Small Wars Journal

Does The United States Still Need USSOCOM? (Updated)

Sun, 12/13/2009 - 11:25am
Does The United States Still Need a U.S. Special Operations Command?

How Effective Has USSOCOM Been in Fighting the Long War?

by Yasotay

Download the full article: Does The United States Still Need USSCOM?

The establishment of United States Special Operations Command (USSOCOM) in 1987 with the passage of the Nunn-Cohen Amendment to the Defense Reorganization Act of 1987 was designed to fix the problems with Special Operations that were brought to light after the failed Iranian hostage rescue attempt at Desert One in 1980. Congress did what the military establishment would not. This legislation provided unity of command and control for Special Operations Forces and elevated Special Operations to a near peer with the Services giving it "service-like" responsibilities as well as a little used Combatant Command authority.

However, in 2009, perhaps it is time for Congress to review their handiwork. Of course many outside the military establishment are enamored with the myth and romanticism of Special Operations. There are so many "groupies" among staffers and in academia that it is hard to see Special Operations for what it really is and what it has become. And within the military, Special Operations has been "hijacked" by a group of hyper-conventional Ranger types and other supporting elements that Special Operations and most important, its heart and soul -- Special Forces - has lost its way. There are so many in and out of the military who claim ties to Special Operations that it is unlikely that there will ever be a critical look at USSOCOM and what it has become.

There is no doubt that Special Operations Forces, including from across the spectrum: the hyper-conventional Special Mission Units including the Rangers and Special Operations Aviation, as well the SEALs, the Air Commandos, the MARSOC Marines and the intellectual, indirect approach experts in Special Forces such as Civil Affairs, and Psychological Operations, have made tremendous contributions to the United States' fight against terrorists and insurgents. However, it is important to note that they have done this working for the Combatant Commanders (formerly regional Commander in Chiefs) and Ambassadors and not under USSOCOM.

So let's take a broad look at USSOCOM and specifically focus on its headquarters and what it has done for our nation since 9-11 and what it has become. Congress might want to delve into some of these issues and ask some hard questions.

Download the full article: Does The United States Still Need USSCOM?

Yasotay was a Mongol Warlord and fierce fighter who marauded all over Asia aggressively vanquishing any foe by any means. The author is a patriotic American who has been associated with Special Operations in Tampa for more than 20 years. The views he expresses are as a frequent observer of SOF and they are a distillation as a result of numerous conversations with SOF operators at all levels.


Abolish SOCOM - Herschel Smith, The Captain's Journal

Does The United States Still Need a USSOCOM? - Professional Soldiers discussion forum

About the Author(s)


Bob, many of us are in agreement that we need a realistic strategy that allows us to synchronize and phase our ways, means and ends in a constructive manner. Also agree that addressing the gap between governance and its people is clearly an important "part" of the solution. However, we have state boundaries that divide nations and the people within the state boundaries in many locations have problems that are not amiable to a "democractic" solution (where the State responds to the majority). In fact in many places that are not blessed with our values (IMO) democracy is a form of mob rule. For example, the Shia majority now suppresses Sunni minority in Iraq. Furthermore, especially in places like Afghanistan there a number of foreign state actors that have interests that greatly influence conditions within those countries that have little to do with the wishes of their local populace; although these states will likely attempt to leverage various groups within the concerned state to help them pursue their interest (UW/UO).

I think the sole focuse on the relationship between a government and its people misses too many other contributing factors. At a minimum it is the relationship between the state and its "different groups of people", not one holistic nation, the relationship between the different groups of people themselves, and foreign interference (both State and non-state). This is the reality, and a strategy must consider all these factors (and many more), which is why forcing social change while possible (the communists did it) is generally beyond the scale of effort we are willing to invest to force it. IMO our biggest mistake was assuming people would simply embrace our vision (democracy, equal rights, capitalism, free markets, etc.) instead of pursuing their own objectives.

Our goals overall are generally noble and good, but we pursue them with an ineffective hubris that is undermining our good intentions.

One answer to this problem was the so called Powell Doctrine (although he doesn't take credit for it), which suggests we only employ the military when there is a clearly achievable military objective (employ the military in sufficient force to achieve it and leave). Most realize this approach doesn't nest with the reality of the world and our policies, but it should at least caution us to think through how we plan on employing the military prior to employing them in combat. What exactly do we expect them to achieve? How will they do it? How do we transition them out? etc. Of course unforseen events will challenge our plans and we will have to adjust, but at least attempt to develop to develop a strategy with reasonable objectives.

I also think we should look at what was working in the 90s (post Cold War) and what wasn't prior to 9/11. IMO the 9/11 attack wasn't due to a failure of national policy and strategy, but a failure of systems in place to detect and neutralize the threat (which hindsight indicates there were ample opportunities to do so). The biggest shortfall prior to 9/11 was the CIA and SOF's reluctance to take out UBL and band of followers prior to 9/11. They both told President Clinton it was too risky, while both had men and women who were prepared to take that risk. In hindsight I wonder if they would still tell the President it was too risky? Clearly deploying large scale military forces to wage a war against terrorism will not defeat the tactic, nor will it eliminate safehavens, etc. It is time to right size the effort, let the appropriate organizations take the lead (FBI, CIA, SOF, State, etc.). Since the GPF is not fighting terrorism in Afghanistan IMO, lets honestly redefine what they are doing and set forth to develop an appropriate strategy to achieve it.

Mission changes are acceptable. We fought Nazi Germany and Imperialist Japan to defend our interests, and then shortly afterwards partnered with them to defend our interests against the Soviet Union and their World Revolution policy. In other words we didn't just stay in Germany and Japan to continue fighting the original threat, but to counter the emerging communist threat. We initially went into Afghanistan to fight terrorism (did quite well at that), and while there are elements of terrorist groups remain, that does not appear to be our primary objective at this time.

Bob's World

Wed, 06/01/2011 - 10:00am


With good tactics and good equipment, intel and troops one wins battles. We have all of that in spades, and not surprisingly, winning battles is not a problem. Our junior officers, NCOs and soldiers/Marines are in the midst of all of this and appreciate this very well.

But, as these young Captains note, it seems we are on a treadmill of such "victories" with not true advancement to any kind of decisive win.

While sometimes such wins may come suddenly, with little sign that a major breakthrough is about to occur (just as such conflicts can also begin suddenly with little indication of the degree of the problem until some spark ignites an immediate, and often leadersless, revolution with little of the phased build-up promoted by Mao and his adherants); one has to ask: Are we acomplishing anything substantive and enduring??

