War on Terrorism

Monday, September 10, 2007

Special Operations Official Sets Priorities for Future

By John J. Kruzel
American Forces Press Service

Sept. 10, 2007 - Prevailing in the
war on terror and building strong foundations for a future joint force are top priorities, the Defense Department official who heads the Special Operations/Low-Intensity Conflict policy group told Pentagon reporters. During a Sept. 7 roundtable discussion at the Pentagon, Michael G. Vickers, assistant secretary of defense for special operations/low-intensity conflict and interdependent capabilities, discussed goals the Bush administration hopes to reach during its remaining time in office.

Vickers noted that the most recent Quadrennial Defense Review identified four main challenges the department faces as it operates around the globe. They include fighting rogue actors in a harsh, irregular warfare landscape; defending the homeland against attack; shaping the choices of countries like China that are at a strategic crossroads; and keeping weapons of mass destruction out of enemies' hands.

"If you find yourself in that world -- either in conflict with a nuclear power, or trying to deal with a more proliferated world, which we're trying to forestall -- what policies and strategies do you develop?" Vickers asked. "As a department, it's prudent to buy insurance against a number of those, because inevitably you're going to get some aspects of it wrong."

But by addressing the four top issues outlined in the QDR, Vickers said, the department "ought to be reasonably positioned for other surprises that might emerge."

The Senate confirmed Vickers on July 23 to the newly created assistant secretary position. In this role, Vickers is the senior civilian advisor to the secretary and deputy secretary of defense on the capabilities and operational employment of special operations forces, strategic forces, and conventional forces. He also is the senior civilian advisor on counterterrorism strategy, irregular warfare, and force transformation.

"My basic priorities in the capabilities area are to implement ... the broad directions set out in the QDR for the future force," Vickers said.

The QDR included a call to increase special ops forces across the services by roughly 13,000 operators over the next five to six years. Special operations forces, which have emerged as a key ingredient in the global war on terror, are light and agile and often are the first forces called upon when a crisis happens.

"We're expanding our (special operations) units by about a third between now and 2013," Vickers said. "And so while that won't be complete in this administration, I certainly want to make sure it gets off to a real healthy start because I think that's very important."

Vickers said a main challenge he faces is overseeing special ops forces currently engaged in operations abroad. "We have more forces deployed overseas than we've ever had, and so that really is job No. 1 for me over the next 18 months," he said, "particularly in Iraq, Afghanistan and neighboring countries."

Other directives outlined in the QDR are "resource or capital intensive" and will take about a decade to implement, Vickers said.

One such directive includes overhauling
Air Force special operations equipment. Aircraft that make up the current arsenal are old and must be overhauled "at some point" to address emerging threats, Vickers said.

"That's also just getting started," he added, "and I want to make sure it gets off to as healthy a start as it can."

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