WASHINGTON, Feb. 8, 2012 — The United States must be prepared to sustain its special operations forces during fiscally constraining times, a senior Pentagon official said here yesterday.
Michael A. Sheehan, assistant secretary of defense for special operations and low-intensity conflict, told an audience at a SOLIC symposium that the new defense strategic guidance for reduced spending over the next decade has taken that into account.
“We know we’re in a period of constrained resources in the United States government,” he said. “We know that we’re going to have to reduce the federal budget in the United States government. The Pentagon will pay its share.”
The strategic guidance shows that President Barack Obama and Defense Secretary Leon E. Panetta recognize the importance of special operations forces, Sheehan said.
One reason, he told the audience, is that advanced technology has made special operations forces efficient.
“The technology that we have, for someone like me who has been out of the federal government for a while, is absolutely extraordinary,” he said. “Right now, our special operators have an incredible array of support which gives them an enormous advantage, and we have to keep that.”
Special operations forces are going to be deployed around the world in the years to come, Sheehan said. “We’re planning at about 12,000 around the world over the longer term,” he added. “And we’re committed to sustaining that force in the field.” That, he added, includes providing them with training and equipment and allowing them time to rest and recuperate and know their families.
“And [they will] be able to survive a career in special operations forces for decades,” Sheehan said. “We can’t lose that capability.”
Sheehan noted that the day before, Navy Adm. William H. McRaven, commander of U.S. Special Operations Command, told the same symposium that the most important aspect of special operations is the operators themselves.
“We’re committed to sustaining that force in the field,” Sheehan said. “We have to take care of them and their families as well as continue to enable them to train, deploy and operate at the highest level.”
U.S. Department of Defense
Office of the Assistant Secretary of Defense (Public Affairs)