With a flawed strategic framework/concept no amount of tactical success is apt to produce anything more than some temporary suppression of the violence. We see this in countries such as Algeria and the Philippines in recent history, where a series of such tactical successes have created such periods of suppression that we have boldly procaimed as "victories." Note to military historians: If one has to fight a "new" insurgency in the same country every 15-20 years, one has never resolved the roots of causation. Merely suppressed them. New leaders emerge, new ideolgies are applied, different segments of the populace sometimes pick up the banner (which is not surprising, as often the faces of government change, but the new faces continue the same failures of their predecessors, but often with a different segment of the populace feeling the benefit/brunt of that change.)

So, do we have a strategic framework for success in Afghanistan? No. Not in my opinion. I hear increasing noise about abandoning the foolishness of massive development as the cure; and noise of reaching out finally to seek to facilitate reconciliation between the Taliban and the Northern Alliance. I hope that is more than just noise.

Certainly physical threats must be mitigated during such interventions; but the focus must be on addressing the primary drivers of insurgent causation that radiate out from government. This is not a mission that the military should lead, yet it is a military often given to the military all the same. The results are predictable.

Young Captains may not have strategic missions, but they have sharp eyes, ears and minds. They are right to question. Just as the JOs coming out of Vietnam drove changes in the army then, these same JOs will drive the changes of our future military as well. If they stick around they will see more such interventions. I would ask them to focus on the government-populace relationship. They will also see major state vs. state combat as well, so I would ask them to make preparation for that their priority, as that is the no-fail mission of our military.

Bill M.

Wed, 06/01/2011 - 12:05am

Anon, that surprises me also since most CPTs operate at the tactical level (with an appreciation of the larger strategic context), which may suggest that they are not seeing any tangible results at the tip of the spear with their tactical operations, or they don't think their operations are supportive of a tangible strategy. It would be interesting to hear why they think we are losing, what losing means to them, what winning means, etc. to provide some context to their votes.

I don't think we are winning or losing, we are conducting a war of attrition hoping to reach an amiable political settlement with the various warring parties (who all must be getting tired). The attrition strategy may work, it may not. All the other activity we are conducting that isn't tied to the only functional strategy we have (attrition) is largely irrelevant in the current fight. If you disagree, please explain its relevance.

The VSO program and the U.S. Marine clear, hold and build missions do drive a temporary wedge between the locals and Taliban, but again to what end. Hold is always temporary, even if it is a long temporary. What is the phase after hold? What is the strategy to push the Taliban to their culmination point, and then how do we consolidate our victory? Still more questions than answers, but in the meantime I think life for the average Taliban member isn't very good and I suspect they are tiring of this also and may welcome an end to this conflict. What is preventing an agreement? Perhaps that should be the focus of our strategy.

Anonymous (not verified)

Tue, 05/31/2011 - 8:52pm

Bob---recently asked a group of CPTs all who had been to the Advance course and who all had been in Iraq and Afghanistan if they thought we were "losing" in Afghanistan and to a person they all raised their hands---surprised me actually.

Bob's World

Tue, 05/31/2011 - 4:02pm

If we don't facilitate reconciliation and leave VSOs behind as the BCTs withdraw, several bad things happen.

1. SF remains fixed to the tar baby and is unable to engage elsewhere in the world where we actually have vital interests to address;

2. When the house of cards collapses behind our withdrawal, those good Afghans who bought into VSO become the ones caught in a hard place with no exit strategy to save them.

Under the current constitution of Afghanistan there is a barrier at the district level. All above is hand picked by Karzai for Karzai; all below is irrelevant. No amount of goodness at that local level will force changes in how Afghanistan is governed. We need to remove the "sanctuary" we have created around GiROA and focus our efforts there. But that is a diplomatic/political mission, not one for the military. So we focus on military stuff, and sadly be it BCTs doing C-H-B, or ODAs doing VSO, it is not likely to have much enduring effect as it is restricted to merely engaging the symptoms of the larger problem.


Anonymous (not verified)

Tue, 05/31/2011 - 2:20pm

Bob---if you look at the parallel development of the SOICs and the VSO program and everything around VSO---is it in fact the "exit strategy" that will allow the drawdown of our BCTs?

Think about it?


Mon, 05/30/2011 - 11:13am

In many of the topics lately I see a recurring theme: that of being effective.

I'm not in SOCOM. I don't know the ground truth realities there. However, from my vantage point it seems that it's an organization that needs to exist and continue. My experiences, overall, with anything SOF have been good. When I've reached out to them in order to enhance cooperation within the same AO, or ensure we are synch'd up and on the same page, it's been great. Very cooperative.

I think at this point it's not a question of whether it survives or not. There's just no way I can see it going away. The political pressure alone would not allow, in my opinion. The question is going to be how it survives the potential austerity moves. My hunch is that austerity will not be felt in SOCOM. In the recent message about officer grade plate reviews, I believe many of the branches tied to SOCOM were left off.

But, if austerity comes to SOCOM, will it streamline and become more efficient while remaining just as or more effective? Or, will it follow suit with the rest of the Army and spiral down the stupidity staircase, which I fully expect to happen.

G Martin

Mon, 05/30/2011 - 10:27am

SOCOM has done a lot of great things for SOF, but it has become like any other bureaucracy: out of touch with the troops it purports to support. Like most things- it has outdone the Army- but outdoing the Army in being bureaucratic is unacceptable (and when I say "SOCOM" I mean the organization as a whole- all the way down to the HQs levels that service each specops unit).

I'm not faulting the people per se- they are having to operate in a system that stifles innovation and responsiveness because they are rewarded for slowing things down and saving money and not for "getting things done". What I'd like to see change is at the top: the SOCOM leaders should demand a different system than copying the vast bureaucracies of the Army. SOF, of all people, should demand their HQs become lean and innovative and grade them on the satisfaction of the tactical units and lower HQs.

Bob, we are in one of those rare moments of total agreement. I think we always feel we are winnng the war at the tactical level (at least I did). It is also true we get close to the people we are working with in our little piece of the world and we want them to succeed. In my experience, as I got older (not necessarily wiser) I starting wondering why a lot of our operations were not successful at the strategic level, since we were doing everything asked of us at the tactical level.

