The United States Special Operations Command is pursuing a policy of force diversification.
Special operations officials in the United States expect significant changes to the country’s special operations troops. They want to shift SOF away from its two-decade-long concentration on terrorist organizations and toward a more balanced force that aligns with the NDS’s emphasis on China and Russia. Since 2001, the 2018 National Defense Strategy prioritized anything other than counterterrorism for the first time. The plan explicitly articulates SOCOM’s reaction to this directive. He notes that although many components of the technique are predictable, there are five novel, notable, and causing waves.
One is the notion that specific SOF units will do individual and team training and then delay deployment or, in the absence of an emergency demand, will not deploy. The other is the emphasis on establishing a “sustainable counterterrorism strategy.” It shows SOF as a supporting element of the unified conventional force for significant combat operations against adversaries such as China or Russia. Additionally, the plan expresses a desire to reintroduce SOF involvement in training and exercises with conventional forces and combine modernization efforts with those of the other services. While the new SOF strategy likely marks the most significant shift from SOCOM’s past advice since the 2018 National Defense Strategy (NDS), its tone and tenor remain consistent with anything less than a sea change in the future direction of SOF.
To begin, the plan aspires to be closely aligned with the notion of integrated deterrence outlined in the 2022 NDS but fails to specify how SOF intends to assist these features. Second, there is no discussion of campaigning or establishing long-term advantages, both of which fall entirely within the purview of SOF. Thirdly, the extent to which our resourcing plan has aligned with this new vision remains unknown. SOCOM’s declared intention to divest systems intended only for permissive areas seems to collide with that initiative.