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New Special Ops Forces Vision and Strategy
by Jim Garamone, DOD News
April 15, 2022

The civilian and military leaders of America's special operations forces have combined to issue the new Special Operations Forces Vision and Strategy to guide the force into the future.

Christopher P. Maier, the assistant secretary of defense for special operations and low-intensity conflict, and Army Gen. Richard D. Clarke, the commander of U.S. Special Operations Command, wrote the document as a handbook for the changing world security environment.

This is especially important as the National Defense Strategy emphasizes the return of strategic competition with China and Russia.

Navy SEALs demonstrate winter warfare capabilities during in the mountains around Mammoth Lakes, California on December 9, 2014. (Image created by USA Patriotism! from Naval Special Warfare Command courtesy photo.)
Navy SEALs demonstrate winter warfare capabilities during in the mountains around Mammoth Lakes, California on December 9, 2014. (Image created by USA Patriotism! from Naval Special Warfare Command courtesy photo.)

"The updated Special Operations Force Vision and Strategy reflects our overarching strategic guidance to the enterprise, highlighting force modernization, force employment, development and design, and helps ensure forces are postured to support the National Defense Strategy," Maier said in a written statement. "Aligned with national policy and strategy, the Vision and Strategy serves as the foundation for the shaping of SOF near-term and in the future as an adaptive, agile and capable force that can compete and prevail against any adversary, in any environment, while also recognizing the need to preserve and grow readiness and strengthen our force and families."

The joint release of the Vision and Strategy highlights the cooperation at the highest levels of the community. "Special Operations Forces' full range of core activities, tailored capabilities and deep partnerships provide critical options for campaigning to bolster deterrence," Clarke said in a written statement. "These documents underpin our efforts to build enduring advantage. They ensure our special operations forces remain the most capable and credible in the world by providing a lasting foundation to guide future activities and investments focused on innovation, modernization and taking care of our most critical resource ... our people."

The vision statement takes the Special Ops core values of honor, courage, excellence, creativity and respect and pushes that basis into the future. Special operators must be "a resilient enterprise capable of conducting integrated all-domain special operations."

Special operators, of course, have a role to play in countering moves by China America's pacing challenge ... and Russia ... whose action in invading Ukraine shows the threat they may become.

"China is currently the only nation capable of combining the economic, diplomatic, military and technological power to rival the U.S. and destabilize the international system that has advanced our interests for 75 years," the Vision and Strategy document says.

But this doesn't mean the threats are any smaller from Iran, North Korea or from violent extremist organizations. Organizations like the Islamic State seek to reconstitute anywhere they can find a safe haven. Ungoverned, little governed or corruptly governed areas of the Middle East, Southwest Asia and especially Africa could provide that necessity.

U.S. Marines with C Company, 2d Reconnaissance Battalion (Recon Bn.), 2d Marine Division, participate in visit, board, search, and seizure (VBSS) training with Netherlands Marines with the 32nd Raiding Squadron in Savaneta, Aruba on November 13, 2020. VBSS skills are critical when fighting in littoral and coastal regions. (Image created by USA Patriotism! from U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Brian Bolin Jr.)
U.S. Marines with C Company, 2d Reconnaissance Battalion (Recon Bn.), 2d Marine Division, participate in visit, board, search, and seizure (VBSS) training with Netherlands Marines with the 32nd Raiding Squadron in Savaneta, Aruba on November 13, 2020. VBSS skills are critical when fighting in littoral and coastal regions. (Image created by USA Patriotism! from U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Brian Bolin Jr.)

The strategy looks to establish a 10-year framework of strategic aims, strategic efforts and resources to "create strategic and asymmetric advantages" for the United States.

Over the next decade, special operators must be prepared "to conduct operations to support priority missions in critical locations as part of integrated deterrence, to reduce strategic risk and to facilitate integration with conventional forces during high-end conflict."

The community also must modernize for the missions of the future. This is more than simply buying new equipment, but examining new concepts, doctrine, methods and capabilities.

Staying true to its roots is yet another priority in this strategy with its strong emphasis on recruiting and retaining the best people for the missions. The force will also sustain the Defense Department's deployment-to-dwell and mobilization-to-dwell ratios.

Again, regarding personnel, the strategy calls for emphasizing diversity and inclusion within the community while also calling for accountable leadership.

Special operations forces will be key in helping the greater military operate with partner and allied military organizations, according to the strategy.

Maier and Clarke see the Vision and Strategy as a chance to continue discussions within the special operations community. Still, they delineate what qualities they deem important and the path they would like to take ... together ... moving ahead.

U.S. Department of Defense

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