As manhy of us have harped on again and again, if we don't have a strategy with appropriate objectives, then all the tactical successes in the world will be random acts of success (and they are successes, but to no end) that don't add up to much. I am proud of what SF is doing, the rest of SOF is doing, what the infantry is doing, etc. I still see the reports of great courage being demonstrated under fire almost daily, and see the photos of determined faces on the front lines. My pride in being a SF soldier (although recently retired) is as strong as ever, but I am greatly disappointed with our nation's inability to form a functional strategy that will align our ways, ends and means. I don't think it is any one person's shortfall, or even one particular groups of people, but rather a process issue. We have people that have good ideas at the strategic level that appear functional, but by the time they go through the political process the concepts become so perverted they're no longer functional and we are all left wondering who came up with this stupid idea. It is the political challenges within our own system, and now it is further complicated with political concerns from all the ISAF contributers and Afghanistan's government. It is self imposed complexity. The fact that Charlie Wilson could run his own war (sort of, kind of) as a Senator shows just how dysfunctional we are. Several more reasonable voices back then said it was best that the Islamists and Soviets keep fighting, don't allow one side to win, but passion over came reason. Oh well, it is probably the nature of mankind and all political systems. We will just keep soldiering on as we always have throughout history.

As for the question do we need SOCOM? We most certainly need SOCOM. I remember SOF prior to SOCOM, we had the same great people, but very limited resources. SOCOM as other than a Title 10 like headquarters is another issue open to debate, but SOCOM has done a phenominal job in building the SOF capacity we have today in a very short period of time. Give credit where credit is due.


Mon, 05/30/2011 - 1:39am

If the 75th Ranger Regt was half as capable as Ranger Stout would lead us to believe, I'm pretty sure they could win all the wars and the rest of us could stay home. But, they have fallen into the same traps that most of the military has fallen into: going after the "sexy" missions and neglecting core skills and ignoring much of their METL - or - removing things from the METL in order to remove the stigma of having to say they can't accomplish X% of it. It's happened from top to bottom in the Army. Better to just acknowledge it as a reality in order to go about the business of fixing it or sustaining it as appropriate, than to ignore it.

Comments such as his, though, are why when people talk about USSOCOM and SOF they think about SF, CA, PSYOP and not the 75th. Immaturity and hubris do not often get connected with anything in the SOF world.

For GI Zhou....I'd like any UNCLASS OSINT type references in order to learn about what the Chinese are gleaning from our operations in Iraq and Afghanistan. If there are sites cataloging this, please mention them.

Bob's World

Sun, 05/29/2011 - 2:22pm

VSO is a great program; and if executed in support of a main effort focused on political reform (new constitution, reconciliation with Taliban govt in exile, end of Karzai stranggle hold on all governance down to Dist. level, etc)it could make a real difference. But under the current operational design and focus it is as doomed to fail as massive C-H-B operations and massive Developent operations are if done with the goal of supporting the current regime as is.

CIDG had no chance of resolving issues in Vietnam so long as we supported similarly illegitimate, corrupt, Western-created/influenced regimes in Saigon. Same is true today in Afghanistan. We drew the wrong lessons learned, so we make the same mistakes.

When BG Scotty Miller came on board at CFSOCC-A he reminded all of us to be careful not to oversell the benefits of what we were doing out at the various Regional Commands. VSO is a great program, but I would gently remind the General of his own excellent advice.

VSO without strategic top cover is highly unlikely to prevail, and if the whole thing collapses upon our withdrawal as an equally unsustainable host nation did in Vietnam, the poeple who have trusted in us the most will be the ones who bear the largest brunt as the tide of political power changes once again in Afghanistan. Afg. has historically been an all or nothing country in that regard. Winners take all and losers lose.

No amount of good SOF effort can overcome that fact. We need a new Afghan strategy, and it should be far more political than military.

Time to move on though. The US has far bigger fish to fry than Afghanistan. Just because that is where we are most focused today, it does not mean that that is where our greatest and most vital interests need to be serviced, or where SOF can provide the greatest advantage to our Nation.

We need a global campaign plan for peace; it needs to be a plan owned by the State Department; and smart, persistent, low-level SOF engagement in hundreds of diverse places among hundreds of diverse populaces needs to be a major component of DOD's contribution to that plan.

As to SOCOM? With all the experience developed and capacity created to manage the GWOT campaign plan, who better to task to support State in this effort? The days of GCCs managing 4 diverse, uncoordinated Theater Service and 1 Theater SOF TSCP plans; disconnected from what each individual country team and USAID team is doing in theater must come to an end. It is time to refocus on how to better appoach serving our interests in times of peace, and stop trying to turn every place someone gives us the finger into a warzone.



Anonymous (not verified)

Sun, 05/29/2011 - 12:45pm

SF has cranked up the options for disengaging in Afghanistan---DoD fought hard against the VSO program which is now being touted as a true way forward---historically interesting as it is the VN CIDG program all over again--down to the new Strike forces being stood up---ie again VN and the former MIKE force units.

Maybe soimeone has figured out the Afghanistan is the perfect SOF fight and now is the time to begin pulling the BCTs out.

John Kurt (not verified)

Sun, 05/29/2011 - 4:55am

Till now it looks funny, please keep running your story..............

GI Zhou (not verified)

Wed, 12/29/2010 - 10:08am

Ranger Stout's attitude I hope is one of the few. Hubris can be fatal. The 'gung ho' attitude he displys comes from a bastardisation of 'Work Together' used by the Chinese commuinists to exhort each other. The Hoohah of today.

Field Marshal Slim was against elite/special forces units as he believed they diluted the Army of its best soldiers, got a disproportionate share of equipment and training for little result. I expect them to copy the idea of a USSOCCOM, as they are growing in the seven military regions with a lack of coordination.I am neutral on whether SOCCOM comes or goes. My field is the PLA and I as a rule, shy away from PLA Special Forces, and special operations forces generally. I swear there have been more books writtem on SF worldwide than there have been members.

I have heard Afghanistan being described as a 'special forces benefit'. and from the study of Chinese material on US operations in Afghanistan The Chinese military has studied US operations very closely in Afghanistan and drew the same conclusions. It has taken note especially of the use of helicopters and infantery weapons and equipment.

With regard to wepaons and equipment, when the US Military starts to draw down post-Afghanistan I envision some poor supply sergeant suddenly finding him or herself on the recieving end of a whole range of equipment the Army neither wants or can easily logisitcally support. Currently in USSOCOM, equipment is bought for contingencies which may but never occur. These small purchases of non-standard equipments will have to be taken care of. then the fun will really start.

