War on Terrorism

Thursday, May 16, 2013

New Authority Supports Global Special Operations Network

By Donna Miles
American Forces Press Service

TAMPA, Fla., May 15, 2013 – A new arrangement that gives U.S. Special Operations Command responsibility for manning, training and equipping special operators assigned to regional combatant commands is beginning to pay off in strengthening the global special operations force network, the Socom commander reported here yesterday.

Navy Adm. William H. McRaven told attendees at the 2013 Special Operations Forces Industry Conference that the new command structure amends a shortcoming that had left Socom with “no institutional relationship” with regional special operations commanders.

Then-Defense Secretary Leon E. Panetta approved the change in February. “In essence, now U.S. Special Operations Command has authority over all special operations [forces],” McRaven said, including those assigned to U.S. European Command, U.S. Pacific Command, U.S. Central Command, U.S. Southern Command and U.S. Africa Command.

This authority also will extend to U.S. Northern Command, which is standing up its own special operations element.

A key part of the arrangement, McRaven said, is that these special operators and their regional special operations commanders will remain under the operational control of their respective geographic combatant commander.

“That is very important,” he said, emphasizing that geographic commanders will determine what missions special operators conduct within their areas of responsibility.

“We will not do anything,” McRaven said, repeating it for emphasis, “without the approval -- underline that -- of a geographic commander and the chief of mission [or] ambassador.”

The admiral elaborated on the arrangement during his testimony before the House and Senate armed services committees in March.

“As the Socom commander, with some unique exceptions, I do not command and control any forces in combat or crisis,” he said. “I am a ‘supporting commander’ to geographic combatant commanders and the chiefs of mission.

“It is my job to provide them the best special operations force in the world,” he continued. “It is their job to employ those forces in support of U.S. policy.”

Yesterday, McRaven told the forum of special operators and defense contractors he advocated the change of authority to better support theater special operations commanders and their assigned forces.

“I want to be held responsible for the manning, training, equipping and resourcing of the theater special operations commanders,” McRaven said. That way, he said, if a theater special operations commander doesn’t have the best talent or isn’t well resourced, there’s no question about who should be held accountable.

“The answer ought to be, ‘You come here to Socom because we are now responsible for it,’” he said. “It really is about, ‘How do we better support those theater special operations commanders?’”

Special Operations Command already is making good on its new responsibility.

Army Brig. Gen. Sean P. Mulholland, commander of Special Operations Command South, reported that his command, long stretched for manpower and resources, is slated to triple in size over the next few years. Meanwhile, the funding lines will start to shift based on McRaven’s emphasis on bolstering the theater special operations commanders, he said.

Navy Rear Adm. Brian L. Losey, commander of Special Operations Command Africa, reported that his command has received additional funding for technical requirements, as well as temporary augmentees from the Socom staff. The new command arrangement “is absolutely empowering” the theater special operations commanders, he said.

But there’s an additional benefit in the communication links the new command relationship allows. McRaven now conducts weekly videoconferences with all of his theater special operations commanders, encouraging them to share information about their activities and challenges.

“Before long, we begin to knit together the global problems that we are seeing,” he said. “And we are passing information [among the theater special operations commanders] that is the beginning of enhancing this global [special operations force] network.”

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