USA — Commanders Cite Unpredictable Future Threats

WASHINGTON, March 4, 2011 — Amer­i­ca and its allies will face var­ied and unpre­dictable secu­ri­ty threats in the years ahead, the lead­ers of the two most intense­ly engaged U.S. mil­i­tary com­mands told House Armed Ser­vices Com­mit­tee mem­bers yes­ter­day.
Navy Adm. Eric T. Olson of the U.S. Spe­cial Oper­a­tions Com­mand and Marine Corps Gen. James N. Mat­tis of the U.S. Cen­tral Com­mand dis­cussed the sta­tus and pri­or­i­ties of their com­mands dur­ing a hear­ing on their fis­cal year 2012 bud­get requests.

Both com­mands have head­quar­ters at MacDill Air Force Base in Tam­pa, Fla., Olson said, and with 85 per­cent of Socom’s deployed forces in the Cent­com area of oper­a­tions, Mat­tis “is by far the largest cus­tomer of our product.” 

Beyond the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, Olson said, the Unit­ed States and its allies face a range of secu­ri­ty chal­lenges that make the future of war­fare “com­plex, unpre­dictable and unstructured.” 

Chal­lenges include decen­tral­iza­tion of al-Qaida’s net­work; rev­o­lu­tion­ary activ­i­ty in the Mid­dle East; desta­bi­liz­ing ele­ments in Latin Amer­i­ca, Africa and South­east Asia; increased inter­twin­ing of vio­lent extrem­ism and crim­i­nal­i­ty; and the per­sis­tence of piracy. 

“U.S. spe­cial oper­a­tions forces are uni­ver­sal­ly rec­og­nized as key to our nation’s abil­i­ty to address all of these chal­lenges and oth­ers,” the admi­ral said, not­ing Socom’s high-pro­file diversity. 

“We include many forces of leg­end — Green Berets, [Navy] SEALs, [Army] Rangers, Air Force Air Com­man­ders, Army Night Stalk­er avi­a­tors, [Air Force] Com­bat Con­trollers, [Air Force] Parares­cue jumpers, [Navy] Com­bat­ant Craft crew­men, today’s ver­sion of Marine Raiders, and oth­ers,” Olson said. 

Socom also employs spe­cial­ists in admin­is­tra­tion, intel­li­gence, com­mu­ni­ca­tions, engi­neer­ing and logis­tics, he added, and head­quar­ters staff mem­bers world­wide that include more than 300 rep­re­sen­ta­tives from at least 15 oth­er DOD orga­ni­za­tions and oth­er agencies. 

“In many ways,” Olson said, “U.S. Socom is a micro­cosm of defense, with ground, air and mar­itime com­po­nents, a glob­al pres­ence, and author­i­ties and respon­si­bil­i­ties that mir­ror the mil­i­tary depart­ments, mil­i­tary ser­vices and defense agencies. 

“We take pride in the diver­si­ty of our peo­ple and our mis­sion,” he added. 

A key chal­lenge for these elite forces “is how to meet the increas­ing glob­al require­ment for their capa­bil­i­ties … since 9/11 our total man­pow­er has rough­ly dou­bled, our bud­get has rough­ly tripled and our over­seas deploy­ments have quadru­pled,” the admi­ral said. 

The demand is out­pac­ing the sup­ply, he added, and “this great force is begin­ning to fray around the edges.” 

Poten­tial solu­tions, he said, include invest­ing in capa­bil­i­ties that relieve spe­cial oper­a­tions forces from duties oth­ers can per­form, expand­ing inven­to­ries of assets essen­tial to today’s com­plex and irreg­u­lar war­fare, and pro­mot­ing non­tra­di­tion­al skills like lan­guage and microre­gion­al exper­tise as essen­tial mil­i­tary requirements. 

“Under­ly­ing all this is the need to look after our peo­ple and their fam­i­lies,” Olson said. 

“We must reha­bil­i­tate and return to duty those of our wound­ed who can, care for those of our wound­ed who can’t, along with their fam­i­lies and care­givers, and pro­vide endur­ing sup­port to the fam­i­lies of those who have died in action,” he said. 

Mat­tis praised today’s skilled and pro­fes­sion­al troops, who he called a nation­al treasure. 

“Thank you for sup­port­ing our troops and their fam­i­lies, who car­ry the brunt of the phys­i­cal and emo­tion­al bur­den in this 10th year of war,” he told the com­mit­tee members. 

