After decades focused on terrorism, special operations is broadening its horizons

With clear marching orders from the Defense Department to turn focus to competitors like China and Russia, the U.S. special operations community is at an inflection point. Kicking down doors in Afghanistan and Iraq will give way to more missions like training partners in Europe and Asia, and U.S. Special Operations Command could see a shift in its funding and oversight.

But that re-focus should not mean that special operations forces will take a back seat to traditional air, land and sea power, according to a report released Wednesday, as competitors are already using proxy forces and misinformation campaigns, both of which are right in the SOF wheelhouse.

“A successful U.S. national security strategy will require more from SOF and their partner nation forces—not less,” according to the Imperatives 2020 report from the Global SOF Foundation, a Tampa, Florida-based non-profit that advances “SOF capabilities and partnerships to confront global and networked threats.” The six-year-old organization, which is not affiliated with SOCOM, is holding a symposium in Washington on Wednesday.

Much of the future will depend on how Congress chooses to flex its oversight muscle, according to experts, both in terms of how the National Defense Strategy is executed and the role that SOCOM plays going forward.


“The biggest problem with DoD strategy development is it is tied to an antiquated organizational structure,” retired Brig. Gen. Don Bolduc, a retired special forces officer who last commanded Special Operations Command Africa and is now a New Hampshire Republican Senate candidate, told Military Times. “The department is in need of serious reorganization.”

More specifically, he said, the NDS focuses too much on peer competitors, while in some ways disregarding the threats still posed by Iran and North Korea, as well as a global counter-terror problem this still persists.

“The creators of the strategy were fully involved and responsible for 19 years of failure in Afghanistan 16 years of failure in Iraq, a failed Syria approach and now they want to abandon Africa.”

The challenge will be for SOCOM to keep proving its worth without the convenient counter-terror mission statistics of missiles launched and targets captured or killed.



Source: https://www.militarytimes.com/news/your-military/2020/02/12/after-decades-focused-on-terrorism-special-operations-is-broadening-its-horizons/

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