Thought for the Day

"By three methods we may learn wisdom: First, by reflection, which is noblest; second, by imitation, which is easiest; and third by experience, which is the bitterest." - Confucius

Monday, January 16, 2017

Restoring American Power by Senator John McCain

The 33 page report can be downloaded at the link below.  I have pasted the table of contents as well as the three paragraphs on SOF since that is my focus (along with north Korea of course and I am even happy to see that north Korea is mentioned even in the SOF section.  Although the first and third paragraphs focus on SOF and counterterrorism for the most part the second paragraphs address special warfare.  I am gratified to see Senator McCain address that aspect of SOF since so many in government overlook it.  It is in keeping with my major talking points on Special Operations:


1. The future is characterized (not exclusively of course)​ by states and non-state actors conducting UW (exploiting revolution, resistance, insurgency, terrorism, and civil war (RRIT & CW)) and thus there is a requirement to conduct​ Counter-UW. ​SOF is organized, educated, trained, equipped and optimized for both (but does not conduct them unilaterally or in a vacuum but as one element of the means in support of a joint campaign and national strategy)​

2. We have the greatest Surgical Strike capability in the world but we need to prioritize and resource correctly (but not necessarily equally) our Special Warfare capabilities.  - But we have to be careful of Anthony Cordesman’s “Strategic Tokenism.”

3. We need Strategists and Policy M​akers who have a deep (or at least sufficient) understanding of and value the strategic options of  offered by ​UW and Counter-UW. 

4. Effective Special Warfare (which includes UW and counter-UW and supports Political Warfare)​ is counter-intuitively characterized by slow and deliberate employment – long duration actions and activities, relationship establishment, development, and sustainment. 

5. SOF will have always have a role in hybrid conflict and major combat operations.
V/R

Dave​


RESTORING AMERICAN POWER

Recommendations for the FY 2018-FY 2022 Defense Budget By Senator John McCain, Chairman, Senate Armed Services Committee



Executive Summary 2 
The Failure of the Budget Control Act 3 
A Better Defense Strategy 5 Beginning to Rebuild the Military 8 
Navy 9 
Marine Corps 11 
Air Force 12 
Army 14 
Special Operations Forces 15 
Nuclear Forces 16 
Missile Defense 17 
Space 17 
Cyber 18 
Force Posture 18 
New Technologies 19 
Actions for Congress 20 
Appendix 22

Special Operations Forces.

For the last 15 years, U.S. special operations forces (SOF) have been a critical component of the fight against global terrorist groups. These highly innovative and agile units are organized with a global outlook and able to conduct operations in austere and complex environments with a relatively small footprint, making them a logical leading element of the global counterterrorism mission. SOF have increasingly been optimized for that mission over the past 15 years, while high operational tempo and repeated deployments have put real strains on SOF operators and units, despite the growth in their ranks that has occurred in recent years. Because the global counterterrorism mission shows no sign of diminishing in the foreseeable future, SOF will continue to play an outsized role in that effort. 

At the same time, SOF must increasingly perform critical missions within the broad discipline of irregular warfare beyond counterterrorism. China, Russia, Iran, and North Korea are increasingly competing with the United States below the threshold of major conflict in what has been called “hybrid warfare” or “gray zone” operations. These threats across Europe, the Middle East, and Asia are aimed at challenging U.S. interests and partnerships and destabilizing regional order. Put simply, SOF has an indispensable role to play in great power competitions and global counterproliferation. This reality demands a greater employment of the broad spectrum of U.S. special operations capabilities. SOF’s ability to conduct low-visibility, special warfare operations in politically sensitive environments makes them uniquely suited for this mission

An even greater reliance on SOF beyond counterterrorism will likely require further investments in new special operations capabilities and some additional force structure. The challenges posed by militarily advanced great powers, in particular, will require the development and employment of new technologies and capabilities. At the same time, the readiness of the force should remain a priority, which will likely necessitate additional capacity. The growth in SOF end-strength called for in the 2010 and 2014 Quadrennial Defense Reviews never fully materialized because of budget constraints. Any growth now will depend on increases in the size of our conventional forces, since they will be the sources from which SOF operators are assessed and selected, as well as the dominant providers of enabling support.

Sunday, January 15, 2017

SPECIAL REPORT: The Military Loves the Obama Doctrine. Can It Survive Trump?

I have to wave a huge BS flag on the "Obama Doctrine." 