When funding starts getting tight, I can see the small elite units quickly being subsumed in the larger military if USSOCOM is disbanded. I don't think anyone wants to go back to post-Vietnam days but something will have to give post-Afghanistan.

Bob's World

Wed, 12/29/2010 - 12:43pm

I mentioned this before, but it is worth reiterating that "SOF" and "USSOCOM" are two very different things. I don't have the document before me now, but the current USSOCOM Command Strategy lays out that difference and seeks to make the distinction throughout the document.

USSOCOM plays an important role, and I suspect will become more "service-like", but will not, should not, and does not want to every become a service. Way too much overhead with that mission. They are here to stay, but should probably re-position some billets (there are WAY too many intel guys everywhere, and SOCOM is no exception) and shrink some capabilities that expanded for the GWOT to refocus more clearly on their Title-10 mission as a force provider. I think that will naturally occur over the next decade or so.

Turning to SOF a bit, JSOC has also grown far too large, powerful and expensive for an enduring capability. It too should shrink, but getting rid of Flag billets once garnered rarely happens. We'll see. The tail will likely continue to wag the dog for some time to come.

SF is already well into getting more centered on its core values and missions. Plenty of important work for those guys to be doing around the globe where "deferred engagement" is stacking up due to such a preponderance of the force being committed to two countries.

Ringo (not verified)

Tue, 12/28/2010 - 5:41am

Does the United States need US Special Operations Command cannot really be completely answered without first understanding the evolution and de-evolution of the mission of SOCOM since 9/11. Almost overnight SOCOM transformed from a Title 10 HQ (man, train and equipment) with little or no operational authorities (outside those executed by its war-fighting three star component command), to a HQ with a global synchronization role against terrorist networks. In order to facilitate this new found mission, then General Brown created the Center for Special Operations, under the control (not command) of a two and subsequently three star general officer. The CSO was ideally organized (although extremely top heavy with multiple layers of senior officers) to perform its role as a global synchronizer because J2, J3, J5 and Interagency Task Force (IATF) functions were under the control and direction of a single director, but it also created numerous problems with span of control. Under this new configuration the command was split between executing its original Title 10 functions and the evolving and ambiguous mission of synchronizing the CT plans and planning of Geographical Commandant Commands. This responsibility automatically encountered friction both within the Interagency and DoD (e.g. the GCCs and other Functional Component Commands). In essence, SOCOM was given expanded responsibilities but in truth and practice no ability to compel compliance with any of its synchronization processes. Over time the friction grew and as a result CSO seemed to exist for no other purpose but to feed its own internal processes most of which had no real benefit. In time even the bi-annual SOCOM and later rebranded DoD Synchronization Conference was terminated by Admiral Olson chiefly because it had outlived its usefulness and actual results were extremely minimal. Soon after the CSO was disbanded and the CSP reverted back to its original J-code task organization, which in essence terminated its global synchronization mission. Today if you visit SOCOM and specifically J2, J3, J5 and IATF you will see well intended staff officers wondering what its missions are. SOCOM within one year has returned to its original Title 10 function without actually saying so--which has remnants of the CSO in complete disarray. The real question is not really whether SOCOM should exist--I think there is no question it serves a purpose. The real question is whether DoD needs a Functional Combatant Command to synchronize GCC activities as it related to CT. I think there is a role for a global synchronizer but only if its well defined and the required authorities are granted to execute it.

Vito (not verified)

Tue, 03/30/2010 - 7:32pm

Nice hooah, hooah rant Ranger Stout. Care to address any of the issues contained in the article?

Rgr.Strout,Gary (not verified)

Tue, 03/30/2010 - 7:01pm

As I examine the the various statements.
Including that of "Maj.Yasotay" They reveal there is no real issue other than selecting and installing appropriate leadership like we have now.
Our USSOCOM troops know their varied professions.
What they will always require is a dedicated,demanding well rounded,charismatic, leader,(leaders)they trust.
Leaders that place success above promotion.
Mission oriented personnel will go the extra miles for a true leader.
They will stand vigil at his bedside fifty years down the road when he is frail upon his death bead.
Most importantly they will run the organization smoothly his way always!
They will constantly strive to be part of the team.
And quite Frankly this is one of the reasons Rangers"excel"at any position they fill!
It is due to our being nurtured in the Regiment from day one as Brothers.
Our strength and trust is in the Ranger Creed.
Where our enemies are weak we are strong.
We operate SUA SPONTY!!!Keeps everyone guessing!!!
We certainly demand as much from others as we demand from ourselves.
That is most likely the reason why we anger non Ranger associates.We are a hard driving bunch of A-type personalities.
Our enemies like this Maj.Yasotay... is not,nor will he/she ever be a Ranger,or better yet understand us. HOOAH!!For that!!!!
RLTW! nightjump75

Nobody (not verified)

Thu, 12/31/2009 - 3:09pm

Just a last bit from an old timer who is obviously not so bright...

1) If Piracy can be dealt with in a month, then why hasn't it?
(A Rhetorical Question only.)
Sure Naval GPF could do a good job at deterrence and prevention,
But what about when they fail? That's where Naval SOF comes in.
Maybe that statement doesn't address the real depth of the issue?
The underlying causes and systems seem like the key.
And this Piracy can be another fund conduit for bad guys,
So fighting it surely seems like a great contribution to the GWOT...?

And this is why the question is relevant. Seems like SOCOM's major
end result (not end state) has been a fusion of each SOF & SF to the
point that each is denigrated to a degree that decreases efficacy in
the mission for each, and that fails the system and the country.

2) Many would agree, we don't need to scrap the whole SOCOM.
Neither do we send the SOF's back to their parent services.
But neither should we all try to be ONE SINGLE SOF.
Why not remain specialty SOF's, as we are within our own expertise,
Each doing well our own task and serving our special purpose?

3) Seems the question asked was a good one, but perhaps not the
best one. Instead of asking, "Does the U.S. need SOCOM?", perhaps
a better question would be, Does the U.S. need SOCOM- AS IT IS?"

As Operators and Officers, we all know, we can become what we want. A person who sets out to be a P.J. becomes one and that's what makes him Special Operations.

But as people, we all know we have special gifts and callings. Those are what we should heed and answer. Those are what makes one man want to be a SEAL, another a Green Beret, another a Force Recon and so on.

