Friday, November 1, 2013

Five Profound Choices Special Ops Face Next Year

I could be mistaken, but I think the Theater Special Operations Commands (TSOC) remain OPCON to the Geographic Combatant Command (GCC) with the change being that they are now under the combatant command (COCOM) of USSOCOM.  They do more than merely "serve" the GCCs and chiefs of mission as I believe they and all SOF deployed into theater are under the operational control (OPCON) of the GCC.  But I could be wrong as Linda is much closer to the commands than I am.  But leading off with the statement that ADM McRaven has assumed control may lead the reader to believe that the GCC does not have any real control because following up the explanation with making it clear that SOF is there to "serve" the GCC seems an afterthought especially since "serve" is not a doctrinal description of a command or support relationship.  (Then again maybe "serve" has been added to the lexicon since I left.)  Not being clear that the TSOCs and deployed SOF are OPCON to the GCCs may contribute to the bureaucratic tension and infighting.  I do agree with the TSOCs being COCOM to USSOCOM because they will be better supported logistically and in terms of personnel manning which will be better for the GCC but I think the perception that SOF will be conducting operations not under the OPCON of the GCC leads to problems (and of course we know that in certain situations the President and Secretary of Defense may determine that SOF not be under the OPCON of the GCC but I would submit that is the rare exception and certainly not the rule.)

Fix the commands. This year, the four-star Special Operations Command led by Adm. William McRaven assumed control of the theater special operations commands which are responsible for region-wide special operations with the intent of making them more capable. This is a vitally important part of the legacy of changes wrought by Adm. McRaven, and for it to bear the intended fruit, the theater SOF commands must be manned by the appropriate personnel and receive adequate resources in order to become world-class elite commands like the counterterrorism command. Second, for this change to be successful, the special operators must make clear at every step that they are there to serve the geographic command and ambassadorial intent. Otherwise, a new source of bureaucratic tension and infighting will be the result.

And not to beat a dead horse but there is no discussion of the SOF and in particular SF's core mission of unconventional warfare.  It is the mission for which traditional SOF (Special Forces and Psychological Operations) were developed and as I have argued unconventional warfare is one of the three forms of warfare that threaten our national security interests and while we may not exercise the strategic offensive option of conducting unconventional warfare, those who have long been trained and educated in it can contribute both tactically and strategically to the campaign plans and strategies to counter unconventional warfare.

But Linda makes a very interesting conclusion.  It is difficult for USSOCOM to engage in real leadership success planning when the services still control promotions and assignments of their personnel?  The services will nominate ADM McRaven's successor and as an example has the Army every nominated a career Special Forces officer (defined as one who has commanded at every level from SF ODA to Group to TSOC) to command USSOCOM? I am certainly not privy to what has gone on in the Pentagon but if the Army has nominated one, he was not selected for the position.

SEALS training
U.S. special operations forces face decisions of profound consequence in 2014 after having been empowered by a series of policy directives taken over the past year. One of these directives has been, contrary to the caricature of unilateral commando forces popularized by video games such as Call of Duty, an unequivocal message from their command and the U.S. president: go forth and partner.
If 2013 was the year of decisions, 2014 will be the year special operations forcesimplement their roadmap for the future. But where exactly does that road lead? The trajectory will be determined by several budgetary and policy choices that the U.S. military, policymakers and Congress will make in 2014.
JSOC paratroopers
Does size matter? Special operations forces recruit most of their members from the ranks of conventional forces, a universe of personnel that is expected to shrink. It would be far better to accept a lower force level of uniformed special operators than to lower standards and keep the number at 33,000. This would maintain the existing rigorous standards to ensure that experienced, professional troops populate the elite forces. One of the key lessons of the past decade that must be enshrined for posterity is that how forces are used matters far more than their numbers.
Special operations forces can easily be frittered away in tactical and episodic missions that have no enduring or strategic value. Thoughtful application of their capabilities generally means two things: persistent presence combined with either conventional and/or multinational partners. This can mean infantry squads helping small teams of Green Berets, SEALS, and Marine special operators or Estonian, Lithuanian, Romanian and Polish special operators — to name just a few of the two dozen countries who sent SOF to Afghanistan. This footprint does not have to be thousands or tens of thousands — most often a few hundred can have an enormous impact — if they are deployed in back-to-back rotations for five to 10 years. The key here is for policymakers and U.S. ambassadors, who are the gatekeepers for U.S. forces in non-war theaters, to embrace the value of these long-term advisory missions.
(Continued at the link below)

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