Special Ops, Conventional Forces Work Together, Admiral Says

WASHINGTON, Feb. 7, 2012 — The demands of 10 years of war have dri­ven spe­cial oper­a­tions and gen­er­al-pur­pose forces clos­er togeth­er, the com­man­der of U.S. Spe­cial Oper­a­tions Com­mand said here today.

Navy Adm. William H. McRaven told an audi­ence at a spe­cial oper­a­tions and low-inten­si­ty con­flict con­ven­tion that mil­i­tary and inter­a­gency per­son­nel have forged new rela­tion­ships and bro­ken new ground since 9/11.

Spe­cial oper­a­tions forces have a promi­nent role in the new defense strat­e­gy guid­ance that Pres­i­dent Barack Oba­ma laid out last month, and McRaven said col­lab­o­ra­tion among the civil­ian and mil­i­tary lead­ers acknowl­edged the key role that spe­cial ops forces will play in the future. 

“Not only has the last 10 years demon­strat­ed the tac­ti­cal, oper­a­tional and strate­gic val­ue of [spe­cial oper­a­tions forces], but from a busi­ness sense, it has high­light­ed the cost-effec­tive­ness of our force,” he said. 

The spe­cial oper­a­tions force has grown from 33,000 per­son­nel in 2001 to 66,000 today. The bud­get has increased from $3.3 bil­lion in 2001 to $10.5 bil­lion today. But even with those increas­es, the admi­ral not­ed, those forces still rep­re­sent less than 1.6 per­cent of the entire Defense Depart­ment budget. 

But that can be a bit mis­lead­ing, McRaven said, not­ing that Spe­cial Oper­a­tions Com­mand relies on the mil­i­tary ser­vices for com­bat ser­vice and com­bat ser­vice support. 

“Addi­tion­al­ly, our suc­cess is depen­dent on the inter­a­gency and coali­tion part­ners,” McRaven said. “Spe­cial oper­a­tions today is a net­worked force that can­not be effec­tive with­out these strong link­ages to oth­er orga­ni­za­tions and oth­er nation­al spe­cial oper­a­tions forces.” 

The future looks bright, but there are chal­lenges, the admi­ral said. He spoke of three lines of oper­a­tions that will be important. 

The first, he said, is to win the cur­rent fight against extrem­ism. The bulk of this effort is in Afghanistan, but it is far from the only front. Spe­cial oper­a­tions forces are deployed in 75 coun­tries on any giv­en day, han­dling civ­il-mil­i­tary oper­a­tions, pro­vid­ing secu­ri­ty force assis­tance, and help­ing to shape good gov­er­nance and anti-cor­rup­tion mes­sages, he said. 

“This most­ly non­k­i­net­ic and indi­rect approach is the past, the present and the future of spe­cial oper­a­tions forces,” McRaven said. “Work­ing by, with, and through the host nation forces, we are help­ing to reduce the spread of extrem­ism and elim­i­nate the con­di­tions that facil­i­tate the rise of ter­ror networks.” 

The sec­ond line of oper­a­tion is about expand­ing the glob­al spe­cial oper­a­tions force alliance. “Much of this work is being done through geo­graph­ic com­bat­ant com­man­ders and their spe­cial oper­a­tions com­mands,” McRaven said. 

The third line of oper­a­tion is to pre­serve the spe­cial oper­a­tions force, McRaven told the audi­ence. “I have said repeat­ed­ly … that we can­not achieve suc­cess … unless we take care of the force,” he said. “To this end, we are tak­ing a holis­tic approach to increase deploy­ment and train­ing predictability.” 

The admi­ral also said he is work­ing to ensure spe­cial oper­a­tions per­son­nel and their fam­i­lies get the best of care. 

The col­lab­o­ra­tion between spe­cial oper­a­tions and gen­er­al pur­pose forces is not new. In Afghanistan, the 162nd Infantry Brigade — also called the 162nd Secu­ri­ty Force Assis­tance Brigade — has two bat­tal­ions part­nered with spe­cial oper­a­tions forces per­form­ing vil­lage sta­bil­i­ty oper­a­tions. The Air Force has estab­lished an air advi­so­ry train­ing acad­e­my pro­gram for light util­i­ty air­craft and light attack air­craft squadrons to train forces of part­ner nations. The Navy has estab­lished a glob­al fleet sta­tion for part­ner-nation engage­ment, as well as a river­ine war­fare group and a mar­itime civ­il affairs group in direct sup­port of spe­cial operations. 

“The neces­si­ties of war drove [spe­cial oper­a­tions] and gen­er­al pur­pose forces clos­er togeth­er, and the new mil­i­tary strat­e­gy will take advan­tage of those rela­tion­ships and build on the lessons learned,” McRaven said. 

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

Team GlobDef

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