It is this calling that drives us to then excel at our chosen endeavors and it is that excellence we should seek to cultivate and develop, and we should try not to water these talents down. This seems like the core problem and source of the question.

The GPF have also come far towards fighting better in the asymmetric environment, and this is a good thing, but it they should not lose their ability to fight the main fight in their pursuit of becoming less conventional minded. 9/11 changed everything and we all have changed or tactics and doctrine, but principles remain the same.
That is the strategic reason for the question.

The S.F. types know, it takes 5-10 years to make a good UW warrior.
It simply does not pass the common sense test to make the rest of the SOF or GPF into UW soldiers. UW requires a very different skill, mind, supply, and training set. And this is why they review of SOCOM in it's current form is being requested.

Hope that makes sense and sorry for the ramblings.
El Chumpo

LPierson (not verified)

Thu, 12/31/2009 - 5:25am


I am taking you to task.

You poke your finger hard in the chests of those who have so-called parochial service or community interests. The manner in which you speak to issues on this thread is as equally parochial.

Instead of shouting your remarks to some choir you are preaching to (and ending your sentences with exclamation points), answer directly and in as much detail as you can muster, the questions I and other have posed to you. Again:

1) What good does the USSOCOM/JSOC elbow lock do for the rest of the SOF community? Thesis statement for this thread is "Do we still need USSOCOM...?"

2) Two part question: EXACTLY what doesn't the big green machine (Army), or any other service component for that matter, get regarding the furture? And just how does the lack of understanding effect US Army Special Forces? Hint: the answer isn't they move too slow. (Just remember all components provide sustainment to all service provided forces in all of USSOCOM, USSOCOM cannot just walk away from the service provided resourcing. We almost were set free in 1986/87, today no where near doing that now)

3) Three part question regarding the "by, through, and with" scenario. Why would it make sense on a geopolitical level to force a "black" element on top of an established and WELL defined capability? Just for grins, I remove the "white" SFODA from the mix and pose this in an interagency theme, the capability is managed by DSS or OGA. Is "black" participation appropriate or even needed? If so, why? (Your previous answer was "black" is better... not a real good basis for trust here...)

Lastly, and one you didn't spend more than a sentence on. Where does all of this "nimble USSOCOM stuff" fit in regards to standing up a real DOD provided UW capability? Now remember there are restrictions under Title 10 (Defence) and Title 50 (War Fighting) we have to contend with...

By the way, if you want to see a real "Cold War" anachronism or two, go back and puruse the above mentioned USC Titles.

Michael Collins (not verified)

Wed, 12/30/2009 - 10:41pm

The SOCOM GOFO didn't sign his name to the post - not surprised. I would also like him to rebut the article with factual data. The bureaucracy has spread at the SOCOM headquarters like a cancer. As a sidebar, I hope that the current SOCOM leadership is prepared to defend what General Brown did to Army Colonel Tom Spellissy after his case is finally overturned. The issue that soldiers, like Spellissy who give their honest input to the politically correct generals get no assistance from them when they need it - they get run out of the command. General, please explain why Ms. Kingston got protection from the command for lying to Congress and Gen Trebone gets promoted after he approved CH-47s to fly onto the high-ground to insert SEALs into the fight and Tom Spellissy retires, starts making some money at the cost of MG Retired Hennies and they (friends of Hennies) call the Feds and tell everyone at SOCOM not to help Spellissy. Someone should have called the Feds on Hennies for trying to sell dud ammo to SOCOM. Whatever, Spellissy knows will surely come out in the future. Spellissy was very pro JSOC and he has certainly paid the price for the true warriors.


Wed, 12/30/2009 - 10:22am

"There are overt missions and missions that are not. SOF should be GREY and capable of operating in either "white" or "black" situations without those distinctions being made between units."

The same argument can be made about weather we need SOF at all compared to other forces. Reality is this will never happen, they have to much power and influence and guys do not like hearing this, but they are "Better!" And that influence is increasing by the day!

Can others do the same mission given the money and resources, maybe-maybe not. Again everyone thinks there the best and this is just community rivalry.

"Seems to me we are all frustrated with the current situation, however we define it, diffusion, confusion, dilution, et al. Mainly, we need the brass to give it a think, make a decision and go hot. But whatever it is, seems it needs some calibration if not a full over haul. Otherwise, we wouldn't be harping on it about it now, haha!"

Agreed, Hey with all this complaining guys must be happy! Take care and keep kicking but out there!

Happy New Year!

nobody (not verified)

Wed, 12/30/2009 - 9:05am

Salutations, Gents (and Ladies).
Hope you're well wherever you are.

We're all on the same team and shouldn't fight.
There mere fact that there is so much passionate discussion
should tell us all, this is a good and timely question.

Good points and" bad" ones, too, are brought up here
and they are both vital for leaders to see and hear
to help them make better decisions.

Everyone here has a dog in this fight.
Fact is, SOF is different to GPF and should be.
We have folks drawn to each and they all shine in what they do.

Likewise, SF is different to SOF and same as above applies.

Could we make a USMC unit into a SEAL unit, sure.
But then it would not be a USMC unit, would it?

A Ford mechanic might be just as good as any BMW mechanic,
but they are different people, who do different jobs for a reason.
There are different people, different cars, different needs.
Some tools are the same, some are unique to the vehicle itself.
But the knowledge of each car, while a car none the less, is different.
Each mechanic studies his specialty.
Sure, he could likely service the other car, but that's not his strength.
And that's all we're saying.

Most SF guys do not want to be Naval Infantry (USMC) anymore than many from the Corps want to work with unprofessional locals without any real structure or the high level of discipline they enjoy amongst their peers.

Seems to me we are all frustrated with the current situation, however we define it, diffusion, confusion, dilution, et al. Mainly, we need the brass to give it a think, make a decision and go hot. But whatever it is, seems it needs some calibration if not a full over haul. Otherwise, we wouldn't be harping on it about it now, haha!

Alrighty, my respects out to all of you folks. I am very proud to be an American and part of the SOF community. But also, even if I think they have not been best applied to the GWOT scenario, I know our GPF has done well in all they've done, too and a salute out to them for it!

Here's to a New Year with all it's new opportunities to shine!
Just an ol' Chump sending

LPierson (not verified)

Wed, 12/30/2009 - 12:01am

Citizen Warrior,

You just made my point:

"...Absolutely those white forces can finish the job but they will not be allowed to because that other element is going to take it and that is there job especially for HVTs and thats reality and it is only going to increase!..."

