SOCOM at 30 Has Evolved Into a Small Command With a Big Global Impact by Howard Altman, Tampa Bay Times
It was born out of deadly failure and evolved into an organization that other nations seek to emulate, a command that accounts for a fraction of the Pentagon's budget but a large measure of how the world sees the U.S. military.
This week, U.S. Special Operations Command, headquartered at MacDill Air Force Base in Tampa, turns 30.
Created by Congress in the wake of Operation Eagle Claw, the disastrous attempt to rescue American hostages from Iran in 1980, SOCom opened its doors at MacDill on April 16, 1987. It was an attempt to coordinate the work of military services that all did things differently.
Up until the terrorist attacks of 9/11, SOCom was a relatively sleepy, train-and equip organization. In 2001, SOCom had about 43,000 people and a budget of about $3 billion. After 9/11, as the role of special operations forces in the fight against jihadis expanded, the command experienced dramatic growth. Today, it has 70,000 people and a budget of more than $10 billion.
About 8,700 commandos are serving in about 100 countries, with more than half of them — 4,400 — in the MacDill-based region that's the responsibility of MacDill-based U.S. Central Command. This includes Afghanistan, Iraq and Syria. Seeing the success of U.S. special operations, representatives from foreign militaries are traveling to Tampa to see how they can recreate such a powerful force. One that offers great bang for the buck. SOCom makes up just 2 percent of U.S. defense budget.
The symbol of commando success is the 2011 Navy SEAL raid that killed Osama bin Laden. Yet every day, in ways unknown outside their secretive world, commando teams perform missions like building partner capacity and training foreign troops, hostage rescue attempts, humanitarian relief, tracking jihadi financing and coordinating efforts to counter weapons of mass destruction.
Unlike any other military combatant commands, SOCom has the authority to spend billions of dollars each year on equipment and services tailored for commandos — the SEALs, Army Delta Force, Green Berets and Rangers, and Air Force and Marine teams. To help speed things along, the command created SOFWerx, a research and development effort in Ybor City…