First, Obama does not deserve credit for "through, with, and by."   That phrase belongs to COL (RET) Mark Boyatt who used it in 1994 to describe the essence of Special Forces operations in unconventional warfare and foreign internal defense. (see Mark's 1994 Special Warfare Magazine article on Unconventional Operations, https://www.dvidshub.net/publication/issues/8288  as well as his recent 2016 book, Special Forces: A Unique National Asset Through, With and By  here at Amazon)

Second, the concept of "through, with, and by" is NOT a silver bullet and should not form the basis of a doctrine or a strategy. It has taken on a life of its own starting with GEN Odierno's 2008 guidance to the force in Iraq (here in 2008when he issued his guidance to the force there and the 2012 Defense Strategic Guidance.

"Through, with, and by" is an important concept but when it is adopted as a single strategic method it loses its value and undermines its own legitimacy when it is used as the "main effort."  The idea that we are going to use indigenous, surrogate, or forces of another country to protect US national security interests and NOT commit US forces to protect those interests is simply wrong.  The use of "though, with, and by" creates a paradox and a dependency among those forces.  While they are grateful for all the training, advising, assisting, and equipping, they come to believe that if there mission is so important to the US then they become "too big to fail" so to speak and know they will always be bailed out when they are in trouble and that the US will come to their rescue because it is in the US interests to do so.  These forces are smart and they are in their own way learning to "live to fight another day" for their own interests - happy to take US assistance and careful not to over extend themselves so as to husband the resources they have been provided so that they have improved capabilities when the US eventually tires of supporting them and realizes that they cannot really support US interests. The underlying premise of working through, with, and by as we help those who seek self determination through political resistance and insurgency by our application of unconventional and political warfare or who help those to develop the capabilities to defend themselves against lawlessness, subversion, insurgency, and terrorism is that we will help them to help themselves but we will NOT do it for them.  Once we do start doing it for them we they have lost and we now own the problem.  Until we learn this and ween ourselves from the myth that "though, with, and by" is a substitute for strategy and should only be applied in specific circumstances (based on the principle of understanding that rests on comprehensive and continuous assessment) by specific forces we are going to continue to experience strategic failure as we rely on "though, with, and by" as the foundation for our strategy.  The concept has great utility but only when correctly applied in the appropriate conditions for which it is suited.

"Through, with, and by" has been hijacked by those outside of SOF and in particular Special Forces.  It has great strategic value in helping others to seek self-determination (though UW) and to defend themselves against lawlessness, subversion, insurgency, and terrorism (through FID) but it cannot be the foundation for protecting US interests.  It can play a supporting role in achieving US interests but it cannot be a substitute for US forces conducting operations to protect US interests.  This great doctrinal and strategic folly that has been in place since the 2012 Defense Strategic Guidance (http://archive.defense.gov/news/Defense_Strategic_Guidance.pdf ) unless we never forget that caveat "whenever possible" which seems to have been translated to use in every situation in place of US troops:

Whenever possible, we will develop innovative, low-cost, and small-footprint approaches to achieve our security objectives, relying on exercises, rotational presence, and advisory capabilities.





SPECIAL REPORT: The Military Loves the Obama Doctrine. Can It Survive Trump?

