The military should create easier-to-deploy cyber units, strengthen the role of special operations forces in supporting cyber operations, and include cyber warfare in special operations forces advisory missions to reap these advantages.
Special operations and cyber operations may appear to be completely unrelated at first glance. The global areas of responsibility for Special Operations Command and Cyber Command, however, are shared and include both peacetime and combat-related tasks. The Department of Defense is already taking small moves to integrate cyber and special operations forces. In contrast to the 90 percent focus on kinetic operations, observed between 2002 and 2011, former Special Operations Command commander General Richard Clarke observed that 60 percent of the special operations community’s focus was now on “working in the information space” while on a site visit to Afghanistan in 2019. Meanwhile, as part of an effort to destroy the Islamic State, Cyber Command hackers in 2016 brought down media servers and online networks. Organizatorily, this could be facilitated by establishing a special operations structure devoted to assisting American offensive cyber and information warfare missions, as well as by enlarging special operations cyber training pipelines and integrating special operations expertise into American partners’ cyber capacity building.