This segregation between two diffent layers of SOF is precisely the problem. I provided you an example based on a real scenario, environment set in place with "white" operators fully prepared to execute "by, through and with". Your shouted response was essentially: "too bad, not your job." Again my question is why not? As mentioned, the hunters and killers belonging to another nation's armed element, fully competent, fully capable, can do the job. a SIGNIFICANT and long term working relationship exists with them and an SF element. Why would a "black" element need to even show up? Again, the division between "black" and "white" is unnecessary. There are overt missions and missions that are not. SOF should be GREY and capable of operating in either "white" or "black" situations without those distinctions being made between units.

Ken white,

Aggreed. Most serious thinkers on the conventioanl side will not take that leap of faith and make such a claim.


I would loved to have been at that discussion.

Ken White (not verified)

Tue, 12/29/2009 - 3:11pm


re: the GPF always making the argument they can do COIN just as well. I agree that some say that -- generally those concerned with rice bowl protection. Plus a few wannabe pundit types who haven't tried to actually work in the GPF and do it. Most in the GPF will quickly acknowledge they cannot do that job well. They are not tempermentally suited, trained or equipped for that mission -- nor should they be. They can do it, just not well and they should never be able to do it well else they will do their primary mission set a disfavor. In most cases, we do the US a disservice when we allow another nation to slide so far that the GPF must be committed to that mission.

Early Intel, Diplomatic and SF SFA can preclude most such commitments -- and stop a lot of unnecessary DA.

<b>Citizen Warrior:</b><blockquote>"...will those GPFs go back to a pre -9/11 model of doing business?"</blockquote>Hopefully not. If they do, it's a lick on the senior Army leadership and TRADOC. Fortunately, some former Shooters have managed to get the GPF started on Outcome Based Training and Evaluation to replace that Task, Condition and Standard foolishness that almost destroyed them. Had it not been for a few who trained well in spite of the system, it might have done that...


Tue, 12/29/2009 - 2:47pm

Ken White:

>USSOCOM isn't going away, nor does it need to
>do so. The simple fact is this discussion is
>engendered by the fact that many in government
>and all of DoD have become overly turf
>protective, bureaucratic and risk averse --
>that's what must be fixed.

As usual, I believe youve hit the nail on the head. It seems pretty self-evident that there is a need for USSOCOM to exist. There are special operations capabilities that need to be protected from parochial turf wars. The real underlying problem is that parochialism itself. Unfortunately, the best solution to that problem sailed away in 1947. It would be great if questions about the allocation of missions and funding were determined in a rational, logical way, but as long as each service has a Congressional constituency, thats just not going to happen.

From my perspective, USSOCOM is by far the most "purple" command in DOD. It is essentially an independent service as it is, and will gain even more autonomy if given a say over SOF service member career paths. Given that its biggest supporters are politicians, it will not be going away any time soon.

That being said, I dont think all of these arguments are simply service pedantism. I am personally sympathetic to the views Ive heard expressed by ARSOF operators. To me, one of the mysteries so far in the so-called Long War is why ARSOF has not played a more prominent role. After all, isnt this the sort of conflict they were trained and equipped to wage? Instead they seem to be reduced to standing in line with GPF, hat in hand, begging for rotary-wing assets with which to conduct missions and making public pleas to be allowed to take on the by, with, and through role that is their raison dêtre. If the U.S. is going to invest in developing and maintaining this capability, why isnt it being fully used?


>USAJFKSWC experts were insistent on their
>definitions? Is there that much of a
>difference, or was the effort taken to author
>FM 3-24 merely an effort to rejargon and old
>issue? Why?

Beats me, dude. Im only relating comments I heard Dr. Crane make in the IW roundtable discussion that made my eyebrows go "poink" and could have been construed as a slam against SOF (in front of a room full of West Point cadets, no less). He backtracked somewhat when I asked him to elaborate afterward, but the essence was that the folks at the Schoolhouse were the source of the impasse. Undoubtedly they have a different recollection of what occurred, but I doubt Dr. Crane was just making that all up. Your question as to what it was they disagreed about is a good one. I wish I had thought to ask it when I momentarily had Dr. Cranes ear.

>Lastly, GPF'S have always made the argument
>they can COIN just as well. Not a new rice
>bowl, squeaky wheel issue. However, its a bit
>early in the long war for GPF'S to make that

Maybe so, but that hasnt stopped folks like Herschel Smith at The Captains Blog from making it. Loudly.


Tue, 12/29/2009 - 2:01pm

Ill take a gander.

Absolutely those white forces can finish the job but they will not be allowed to because that other element is going to take it and that is there job especially for HVTs and thats reality and it is only going to increase!

The green machine does not do anything fast and they are the majority, the rest of us are along for the ride! The other items would take the next 10-20 years if at all, just look at our great legislative process currently. In my opinion as much as SOCOM needs to evolve/restructure/change; DOS needs to be first, because they are a huge part of the environment also. The order of priority should be DOS, COCOMs and SOCOM.

Absolutely GPFs could do this mission. I can train anybody to kick a door in. But what happens when IZ and AFGHAN goes away, will those GPFs go back to a pre -9/11 model of doing business? I do not pretend to have all of the answers, but I do have some ideas! So many hands in the pot and many entities as stakeholders it will not be in mine or your career.

LPierson (not verified)

Tue, 12/29/2009 - 12:40pm

Citizen Warrior:

USSOCOM and the subsequent ASD-SOLIC were within a gnats eyelash of being the "6th Service" in 1986 with Goldwater-Nichols. Admiral Crowe made a very compelling argument against the "6th Service" and the senate concurred. Not sure we will see that leap anytime soon, although is does cause one to wax sentimental recalling the excitement.

An example from real life: If I happen to be part of a "white" effort that has a real good LONG TERM working relation with a other nation's force that can put a wackin' on an HVT, why would I need to summon a "black" element to show up and "insure the capture or kill?" I have the hunters and the killers on station already and to have a "black" element show up,....well that is counterintuitive.

I have a couple of questions. 1) What is the future US Army SF is failing to see and adapt fast enough to? & 2) How would USSOCOM go toward a "ground branch interagency model", especially given the USC restrictions in place to specifically prevent such a thing? (Remember the "finding" and secretly declared unconvential war comment a while back?) That pesky Title 10 and Title 50 stuff keeps popping back up.