Commanders say they’re already fighting ISIS the right way: “by, with, and through” local forces.
defenseone.com · by Read bio
ERBIL, Iraq – There’s no welcome sign at this U.S military base discreetly tucked into the corner of the Kurdistan International Airport in northern Iraq. It doesn’t even have a name. But it’s here. Thousands of troops are here, including Americans, Germans, Italians, Finns, and Brits. And this time, it seems the U.S. military is in Iraq to stay.
The temporary tents and dining hall erected to house American forces — including special operators, CIA agents, and private military contractors who hunt, kill, and interrogate for America — are being replaced with permanent buildings. At least five types of U.S. military helicopters criss-cross the bright September skies over Kurdistan’s peaceful, bustling capital city, some ferrying generals up from Baghdad, others heading north into Syria with bearded special operators’ feet dangling from Black Hawk doors, or banking west toward Mosul, bringing Americans to the front lines of war.
It sounds busy and feels familiar, but today’s war in Iraq is a far cry from the mammoth effort of a decade ago. Gone are the hundreds of thousands of American troops and contractors occupying hundreds of sprawling bases and outposts across the country. Gone is the Bush administration’s total war and total occupation of a country. In its place is the Obama Doctrine.
What’s that? In his 2008 campaign, Barack Obama pledged to keep American troops out of unnecessary fighting while helping local populations defend and govern themselves. In short, it was his reaction to the Iraq War and over-extending America in the Middle East, explained Jeff Goldberg in his blockbuster article in Defense One’s sister publication, The Atlantic, after spending hours with the commander in chief. “Obama generally does not believe a president should place American soldiers at great risk in order to prevent humanitarian disasters, unless those disasters pose a direct security threat to the United States,” he said.
But ISIS’ rise in Iraq and Syria has confronted this vision with shocking reality. The unmitigated slaughter of Syrian civilians has provoked heavy, if not quite universal, condemnation of Obama’s and other Western governments. It angered an American electorate tired of wars in the Middle East but increasingly fearful of Islamic extremist terrorism reaching Europe and America. And it fueled perceptions that Obama was keeping the mighty American military on the sidelines, instead of just taking out what looked like nothing more than a savage band of pickup-driving psychopathic murderers. (One 2016 frustrated presidential candidate made the ridiculous suggestion of “carpet-bombing” Iraq.) Obama and U.S. generals have vowed to “destroy ISIS” — but he will this week be replaced in office by a candidate who said he could do it more quickly.
But what does the military want? In dozens of interviews with U.S. officials and coalition military commanders — from the White House to America’s war room in Tampa, the command in Baghdad, forward control centers and training grounds in Kurdistan, defense minister meetings in Paris, and NATO headquarters in Brussels — one thing was clear and consistent. On the whole, America’s military leaders do not want to be here any longer than they must. It also is clear that they wanted to “accelerate” the campaign against ISIS, as Obama has been doing already for more than a year with success, but they do not want America to own this fight. They do want Iraqis to fight and a functioning Iraqi government to take control when the Islamic State is gone. They don’t want to defeat ISIS only to become an occupying force of sitting ducks.
What they want is what Obama wants: patience. It’s a word I hear over and over, talking with special operators tasked to train local forces to fight terrorism and with the faraway policy makers they support. Like the outgoing president, they believe an enduring effort and a long view are key to winning the conflicts in the Middle East and halting the spread of global terrorism. But will Trump have the same patience as Obama? Will Trump have the same patience as his generals?
(Continued at this link)

Sunday, January 8, 2017

We know what Russia did. But what we really need to understand is why. by Fareed Zakaria

As Frank Hoffman has been trying to hammer home to us the first principle is to understand.  There have been a number of scholars and experts advocating that we understand where Putin and Russia are coming from and why they are acting the way they do. Perhaps pundits such as Fareed Zakaria will wake people up with his article below.  Yes, the democracy movements around the world are a threat to Russia and democracy overall is a threat to Putin and Russia.  I think this is the fundamental reason why Gerasimov created his so-called Gerasimov doctrine (see Charles Bartles) that has come to be known as non-linear warfare or new generation warfare which in my opinion is modern unconventional warfare with Russian characteristics that is a holistic approach designed to influence political action at all levels from non-violence influence operations to political mobilization, to sabotage and subversion, support to terrorist activities to the integrated activities of all the elements of national power to the select application or threat of application of violence by the full range of military forces (both special and conventional) to achieve national objectives. Unconventional warfare is the most political of all forms of warfare since the focus is on exploitation of resistance movements that seek to coerce, disrupt, or overthrow...

Russia is a revisionist power seeking to undermine the legitimacy of opposing political systems and undermine the dominant international systems and institutions and make them function in its favor and interests in order to protect himself and the Russian leadership from the loss of political power at home and abroad.  China is another revisionist power.   And of course AQ and ISIS are revolutionary who seek to destroy the international system and replace nations with their ideological systems.  The question for the US and like minded nations of the world is whether it is in our interest to protect the international system that we have created since WWII and whether we will the will to commit to the defense of that system or should we let the revisionist and revolutionary powers to have their way?

I would commend everyone to read Charles K. Bartles' Military Review article on "Getting Gerasimov Right" from January 2016. (and we should all learn from the discussion of "foresight" in his article on page 31).