“I also rec­og­nize the com­mit­ment and sac­ri­fice of our inter­na­tion­al part­ners who oper­ate with us from the waters off Soma­lia to the moun­tains of Afghanistan,” Mat­tis said, “where the largest warfight­ing coali­tion in recent his­to­ry is engaged with troops from 49 nations unit­ed in the fight against our com­mon enemy.” 

Coun­tries in Centcom’s area of respon­si­bil­i­ty include many of the most recent­ly vis­i­ble nations on the plan­et — Afghanistan, Bahrain, Egypt, Iran, Yemen and others. 

“The strate­gic land­scape of the broad­er Mid­dle East has been altered by recent events in Tunisia, Egypt, Libya and else­where,” Mat­tis said. “We see pres­sure on gov­ern­ment insti­tu­tions from the aspi­ra­tions of peo­ple seek­ing improved eco­nom­ic and social conditions.” 

“Young peo­ple born in the infor­ma­tion age are exchang­ing ideas in real time. While the long-term impact of this unrest is unknown, it presents as many oppor­tu­ni­ties as it does chal­lenges,” the gen­er­al said. 

“The cen­tral chal­lenge for us,” Mat­tis added, “is how to make com­mon cause with our friends through­out the region.” 

Solu­tions in the region will require the sup­port of mil­i­tary and civil­ian teams, Mat­tis added. 

“Robust resourc­ing for the State Department’s mis­sion is one of the best invest­ments for reduc­ing the need for mil­i­tary forces to be employed,” he told the com­mit­tee mem­bers. “Unde­ni­able secu­ri­ty progress” in Afghanistan, the gen­er­al said, is a result of increas­ing and unprece­dent­ed pres­sure on al-Qai­da in the bor­der region between Afghanistan and Pakistan. 

The enemy’s strat­e­gy also is being under­cut by “the com­mit­ment of the inter­na­tion­al com­mu­ni­ty and the Afghan gov­ern­ment to begin this sum­mer a process of ful­ly tran­si­tion­ing respon­si­bil­i­ty” for the nation’s secu­ri­ty to Afghanistan by 2014, Mat­tis said. 

“In Pak­istan we are strength­en­ing our secu­ri­ty rela­tion­ship with Islam­abad as we work to over­come years of mis­trust and mis­un­der­stand­ing on both sides,” he said. 

The Pak­ista­nis have shift­ed a quar­ter of their army — 140,000 troops — to the west­ern bor­der and are con­duct­ing oper­a­tions in close coor­di­na­tion with coali­tion forces on oppo­site sides of the bor­der, the gen­er­al added. 

With coali­tion help, Iraq is emerg­ing as a more sta­ble coun­try in a tur­bu­lent region, he added, and the com­mit­ment is to tran­si­tion there from a mil­i­tary- to a civil­ian-led effort. Mat­tis said Cent­com requires “con­gres­sion­al author­i­ties that enable us to con­tin­ue advis­ing, train­ing and equip­ping our Iraqi part­ners through the new Office of Secu­ri­ty Cooperation-Iraq.” 

The gen­er­al said he expects that al-Qai­da in Iraq and Iran­ian-spon­sored prox­ies will attempt to exe­cute “sen­sa­tion­al attacks” in Iraq in the com­ing months.

Coali­tion forces are dis­rupt­ing al-Qai­da and oth­er vio­lent extrem­ist orga­ni­za­tions that oper­ate across the Mideast„ Mat­tis said, not­ing efforts are now being focused on the threat of extrem­ism in Yemen, espe­cial­ly al-Qai­da on the Ara­bi­an Penin­su­la –- the group that twice has attempt­ed to attack the Unit­ed States. 

“With our inter­na­tion­al part­ners, our spe­cial oper­a­tions forces are putting our most-vio­lent ene­mies and relat­ed net­works under increas­ing­ly intense pres­sure,” the gen­er­al said. 

“At the same time,” he con­tin­ued, “the pop­u­lace-inspired changes that are tak­ing place across the region under­cut the mes­sage of al-Qai­da and oth­er extrem­ist groups, high­light­ing the bank­rupt philoso­phies of ter­ror­ists who use vio­lence and con­tribute noth­ing but may­hem to the innocent.” 

Israel and the Pales­tin­ian ter­ri­to­ries are not in Centcom’s the­ater, the gen­er­al said, but lack of progress toward a com­pre­hen­sive Mid­dle East peace affects U.S. and Cent­com secu­ri­ty inter­ests in the region. 

“I believe the only reli­able path to last­ing peace in this region is a viable two-state solu­tion between Israel and Pales­tine,” Mat­tis said. 

“The issue is one of many that is exploit­ed by our adver­saries in the region,” he added, “and used as a recruit­ing tool for extrem­ist groups.” 

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

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