Official Cites Importance of Sustaining Special Ops Forces

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)