For U.S. readers, Gerasimov’s linking of the Arab
Spring and “color revolutions” (and in later comments,
the Maidan Movement) with military capability development
may seem odd. In order to put his comments
in context, it is necessary to look at the Russian view of
warfare and forced regime change as it has developed
since the end of the Cold War.
...
In the Russian view, the pattern of U.S.
forced regime change has been as follows:
deciding to execute a military operation;
finding an appropriate NATO’s Yugoslavia intervention is one of military
action to prevent mass genocide, Russia has a much different
view. Most Russians generally view the NATO
bombing campaign as having been illegal because it was
conducted without the approval of the UN Security
Council and believe that Serbia was simply being
punished for engaging in counterterrorism operations,
albeit with some excesses. The most egregious sin, from
the Russian view, was the partitioning of Yugoslavia.
This action set a precedent for external actors to make
decisions about the internal affairs and territorial integrity
of sovereign nations alleged to have committed
some wrong. It is important to note that Russia was
dealing with its own Islamic insurgency at the same
time in the North Caucasus. This may have caused
Russian concern about a similar NATO action taking
place inside Russia. One consequence of Western
intervention resulting in the destruction of Yugoslavia 
pretext such as to prevent genocide or seize weapons
of mass destruction; and finally, launching a military
operation to cause regime change (figure 1).


We should also go back to Anthony Cordesman's CSIS report on the "Color Revolutions" written in 2014.

Here is a summary of Russia's new generation or non-linear warfare from the Latvian Defence Academy.
Russian New Generation Warfare and the Future of War (link to the full report below - and the Poles and Finns have produced some excellent analysis of Russia's UW as well): 

As a result, it follows that the main guidelines for developing Russian military capabilities by 2020 are:
i. From direct destruction to direct influence;
ii. from direct annihilation of the opponent to its inner decay;
iii. from a war with weapons and technology to a culture war;
iv. from a war with conventional forces to specially prepared forces and commercial irregular groupings;
v. from the traditional (3D) battleground to information/psychological warfare and war of perceptions;
vi. from direct clash to contactless war;
vii. from a superficial and compartmented war to a total war, including the enemy’s internal side and base;
viii. from war in the physical environment to a war in the human consciousness and in cyberspace;
ix. from symmetric to asymmetric warfare by a combination of political, economic, information, technological, and ecological campaigns;
x. From war in a defined period of time to a state of permanent war as the natural condition in national life.

Thus, the Russian view of modern warfare is based on the idea that the main battlespace is the mind and, as a result, new-generation wars are to be dominated by information and psychological warfare, in order to achieve superiority in troops and weapons control, morally and psychologically depressing the enemy’s armed forces personnel and civil population. The main objective is to reduce the necessity for deploying hard military power to the minimum necessary, making the opponent’s military and civil population support the attacker to the detriment of their own government and country. It is interesting to note the notion of permanent war, since it denotes a permanent enemy. In the current geopolitical structure, the clear enemy is Western civilization, its values, culture, political system, and ideology.



We know what Russia did. But what we really need to understand is why.

