Special Operations Leaders Outline Budget Concerns

WASHINGTON, Sept. 22, 2011 — Suc­cess in spe­cial oper­a­tions mis­sions rests, in part, on crit­i­cal enabling capa­bil­i­ties the Army, Navy and Air Force pro­vide, the nation’s civil­ian and mil­i­tary spe­cial oper­a­tions chiefs told Con­gress today.

Michael D. Lump­kin, act­ing assis­tant sec­re­tary of defense for spe­cial oper­a­tions and low-inten­si­ty con­flict, and Navy Adm. William H. McRaven, com­man­der of U.S. Spe­cial Oper­a­tions Com­mand, dis­cussed future spe­cial oper­a­tions needs in tes­ti­mo­ny before the House Armed Ser­vices Com­mit­tee.

“As we enter an era of con­strained defense bud­gets, we must not repeat the mis­takes that led to degrad­ed [spe­cial oper­a­tions forces] capa­bil­i­ties through­out the 1970s,” Lump­kin said.

Lump­kin quot­ed five “SOF truths” drawn from a 1987 report writ­ten for the com­mit­tee: humans are more impor­tant than hard­ware, qual­i­ty is bet­ter than quan­ti­ty, spe­cial oper­a­tions forces can­not be mass pro­duced, com­pe­tent spe­cial oper­a­tions forces can­not be cre­at­ed after emer­gen­cies occur, and most spe­cial oper­a­tions require non-SOF assis­tance.

“Our expe­ri­ences have val­i­dat­ed [these] truths,” he said.

It has tak­en a decade to “grow” spe­cial oper­a­tions capa­bil­i­ties from 33,000 to near­ly 58,000 ser­vice mem­bers, Lump­kin not­ed, and the need for enabling, reg­u­lar forces has been com­men­su­rate.

“We know that the team approach in [the Depart­ment of Defense], the inter­a­gency, and with inter­na­tion­al part­ners car­ries the day,” he said.

After the ongo­ing trans­fer of secu­ri­ty lead in Afghanistan is com­plete in 2014, an esti­mat­ed 10,000 to 12,000 SOF troops still will be deployed, Lump­kin said.

As DOD con­ducts a strat­e­gy-based spend­ing review to pre­pare for a range of pos­si­ble future bud­get cuts, he said, “The key that we’re real­ly look­ing at [is] … as the ser­vices look at reduc­tions that may impact them, they have a direct impact on us.”

SOF draws its mem­bers from the reg­u­lar forces and so relies on them as a tal­ent pool, Lump­kin said, and spe­cial oper­a­tors also depend on sup­port from reg­u­lar forces to com­plete their mis­sions.

“While we do have the need for organ­ic com­bat sup­port and com­bat ser­vice sup­port, we do rely heav­i­ly on the gen­er­al-pur­pose forces,” he said. “So we’re look­ing very close­ly to see what the bud­get impacts [will be] on them, which will, in turn, influ­ence and impact us.“�

McRaven echoed Lumpkin’s sen­ti­ments, say­ing, “I think with­in [DOD], they under­stand the val­ue that SOF brings to the cur­rent fight and the future fight. Our real con­cern … is the impact on the ser­vices. As the ser­vices have to poten­tial­ly cut key enablers, that’s going to affect us.“�

Socom is one of DOD’s nine uni­fied com­bat­ant com­mands, but with some unique respon­si­bil­i­ties, McRaven not­ed.

Socom trains and equips its forces, but also syn­chro­nizes plan­ning for glob­al oper­a­tions against ter­ror­ist net­works, coor­di­nat­ing with the Office of the Sec­re­tary of Defense, the Joint Staff, the geo­graph­ic com­bat­ant com­mands and appro­pri­ate gov­ern­ment agen­cies, the admi­ral said.

“These author­i­ties have effec­tive­ly pre­pared and equipped our force to meet the demands of the last decade, and to be pos­tured appro­pri­ate­ly for future chal­lenges,” he added.

Socom pro­vides “rapid, glob­al options to meet a broad set of com­plex and dynam­ic chal­lenges,” the admi­ral said.

SOF has dou­bled its forces, tripled its bud­get and met a quadru­pled mis­sion demand over the last ten years, he said.

“With an annu­al bud­get of $10.5 bil­lion, U.S. SOCOM com­pris­es only 1.6 per­cent of the Depart­ment of Defense-pro­posed FY12 bud­get, and put sim­ply, pro­vides a tremen­dous return on the nation’s invest­ment,” McRaven said.

All spe­cial oper­a­tors are trained to per­form both direct and indi­rect roles, he said.

McRaven defined direct action as “pre­ci­sion, high­ly kinet­ic strike force” mis­sions. Indi­rect oper­a­tions focused on advis­ing, train­ing and assist­ing oth­er nations’ forces, he added.

The two approach­es are mutu­al­ly sup­port­ive, the admi­ral said, with the strike capa­bil­i­ty pro­vid­ing space and time for indi­rect efforts to work.

McRaven said his two pri­or­i­ties as Socom com­man­der are first, to win the cur­rent fight and main­tain the health of the force; and sec­ond, to expand SOF’s capa­bil­i­ties by work­ing with the com­bat­ant com­mands and inter­a­gency and allied spe­cial oper­a­tions part­ners to estab­lish a glob­al SOF net­work able to react more rapid­ly and effec­tive­ly to ene­my action.�

“I believe spe­cial oper­a­tions forces have nev­er been more valu­able to our nation and to our allies,” he said. “You have my promise that we will con­tin­ue to fight as long and as hard as you need us to in order to pro­tect this great nation and the prin­ci­ples we hold so dear.”

U.S. Depart­ment of Defense
Office of the Assis­tant Sec­re­tary of Defense (Pub­lic Affairs)