 2012 was backed by this group.

"They have virtual dominance over this whole system … and that's not right," Davis said. "I don't think most people realize just how dramatic their influence and control. That's not the way our government was designed."

Just as he was driven to speak out for what he believed was right while in uniform, Davis said he's seeking to do the same in retirement.

"I want to serve the country," he said. "I want my life to matter in something besides just me making a paycheck."

Living in the Washington, D.C., area and his interactions with members of Congress and their staff in response to the articles he wrote gave him deeper insight into what happens behind the political scenes, Davis said.

"I saw part of the dysfunction that people see in the news, but I also saw some of the positive things," he said.

So Davis did some research to learn more.

"I thought I could identify the problems and attack them," he said.

To start, Davis plans to provide what he calls a Power Hub, a one-stop shop for campaign information, where Americans can become informed about where their candidates stand on any issue important to them, he said.

Democracy Awake also plans to provide "actual boots on the ground" to explain this Power Hub and Democracy Awake's mission to local voters, he said.

"There are a lot of people who've had some services on the Net, but nobody has actively marketed and put boots on the ground to go identify them and teach [voters] how to use them," Davis said.

The real key to Democracy Awake's success, however, is timing, Davis said.

"The reason why I believe it's got a real shot at working is I can show you how unrepresentative your country is, and I can show you how you can get some of that power back," he said. "People are so upset, I think they'll do it. I believe that is possible."

To launch Democracy Awake, Davis has launched a crowdfunding site through and seeks to raise $30,000 over the next month.

"In order to have a chance to operate in the field, I've got to have a considerable amount of money," he said.

The crowdfunding effort also will give him an idea of whether people will support his efforts, he said.

"If the campaign doesn't achieve its goal, then the timing is not right," he said. "We're going to find out in the beginning if there is sufficient support or not."

As for his time in the Army, his departure from the service came sooner than he planned, but not for the reasons one might think. He's leaving so he can stay close to his 12- and 7-year-old sons, who live in the D.C. area.

"I did not desire to leave now, but the Army came down and said 'we're going to PCS you to Fort Leavenworth," Davis said. "I said 'no, I can't go there.' Because of my combat deployments and the loss of my marriage, I can't leave my sons for three years."

So he put in his paperwork to retire.

"My sons have paid too much of a price already, I couldn't have them do another [separation]," he said.

Davis said he leaves the Army with no regrets about his time in service or his decision to speak out for what he believes is right.

"I felt a moral obligation to tell the truth," he said.

Going public with his opinions wasn't easy, however.

"Many of my friends counseled strongly against it," he said. "But the significant moral conflict within me was that I have an obligation, by the Army values, to do what I think is right."

His opinion pieces garnered mixed responses.

Some of his friends shunned him or were afraid to be seen associating with him after his more controversial pieces were published, he said. He said he also got a "great deal" of e-mails and support from "battalion and below level grade officers, a bunch of NCOs, the guys who are on the ground who see a lot of this stuff."

But Davis, who will officially retire Aug. 1, said he has to "give credit where credit is due."

"I know there were many senior generals who strongly disliked me," he said, "but nobody took any overt action against me."

Michelle Tan is the editor of Army Times and Air Force Times. She has covered the military for Military Times since 2005, and has embedded with U.S. troops in Iraq, Afghanistan, Kuwait, Haiti, Gabon and the Horn of Africa.

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