The Washington Post · by Fareed Zakaria · January 5, 2017
I’m glad that Donald Trump will finally get a briefing on the unanimous conclusion of America’s intelligence agencies that the Russian government was behind the hacking of the Democratic National Committee and Hillary Clinton’s campaign chairman. But he should also request and receive a political briefing on Russia that can shed light on the backdrop to Russia’s actions. We need to understand why Russia behaved the way it has.
It all started with the Arab Spring. The sudden mass demonstrations and demands for democracy took most of the world by surprise. In particular, they rattled Moscow at a precarious moment. The Kremlin was in the midst of managing the country’s political future and worried about opposition at home. Parliamentary elections were scheduled in less than a year, to be followed by a presidential election. Vladimir Putin was not then president, having stepped aside in keeping with the Russian constitution, allowing Dmitry Medvedev to ascend to the office.
Roland Dannreuther of the University of Westminster in London points out that the “crises in both Libya and Syria coincided with the rise of opposition to the re-election of Putin, with unprecedented large opposition rallies in Moscow and other cities in Russia during 2011-12.” He argues that the Kremlin watched these countries as street protests morphed into broader opposition, created instability, and then attracted the attention and intervention of Western powers. Moscow was determined that no such scenario would play out in Russia or in any of its close neighbors, such as Ukraine.
In fact, there was a rare disagreement between Putin and Medvedev on how to respond to Libya. Putin bitterly attacked his own president for not vetoing a U.N. Security Council resolution sanctioning an intervention in Libya and lambasted the West for launching a “crusade” against a Muslim country. Medvedev, who was technically in charge of foreign policy, flatly contradicted him, calling his rhetoric “inexcusable.” Some Russia hands believe that this disagreement might have sealed Medvedev’s fate, ensuring that he served just one term and then made way for Putin’s return to the presidency. In any event, as Dannreuther writes, “for conservative Russian elites, the evidence of the Arab Spring confirms that such factional divisions in the guise of democracy promotion only lead to internal disorder, societal conflict and the loss of the sovereign integrity of the state.” (The fact that Clinton encouraged Russian democracy protesters at this sensitive moment branded her an archenemy in the eyes of the Kremlin elite.)
About a year later, in 2013, the chief of staff of the Russian Armed Forces, Gen. Valery Gerasimov, wrote an article suggesting that Russia’s key challenge was responding to the underlying dynamics of the Arab Spring and North Africa’s “color revolutions.” He urged that these not be viewed as non-military events because “a perfectly thriving state can, in a matter of months and even days, be transformed into an arena of fierce armed conflict, become a victim of foreign intervention, and sink into a web of chaos, humanitarian catastrophe, and civil war.” He advocated that Russia better understand and develop the non-military and asymmetrical methods, including special operations, information warfare and the use of internal opposition to cripple a society.
Since then, Moscow has made information and asymmetrical warfare central to its foreign and military policy. When asserting itself in Georgia and Ukraine, Russia has used a hybrid strategy that involves the funding of local politicians and militias, fake news and cyberattacks. Leading German and Polish politicians assert that Russia has engaged in some such activities in their countries as well. And now there is the apparent involvement in America’s election.
The idea of information warfare is not new. The Soviet Union developed and practiced a strategy of “disinformation” throughout the Cold War, complete with fake news and the penetration of Western political parties and media organizations. But the revival of this approach and the aggressive and sophisticated manner in which it is now being used in a social media landscape mark a new and dangerous trend in geopolitics.
This is the political backdrop behind the technical evidence that Russia interfered in November’s election. It needs to be moved out of a partisan framework and viewed in a much broader context. Since the end of the Cold War, no major country has challenged the emerging international system. But now, a great-power strategy, designed to work insidiously, could well succeed in sowing doubt, division, discord — and ultimately destruction — within the West.

Thursday, December 29, 2016

The COIN Conundrum: The Future of Counterinsurgency and U.S. Land Power

The 95 page monograph can be downloaded directly at this link: http://www.strategicstudiesinstitute.army.mil/pubs/download.cfm?q=1336  I have pasted the summary below.  Although I am a little partial to the work that has been done in the Philippines I find his recommendations quite unusual and one I cannot completely agree with, namely that the Philippines provides the model for future COIN campaigns.

It could, instead, try to train two-speed soldiers capable of conducting conventional and unconventional operations; or, it could keep COIN as a core function of an enhanced SOCOM with the capability to train conventional forces in unconventional tactics should a large expeditionary COIN mission be deployed. This monograph concludes that the forth option best equips the Army for the contemporary security environment. It then makes specific recommendations for implementing this option and suggests the Joint Special Operations Task Force (JSOTF)-Philippines as the model for future COIN campaigns. Finally, the monograph maintains that an enhanced special operations forces (SOF) capability will not adversely affect preparation for conventional war-fighting. Improving the conventional forces’ tooth-to-tail ratio, continuing to develop labor-saving technologies, and relying on contractors to perform support functions can offset reallocation of personnel to SOCOM.

What I find incredible is that the author bases his recommendations on two sources (and Greg's is an excellent source but I would think the author would have turned to the recent comprehensive RAND study by Linda Robinson and her team (http://www.rand.org/pubs/research_reports/RR1236.html) :

83. Details on SOF support for Philippine military from Jim
Michaels, “Philippines a model for counterinsurgency,” USA
03-30-secretwar30_ST_N.htm, accessed on November 27, 2015.

84. Colonel Gregory Wilson, “Anatomy of a Successful COIN
Operation: OEF-PHILIPPINES and the Indirect Approach,” Military
Review: The Professional Journal of the U.S. Army, Vol. LXXXVI,
No. 6, November-December 2006, p. 6. 77

85. Ibid., pp. 7-8.

86. Michaels, “Philippines a model for counterinsurgency.”

I have long argued that OEF-P is not a model in itself.  It was suited for the conditions that existed there (political, cultural, and security).  I can sum up the lessons from OEF-P that are enduring that provide only basis for a model:  conduct a thorough assessment/estimate to gain as complete understanding of the situation as possible, develop and execute a campaign plan that supports US policy and national strategy and that is appropriate for the situation: one that supports a friend, partner, or ally in its internal defense and development programs to help them to defend themselves against lawless, subversion, insurgency, and terrorism in complete synchronization with the US country team while respecting and protecting host nation sovereignty.  That is the "model" in a nutshell.  

