USA — ‘Prevent, Prepare’ Key Special Ops Roles, Official Says

WASHINGTON, Feb. 10, 2011 — The 2010 Qua­dren­ni­al Defense Review out­lined strate­gic defense pri­or­i­ties: pre­vail in war, pre­vent and deter con­flict, pre­pare for future con­flicts and con­tin­gen­cies, and pre­serve and enhance the force.
“Today I want to unpack the … ‘pre­vent’ and ‘pre­pare,’ and dis­cuss how I see [spe­cial oper­a­tions forces] play­ing a crit­i­cal role in both of those areas,” Dr. Janine David­son, deputy assis­tant sec­re­tary of defense for plans, yes­ter­day told atten­dees here at the Nation­al Defense Indus­tri­al Association’s 22nd Annu­al Spe­cial Oper­a­tions and Low-inten­si­ty Con­flict Sym­po­sium.

“What kind of con­flicts are we try­ing to pre­pare [for] and pre­vent?” David­son asked sym­po­sium atten­dees.

Nuclear pro­lif­er­a­tion, cli­mate change, glob­al pan­demics, transna­tion­al crim­i­nal orga­ni­za­tions and ter­ror­ism, David­son said, make up a set of nation­al secu­ri­ty chal­lenges more com­plex than ever before. She not­ed that future con­flicts will more close­ly resem­ble cur­rent wars.

The response to these chal­lenges requires cul­tur­al­ly aware fight­ers, 21st-cen­tu­ry intel­li­gence resources, and a del­i­cate approach to tran­si­tion­ing to peace, she said.

“These com­plex­i­ties are com­pound­ed … by an emerg­ing peri­od of fis­cal con­straint for our fed­er­al gov­ern­ment,” David­son said. “We must ask: ‘What can we do smarter, more effec­tive­ly, and more effi­cient­ly while still meet­ing our defense pri­or­i­ties to pro­tect the Amer­i­can peo­ple?’ ”

Uni­ty of effort across “3-D” — diplo­mat­ic, devel­op­men­tal and defense — capa­bil­i­ties will remain as crit­i­cal in the future as it is to today’s capa­bil­i­ties, David­son said.

Coor­di­na­tion and plan­ning with inter­a­gency part­ners are nec­es­sary, she said, but a suc­cess­ful “3-D” effort also will require “insight and knowl­edge –- some­thing the [spe­cial oper­a­tions] com­mu­ni­ty has excelled at.”

Just as the com­mu­ni­ty devel­oped suc­cess­ful approach­es for urban war­fare, for­eign inter­nal defense and coun­terin­sur­gency con­flicts, spe­cial oper­a­tions will need to “put their brains around these new chal­lenges,” she said.

One aspect of cur­rent con­flicts that needs atten­tion, she said, is the secu­ri­ty gap cre­at­ed by the his­tor­i­cal­ly sep­a­rate roles of Amer­i­can mil­i­tary and law enforce­ment orga­ni­za­tions.

That gap, she said, is “being exploit­ed by insur­gents in the field as well as increas­ing­ly sophis­ti­cat­ed transna­tion­al drug car­tels and traf­fick­ers, region­al­ly and on a glob­al scale.”

It will take a whole-of-gov­ern­ment effort and a thor­ough under­stand­ing of how the “bad guys” oper­ate to counter them, David­son said.

In tran­si­tion sit­u­a­tions such as in Iraq and the planned secu­ri­ty trans­fer in Afghanistan, David­son said, it will be impor­tant for the mil­i­tary to bet­ter under­stand diplo­ma­cy and devel­op­ment.

Real­is­ti­cal­ly, she said, trans­fer to civil­ian-led oper­a­tions doesn’t mean the mil­i­tary exits, but rather defense forces will con­tin­ue to sup­port their civil­ian coun­ter­parts.

Spe­cial oper­a­tions forces will be crit­i­cal in 3-D efforts, David­son said, giv­en “their spe­cial skill-sets and tal­ent for bridg­ing gaps among cer­tain pop­u­la­tions and com­mu­ni­ties.”

Only a rig­or­ous effort to under­stand the dif­fer­ing require­ments of defense, devel­op­ment and diplo­ma­cy, cou­pled with care­ful con­sid­er­a­tion of pos­si­ble unin­tend­ed out­comes, will allow a whole-of-gov­ern­ment approach to suc­ceed, she con­clud­ed.

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

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