USA — Official Outlines Special Operations Needs

BLOOMINGTON, Ind., Aug. 31, 2011 — Spe­cial oper­a­tions staff mem­bers are work­ing to ensure the orga­ni­za­tion retains its tech­no­log­i­cal edge on the bat­tle­field, a Joint Spe­cial Oper­a­tions Com­mand staff offi­cer said.

Army Maj. Bri­an Weyen­berg, sci­ence and tech­nol­o­gy lead for JSOC’s force struc­ture, resources and assess­ment direc­torate, yes­ter­day described cur­rent and near-term capa­bil­i­ty gaps in spe­cial oper­a­tions for an audi­ence attend­ing the Nation­al Defense Indus­tri­al Association’s Joint Mis­sions Con­fer­ence here.

A sub-com­mand of U.S. Spe­cial Oper­a­tions Com­mand, which is based at MacDill Air Force Base, Fla., the Fort Bragg, N.C.-based JSOC is a joint head­quar­ters designed to study spe­cial oper­a­tions require­ments and tech­niques, ensure inter­op­er­abil­i­ty and equip­ment stan­dard­iza­tion, plan and con­duct joint spe­cial oper­a­tions exer­cis­es and train­ing, and devel­op joint spe­cial oper­a­tions tac­tics.

Per­haps the most press­ing con­cern for that head­quar­ters — what he termed as “the 800-pound goril­la” — is the pos­si­bil­i­ty of major fund­ing cuts, Weyen­berg said.

“While there is no indi­ca­tion yet that the bud­get deficit issues touch­ing our nation will affect [spe­cial oper­a­tions forces] or SOF resourc­ing … we must all be pre­pared for that,” he said.

One resourc­ing con­sid­er­a­tion for the spe­cial oper­a­tions com­mu­ni­ty is deter­min­ing when “SOF-unique” equip­ment or sys­tems can be replaced with ser­vice-com­mon solu­tions, Weyen­berg said.

Anoth­er area of pos­si­ble sav­ings is trans­fer­ring “mature tech­nol­o­gy” — proven sys­tems and equip­ment — from nation­al to the­ater mis­sions when­ev­er pos­si­ble to reduce costs, he added.

Weyen­berg said a spe­cial oper­a­tions imper­a­tive is devel­op­ing new capa­bil­i­ties to sup­port its core mis­sion: to find, fix, exploit and ana­lyze the ene­my; in mil­i­tary par­lance, F2EA. That require­ment “man­dates SOF to oper­ate and col­lab­o­rate as an inter­a­gency part­ner and pool resources to counter and exploit com­mer­cial tech­nolo­gies,” he said.

SOCOM’s spend­ing to sup­port F2EA capa­bil­i­ties has expand­ed and like­ly will keep grow­ing, Weyen­berg said, giv­en increas­ing mis­sion demand across the globe.

“Expand­ing our [sci­ence and tech­nol­o­gy] focus and capa­bil­i­ties also increas­es their endurance,” he said. “Inno­va­tion and speed-to-mar­ket are essen­tial to stay­ing abreast of the com­mer­cial marketplace’s capa­bil­i­ties and ser­vices … avail­able and used by our tech-savvy adver­saries.”

Sci­ence and tech­nol­o­gy devel­op­ment is inher­ent­ly dis­tant from the fight, he said, and focus­es on deliv­er­able prod­ucts or capa­bil­i­ties.

“With­in SOF’s doc­trine of find, fix, exploit and ana­lyze, [resources] will con­tin­ue to be the engine of suc­cess,” he said. “The fran­chis­ing of the vio­lent extrem­ist net­works con­tin­ues. Addi­tion­al­ly, the Arab spring remains unpre­dictable and exploitable by groups that could use ter­ror­ism as a means to an end.”

Weyen­berg said giv­en these threats, geo-loca­tion and over-the-hori­zon sur­veil­lance are and will remain key “find and fix” capa­bil­i­ties, requir­ing inte­grat­ed sen­sors and net­works that can deliv­er both point and area sur­veil­lance, allow users to devel­op pat­tern-of-life data, and pro­vide over-the-hori­zon cues for aer­i­al assets.

“We have made great progress and must con­tin­ue devel­op­ing and build­ing soft­ware-based sur­vey and geo-loca­tion sys­tems,” he said. “Addi­tion­al­ly, we will need to con­tin­ue to expand SOF … beyond-line-of-sight capa­bil­i­ties to gain greater range and free­dom of access.”

Anoth­er crit­i­cal need, he said, is to fur­ther devel­op com­mand, con­trol, com­mu­ni­ca­tions, com­put­ers, and intel­li­gence — “C4I” — sys­tems that can link a glob­al­ly dis­persed force and allow access to part­ner orga­ni­za­tions.

“Infor­ma­tion shar­ing, and inter­op­er­abil­i­ty with­in the inter­a­gency envi­ron­ment, is a crit­i­cal angle,” he said. “Such tech­nolo­gies, tools and archi­tec­tures, which improve our abil­i­ty to search, parse, ana­lyze, destroy and dis­trib­ute data, increas­ing­ly become … require­ments for us.”

JSOC is work­ing, in part through inter­a­gency and inter-ser­vice col­lab­o­ra­tion and its sci­ence and tech­nol­o­gy task force, to bridge the gap between mis­sion require­ments and new capa­bil­i­ties, Weyen­berg said.

As oper­a­tions in Iraq wind down and Afghan forces grad­u­al­ly assume secu­ri­ty respon­si­bil­i­ty for their coun­try, U.S. spe­cial oper­a­tions troops “will con­tin­ue to be the nation’s force of choice for dif­fi­cult and polit­i­cal­ly sen­si­tive mis­sions,” he said.

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