The COIN Conundrum: The Future of Counterinsurgency and U.S. Land Power

The COIN Conundrum: The Future... Cover Image








Brief Synopsis

View the Executive Summary

Counterinsurgency (COIN) continues to be a controversial subject among military leaders. Critics argue that the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan have made the U.S. military, particularly the Army, "COIN-centric." They maintain that equipping U.S. forces to combat insurgency has eroded their conventional war fighting capabilities. Those committed to preserving and even enhancing COIN capabilities, on the other hand, insist that doing so need not compromise the ability of the military to perform other tasks. They also point out that the likelihood of even a mid-level conventional war remains low while the probability of unconventional engagements is high. This monograph reviews the COIN debate, analyzes current force structure, and concludes that contrary to the more extreme positions taken by critics and proponents, the U.S. military has achieved a healthy balance between COIN and other capabilities.

SUMMARY
The debate over counterinsurgency (COIN), seemingly
dormant since the end of the Vietnam War, has
been rekindled by the conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Since the 2006 publication of the U.S. Army/
Marine Corps Field Manual (FM) 3-24, Counterinsurgency,
practitioners and scholars have argued over
the efficacy of COIN. Supporters insist that the new
approach outlined in the manual led to the creation of
a strategy that defeated the Iraqi insurgents between
2006-2009. Critics argue that the surge of 30,000 additional
troops, robust conventional operations, and the
end of the Shia uprising—not a new COIN strategy—
caused violence in Iraq to decline dramatically. They
point to the failure of the campaign in Afghanistan as
further evidence that COIN does not work. In an era
of declining Pentagon budgets, this debate has significant
implications for U.S. land forces.
This monograph considers the place of COIN in
U.S. Army doctrine, training, and resource allocation.
It begins with a brief overview of the U.S. military’s
historical experience combating insurgency before
considering the recent campaigns in Iraq and Afghanistan.
The monograph then examines in detail the contemporary,
scholarly, and professional debate over
the efficacy of COIN and its place in U.S. defense planning.
Recognizing that consideration of this important
issue must be grounded in an examination of the
contemporary security environment, the monograph
reviews official threat assessments. It then considers
the current U.S. military capacity for addressing identified
threats. That capacity includes force structure,
doctrine, and learning institutions.

Building on this analytical framework, this monograph
considers four options vis-à-vis COIN. The
Army could revert to the post-Vietnam Era approach,
focusing on conventional war and relegating COIN
to a small Special Operations Command (SOCOM).
It could reconfigure its force structure to focus on
unconventional threats. It could, instead, try to train
two-speed soldiers capable of conducting conventional
and unconventional operations; or, it could keep
COIN as a core function of an enhanced SOCOM with
the capability to train conventional forces in unconventional
tactics should a large expeditionary COIN
mission be deployed. This monograph concludes that
the forth option best equips the Army for the contemporary
security environment. It then makes specific
recommendations for implementing this option
and suggests the Joint Special Operations Task Force
(JSOTF)-Philippines as the model for future COIN
campaigns. Finally, the monograph maintains that an
enhanced special operations forces (SOF) capability
will not adversely affect preparation for conventional
war-fighting. Improving the conventional forces’
tooth-to-tail ratio, continuing to develop labor-saving
technologies, and relying on contractors to perform
support functions can offset reallocation of personnel
to SOCOM.

Thursday, December 22, 2016

Special Operations Forces: Let SOF be SOF

Pretty powerful BLUF here.  While I am a little bit partial to SOF I do have to say that there is no one force or one capability or one instrument of national power that is a war winner (or war preventer) by itself.  I do worry that there are some (not this author of course) who view SOF as a silver bullet or a substitute for using other tools when they may be more appropriate to include large scale employment of conventional forces.  To me the solution to the "problem" of employment of SOF lies with strategists and campaign planners and the requirement to employ the right forces for the right missions.

The future of global security—from both non-state and state actors—will depend on preventing slow-burning and asymmetric threats from sowing instability abroad. Fully supporting the roles and resources of special operations is the best, most effective way to ensure America retains its strength and security.

