Lean, mean, fight’n machine
US military turns special ops
Sometimes the most effective transformation in the military is the one that wasn’t announced. It just crept up and happened. Inspired by the Green Beret and the US Marine Corp, Special Ops emerged in the Navy as Seals and with special collaboration with the US Air Force. It is a joint collaboration and it works.
The Pentagon’s new view of warfare
By Walter Pincus, Published: February 6
The United States’ view of warfare has been changing.
To deter potential conflicts, the nation will have forward-based sea, air and ground forces in strategic areas around the globe. It will also retain its nuclear triad of land- and submarine-based intercontinental ballistic missiles and strategic bombers.
But no more big land wars (World War II, Korea, even Vietnam); no major “short-term” invasions (Kuwait, Iraq); or large, long-term stability operations (Iraq, Afghanistan). Certainly, no more nuclear warfare (Japan).
Instead, the Obama administration has moved into the era of satellites and drones for intelligence and stand-off air attacks (Libya). If ground forces are needed, local, allied or United Nations troops can be used, some with the help of U.S. Special Forces teams for training or direction (Central African Republic). To go it alone, drones (Pakistan, Yemen), and again those Special Forces (Pakistan for Osama bin Laden, January’s Somalia rescue).
When Defense Secretary Leon E. Panetta introduced the Obama administration’s new strategic guidance he made his first point that “the military will be smaller and leaner, but it will be agile, flexible, rapidly deployable and technologically advanced. It will be a cutting-edge force.”
Read: Special Forces.
Panetta went on to say the United States would have “an adaptable and battle-tested Army . . . capable of defeating any adversary on land. . . . But at the same time we will emphasize Special Operations forces.”
When it comes to funding, which is the proof of the pudding within the Defense Department, Panetta warned the services would face reductions, but when he discussed protecting budgets — and in some cases increasing funding — “ourinvestments in Special Operations forces” topped the list.
If there is any doubt about where President Obama is on the question, just look at the symbolism from Jan. 24 — it wasn’t lost on the military.
With Special Operations Commander Adm. William McRaven sitting next to first lady Michelle Obama in the House gallery, Obama strolled into the chamber to present the State of the Union speech and stopped by Panetta to whisper, “Good job tonight.” It was a reference to the Special Forces rescue hours earlier of American Jessica Buchanan and Poul Hagen Thisted, a Danish citizen, who were being held by Somali pirates.
The collaborative nature of Special Forces operations is an element often overlooked. Two days after Obama’s congratulations to Panetta, Adm. James A. Winnefeld Jr., vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, pointed out that element in the Somalia rescue.
“We had Air Force aircraft, Army aircraft, Navy SEALs, and it was very, very well executed,” he told reporters. “The helicopters that pulled those hostages out of that camp were Army helicopters,” he also noted, emphasizing that despite planned reductions, the Army is going to assume roles in Special Forces regional engagements after Afghanistan.
Special Forces Command (SOCOM) has been growing exponentially since 2001, when after Sept. 11, President George W. Bush gave it responsibility for planning and conducting worldwide counterterrorism operations for the Defense Department (DoD). In 2008 that was expanded to include worldwide training and assistance planning for allies to meet the threat of terrorist networks.”