Hmmmmmmm USAJFKSWC experts were insistent on their definitions? I have compared some of the contemporary COIN writings to those of days of Vietnam yor... DA PAM 550-14 Human Factors Considerations of Undergrounds in Insurgencies and the new COIN academia.... Is there that much of a difference, or was the effort taken to author FM 3-24 merely an effort to rejargon and old issue? Why?

Lastly, GPF'S have always made the argument they can COIN just as well. Not a new rice bowl, squeaky wheel issue. However, its a bit early in the long war for GPF'S to make that claim.


Tue, 12/29/2009 - 11:51am

>"A special force is one that conducts missions that GPF cannot"

>Is that how we should define it, or is it closer to "a force that is raised, >trained and equipped for specialized purposes"?

Well, that sort of depends, doesn't it? After all, I am sure some in the Marine Corps would argue that any MEU(SOC) rifle company could perform at least as well as a Ranger company in any assigned mission, and perhaps even do most of what an ARSOF company can. They might even argue that you could take a Marine rifle platoon, give it some specialized training and equipment, and voila, you have a unit capable of executing SEAL-type missions.

I also suspect that you could find some folks who would argue that some of the more experienced Army GPF units can now do "by, with, and through" COIN missions at least as well as any ARSOF element.

Now, I am not saying these arguments are valid, but I have little doubt you would find people willing to make them.

Ken White (not verified)

Tue, 12/29/2009 - 11:49am

<b>yadernye:</b><blockquote>"So, to me, it all cycles back to the question as to whether SOF are elites or special. There seems to be little debate as to the necessity for black SOF capabilities, but are white SOF simply expensive elite forces that consume resources better allocated elsewhere, or are they unique elements needed to be preserved to conduct missions that GPF simply cannot?"</blockquote>If by 'white' SOF you mean Special Forces, then they are in fact unique elements that should be preserved -- even enhanced -- to conduct missions that the GPF cannot do well. Missions that in fact, the so-called black SOF (by whom I presume you mean some DA elements) cannot do well. No one can do everything well. There is a reason specialization in virtually all trades and professions has developed over the centuries...

Can others do the SF mission? Of course but it has been proven time and again that they do not do it well. What's missing in all this is a discussion of training and of psychological profiles of individuals. Some people can move in a mud hut and subsist on rice and beans for months; others hate the idea. Some people can be trained to shoot accurately and quickly under all circumstances, a great many cannot. A few people have the patience to sit in a hide for days on a deep strategic recon mission, most cannot do that.

Shooters and SF are needed, no question. Also required are deep reconnaissance elements which ideally would be selected from older, very mature individuals from the two more offensively oriented communities and be in separate organizations dedicated to that mission. All those organizations need overt, covert and clandestine elements. That's just plain commonsense...

To add some chaos to the mix, though, we also need GPF elements tailored for strategic raids which may be required when adequate numbers of SOF types are not available -- and that mission requires better covert insertion and extraction capability. The GPF must be capable of engaging in UW also when SOF numbers are not adequate. The idea that only SOF can do DA and LRS missions needs to disappear; the GPF have done that in the past and can do it . All that too is simply sensible.

USSOCOM isn't going away, nor does it need to do so. The simple fact is this discussion is engendered by the fact that many in government and <b><i>all</i></b> of DoD have become overly turf protective, bureaucratic and risk averse -- <i>that's</i> what must be fixed.


Tue, 12/29/2009 - 11:47am

"So, to me, it all cycles back to the question as to whether SOF are elites or special. There seems to be little debate as to the necessity for black SOF capabilities, but are white SOF simply expensive elite forces that consume resources better allocated elsewhere, or are they unique elements needed to be preserved to conduct missions that GPF simply cannot?"

Your points are very valid and I agree with some but not all. I get sick and tired of the @#$# measuring contest and who is the best!!! SF refuses to see the future and change fast enough, MARSOC has their own internal culture war, NAVSOF; the most arrogant SOBs on the planet, but guess what they all do extraordinary jobs and in my eyes are all equal and all bring a lot to the battlespace. Too many people want to live in the past!

The elitism is present between conventional vs SOF and White SOF vs Black SOF and will always will be present to some extent. There are all kinds of 'Haters out there (JSOC, SEALs, MARSOC... .) and they will always be there to include some SOC CGs. As I stated earlier SOCOM today in my opinion is white and black; conventional is a training ground for SOF and white SOF is a training ground for Black SOF. I think they both have to distinct missions because Black is more about hunting/killing (finish) and White is more about long-term enduring UW/COIN.

The future in my opinion for SOCOM is to become its own service based on a ground branch-interagency model and not a DOD model and throw those GB guys in there as liaisons and those case officer types will be glad to get rid of their so called knuckle draggers (SOF included in that metaphor also). Then they would exclusively work UW/COIN/Irregular Warfare environments. Too much policy maker involvement in OIF/OEF we need to move on to other high priority environments in
CENTCOM/AFRICOM/PACOM which we have already started.

After 20+ years of SOF and 45 years of life it all comes down to "Relationships" and how you work those relationships in influencing the environment. I can only influence my level of the environment; policy-makers will screw up the rest of it!

Anonymous (not verified)

Tue, 12/29/2009 - 11:32am

"A special force is one that conducts missions that GPF cannot"

Is that how we should define it, or is it closer to "a force that is raised, trained and equipped for specialized purposes"?

All kinds of distinctions in between the lines of cannot, should not, might not and will not.

LPierson (not verified)

Tue, 12/29/2009 - 11:29am

We agree to disagree.

I have been around the block atleast twice. I found myself asking why certain folks show up at a "party" people like me have been prepping to pull off for years, ruin the rapport and break the place up and leave the likes of me to clean up the mess.

My points aren't about service lines, or even mission sets drawn along service lines. That kind of division is as destructive as designating "Black" and "White" SOF. BOTH equally short sited. Nor is this about "too many RFF'S." I know of several instances where the real players designated to a region sat on the sidelines because "black" was suddenly the pro's from dover.

I don't personally care which service provides the UW capability.

Now, for a dose of reality. And I will the first to admit my service, US Army. However, I didn't join the Army for the Army, I joined it for SF and the opportunity to be involved in Unconventional Warfare as defined. When I entered service, no other service component offered anything close to what US Army Special Forces was raised and organized to do. Not the USMC, not the US Navy or USAF. And quite frankly USSOCOM doesn't want to admit to that either.