...
Recommended Changes:

Equalize funding, resourcing, and personnel between direct and indirect SOF missions.
Decrease deployment rates to support the long-term readiness of the force.
Leverage the Army and U.S. Marine Corps to serve greater roles in indirect GCC operations.
SOF operational planning and synchronization should be pushed down to the Theater Special Operations Commands (TSOCs).
Strengthen SOF personnel and operational oversight.

Some important recommendations but I have a few quick comments:

I disagree with the use of the word equalize in terms of funding.  I think that the special warfare and surgical strike missions should be correctly resourced.  That does not necessarily mean they should be equal.  

Decreasing deployment rates is necessary but I worry too much that the pendulum will swing too far.  Soldiers join SOF to deploy overseas.  What we need is the correct priority placed on deployments  - they must support campaign objectives and strategies and not simply a deployment because someone wants to io They want to do this and if they are deprived because they have to be "rested" based on some arbitrary time criteria morale will suffer.   Effective Special Warfare (which includes UW and counter-UW and supports Political Warfare) is counter-intuitively characterized by slow and deliberate employment – long duration actions and activities, relationship establishment, development, and sustainment. These are long term activities and required investment in people and commitment of time.

I chuckle (respectfully) at the comment about Marine history and small wars.  I remember the pull between small wars and amphibious operations and Major Ellis' work in the interwar years.  I think a similar tug of war exists in the Corps today and one also in the Army between large scale military operations versus engagement, building partner capacity stability operations and counterinsurgency.

Yes, TSOCs should be the focal point for SOF campaigning in theater.  If they cannot be properly resourced(with personnel and forces) for campaigning then they will require long term and continuous augmentation from the SOF CONUS base.

The 2017 NDAA is going to codify the oversight function with the establishment by law of the Special Operations Policy Oversight Council and the insertion of the ASD SO/LIC into the ADCON chain of command giving ASD SO/LIC a service like responsibility and authority.  This may be a major inflection point for SOF.

Lastly I wonder if this is not a Freudian slip:  :-)

The future of global security and the fight against counterterrorism—from both non-state and state actors—will depend on preventing slow-burning and asymmetric threats from sowing instability abroad. Fully supporting the roles and resources of special operations is the best, most effective way to ensure America retains its strength and security.
Are we fighting against terrorists or are we fighting against the overemphasis on the counterterrorism mission?



Special Operations Forces: Let SOF be SOF

defense360.csis.org · by Kristen Hajduk · December 21, 2016

Overview

Thus far, the incoming Trump Administration has expressed interest in easing restrictions and White House oversight on military decision-making. A willingness to place more agency in the hands of operators could provide breakthrough opportunities and flexibility for Special Operations Forces (SOF) as they continue to combat terrorism.

Bottom Line

The future of global security—from both non-state and state actors—will depend on preventing slow-burning and asymmetric threats from sowing instability abroad. Fully supporting the roles and resources of special operations is the best, most effective way to ensure America retains its strength and security.
Download full report

Issue

The U.S. Special Operations Command’s (USSOCOM) direct action missions provide immediate response capabilities during violent conflict. This includes counterterrorism (CT), high-value targeting, countering weapons of mass destruction, personnel recovery, and hostage rescue operations. These direct operations buy time for longer-term indirect approaches—including civil affairs, building partner capacity, information operations, and special reconnaissance—to take effect. Indirect operations address the sources of terrorism or instability by increasing partner nations’ resilience and rule of law.
Military and civilian leaders have responded to the evolving threat of terrorism by emphasizing direct action missions. In 2006, USSOCOM was named as the lead command for all operations against al Qaeda (AQ). It was successful in severing AQ from its sources of power: people, money, and influence. This success and continued demand for special operations have led to slightly increased personnel numbers and larger budgets.
As USSOCOM became increasingly involved in CT operations, the demands on SOF created historically high rates of deployment. During any single year, SOF are deployed to nearly 75 countries around the globe, with some operations requiring up to a dozen raids each evening. The resulting demands on SOF have led to concerns for the chronic neglect of indirect missions and the future of SOF readiness. The following recommendations are designed to give the Department the flexibility to engage, support, and deploy SOF effectively and efficiently.

