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)