Recommended Changes

Equalize funding, resourcing, and personnel between direct and indirect SOF missions. SOF’s value has equal footing in direct action and indirect activities in support of Geographic Combatant Command (GCC) missions. Whereas direct action may effectively target terrorists, indirect operations support stability and counteract sources of instability, preventing conflict or enabling host-nation forces to prevent or address conflict themselves. Without equal emphasis on indirect missions, SOF will fall back on an unending target list—perpetually repopulated with new individuals—without any off-ramps to stabilization and political reconciliation.
Today, the DoD Unified Command Plan gives USSOCOM responsibility to lead direct operations for combatting terrorism, however, the command has no formal authority to coordinate the indirect DoD activities that counter the sources of instability. This gap should be closed, with the Secretary of Defense naming USSOCOM as the DoD operational lead command for all indirect activities in support of CT. USSOCOM could then develop a template for long-term, indirect operations based on past successes with partner countries.
Decrease deployment rates to support the long-term readiness of the force. Return SOF personnel to 1:2 dwell time (also referred to as “days at home”). SOF personnel have not achieved sufficient dwell rates since before 9/11, and SOF senior leaders have observed the force “fraying around the edges” since that time. Deploying at these historically high rates withholds much needed time for them to recuperate between deployments, receive additional training, and spend much-deserved time with their loved ones. Allowing for reasonable dwell time provides opportunities for operations to devote time to develop intellectual capital, maintain and improve foreign language skills, and generally foster a force of strategically-minded leaders. Leaders must not sacrifice the strategic readiness of SOF for short-term tactical or operational gains.
Leverage the Army and U.S. Marine Corps to serve greater roles in indirect GCC operations. The size of SOF cannot be quickly surged. The force can reasonably grow at a rate of 3-5% each year without sacrificing quality. Adding to this burden are GCC requirements for SOF, which continue to grow exponentially in order to meet the demands of their respective operational environments. Therefore, the best way to preserve the high quality of the SOF while meeting the increasing GCC demands is to leverage the conventional forces to fill non SOF-specific requirements. To provide this support, the Services may have to resist the singular focus on high-end warfighting at the expense of the urgent need for indirect operations.
In Operation Iraqi Freedom and Operation Enduring Freedom, the Army proved its ability to adapt conventional units to civil affairs missions with relative rapidity and ease. The Army’s manpower, organizational reach, and historical experience can support this partnership by increasing the number of active duty civil affairs units and conducting the bulk of civil affairs operations and some information operations overseas.

Historical Role

The USMC can draw upon its historical role in small wars, doubling down on USMC cultural and structural attributes that make them more efficient at indirect missions.
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Similarly, leverage the U.S. Marine Corps (USMC) to support building partner capacity and security cooperation activities. The USMC unit structures could be a substitute for USSOCOM’s small-unit, indirect operations with host nations. The USMC already has manpower and resources—such as air, naval, amphibious, ground capabilities—integrated down to the tactical level. The USMC can draw upon its historical role in small wars, doubling down on USMC cultural and structural attributes that make them more efficient at indirect missions.
SOF operational planning and synchronization should be pushed down to the Theater Special Operations Commands (TSOCs). Each GCC has a TSOC responsible for meeting theater-unique special operations requirements. TSOCs should serve a greater role in operational planning in support of GCC-wide strategies and help coordinate activities with the U.S. embassies within the area of responsibility. They should ensure alignment of country-level planning across the various SOF units assigned within the GCC. TSOCs can be powerful influences within the GCC—especially when the GCC headquarters are not located within the GCC for security reasons—like U.S. Central Command and U.S. Africa Command. USSOCOM can realize the potential of TSOCs by ensuring the highest-performing personnel in command of and deployed to TSOCs.
Strengthen SOF personnel and operational oversight. Seek statutory adjustments to combine the responsibilities of the Assistant Secretary of Defense for Special Operations and Low-Intensity Conflict with the Undersecretary of Defense for Intelligence into a unified Under Secretariat for Special Operations and Intelligence (USD(SO&I)). This will allow for more collaboration between covert and overt activities conducted by the Department. It will also create one point of contact for coordination of paramilitary activities between SOF and the intelligence community. Last, increase the manpower and resources that support the ability of USD(SO&I) to provide independent assessments and departmental oversight of USSOCOM, information, and intelligence activities.
The future of global security and the fight against counterterrorism—from both non-state and state actors—will depend on preventing slow-burning and asymmetric threats from sowing instability abroad. Fully supporting the roles and resources of special operations is the best, most effective way to ensure America retains its strength and security.