However, I erred in my choice, 'cause real UW operations were and have been, for almost 40 years, and likely to be in the future, executed by another organization. Thats a fact. Again, Title 50 "Warfighting" as opposed to Title 10 "Defence."

However, we have come close a couple of occasions, e.g. 264 5th Groupers and the US Air Force kind of did "UW" in Afghanistan. I digress for a short spell...

Because a Flag Officer re-words a definition doesn't suddenly make one proficient. The argument so-called "tab protectors" make regarding UW is one based on the fact Army Special Forces have been at that skill set since 1952. A "black" designation suddenly supercedes and trumps that history? That would be like the Army maritime transport/log ship section believing they can be the proponent for surface warfare. Not happening, correct?

While COIN/UW do not fall into "rocket science", both are extremely tedious and rife with long suffering. UW should never be executed around an "N-hour planning" sequence. It is a very deliberate campaign. An example mentioned before, an area study that supports a UW campaign is an item that is intergal the conduct of UW, it is just one part of a whole program. And it takes people wired and trained to be tolerant of the nuances of COIN/UW to produce a planning product like that. And people like that and who become proficient living in, working in, speaking the language of a particular region of the world come at a significant premium. That kind trait set just doesn't pop up of the paper that designates "black" or "white." Producing "CFT'S" that are counterfeit SF ODA doesn't cut it. Do not kid oneself.

Again, do we need USSOCOM? Yes. Do we need USSOCOM to be down in the weeds and finding reasons over-bloat its staff in order to rationalize a depoyable HQ? Not on your life. We need USSOCOM to pry itself away from the JSOC elbow and serve the entire community.


Tue, 12/29/2009 - 11:07am

This is indeed becoming a very interesting discussion. From my perspective, it illuminates an unresolved question as to whether SOF are elite or special forces. An elite force is one that conducts the same missions as GPF, but more effectively due to better equipment, training, or higher personnel standards. A special force is one that conducts missions that GPF cannot. Historically there has always been tension between GPF and elite forces, particularly within the U.S. military tradition. USSOCOM was established in 1986, largely as a political reaction to the apparent diminution of U.S. capability to execute special missions resulting from the neglect of special operations forces by the services.

It appears to me that a lot of the resentment toward USSOCOM may stem from the perception that SOF have become elites, given more than their fair share of resources and attention than their missions and performance warrant. The "black" vs. "white" SOF debate seems to break down along that line. Some argue (mostly Marine Corps boosters in my experience) that GPF can do many of the same missions as white SOF, particularly with regard to COIN. At the concluding roundtable of the recent West Point symposium on IW, the panelists (which included several prominent participants in the ongoing debates over COIN doctrine) did not seem clear on exactly what white SOF was contributing to COIN operations in Iraq and Afghanistan. (Which is ironic, given that they all clearly understood what black SOF was doing, even though black SOF does not officially exist.)

The counter-argument is that SOF are special, that they conduct missions that GPF cannot, and are therefore a resource that must be protected from parochial service interests. This POV seems most prevalent among ARSOF operators. There seems to be a perception and frustration among ARSOF that they are not being used properly in the counterinsurgencies in Iraq and Afghanistan, which is to primarily conduct UW-style "by, with and through" missions. In Afghanistan, they are partnered with Afghan Commandos, but those forces conduct DA missions. I suspect that MAJ Gants recent plea for tribal-oriented COIN operations stems from these frustrations and represents wide-spread sentiment among ARSOF elements.

At the West Point IW symposium, Dr. Conrad Crane, one of the authors of FM 3-24, mentioned that the SOF community made little contribution to drafting the document. He explained that experts from the JFK Special Warfare Center were invited to participate, but discussions broke down over defining basic concepts. According to Dr. Crane, the ARSOF participants insisted that their definitions be used, which resulted in an impasse. He also observed that there appeared to be a battle going on for the "soul of SOF" between black and white force advocates.

So, to me, it all cycles back to the question as to whether SOF are elites or special. There seems to be little debate as to the necessity for black SOF capabilities, but are white SOF simply expensive elite forces that consume resources better allocated elsewhere, or are they unique elements needed to be preserved to conduct missions that GPF simply cannot?


Tue, 12/29/2009 - 9:18am

"The short-sighted and narrow view"

I disagree with this, I think SOCOM is more on a level playing field then any other time in its history especially related to ARSOF/NAVSOF/MARSOF. Where some people want to keep the lines of delineation based on service, mission sets or anything else is narrow and short-sighted in my .02 cent view. Everyone in ARSOF/NAVSOF/MARSOF has the same core tasks and mission sets. UW/COIN are not rocket science and they all are executing them. SOCOM should be one pool of resources to pull special operators and their enablers out of to execute SOCOM's strategy in support of the COCOMs. More RFF's than bodies! Some do not like mixing and meshing of mission sets or services but this is the environment we find ourselves in. In my view it is more efficient.

ADM Olsen changes words in the UW statement and other programs we run and ARSOF gets there panties in a wad, I like there direction and all the services bring a different perspective and all are working there tails off to execute the mission!

Title 10 and 50 re-look! I absolutely agree, but that is at the Secretary level (DOS/DOD) and Congress, good luck on that one! Legislate by paralysis, how does anything get done?

Out of heated debates comes good solutions!

LPierson (not verified)

Tue, 12/29/2009 - 1:43am

"...SOCOM used to be so divided along those ARSOF/NAVSOF and now MARSOF Mission sets but we have evolved past that and in my opinion there are two sides to SOCOM; the white SOF and black SOF..."

That is, has been and will continue to be the problem with SOCOM.

The short-sighted and narrow view that there is "black" and "white" SOF leads too many to believe in a system built upon, and supported by, prejudice. Hence my intitial comments that SOCOM et al needs to have a significant re-look. SOF (including all the "non-DA" types) needs to be GREY. A significant policy re-look of Titles 10 and 50 wouldn't hurt either.

Doesn't mean we do not need USSOCOM...

IntelTrooper (not verified)

Tue, 12/29/2009 - 12:58am


If everyone assigned to SOCOM is so darned good at everything, I have to wonder why Army SF is specifically tasked for the Afghan Commando and CDI training/equipping mission. Must be those evil Tab Protectors, eh? Or could it be that different entities <em>should</em> have separate missions and competencies?

Ken White (not verified)

Mon, 12/28/2009 - 10:33pm

<b>Citizen Soldier:</b>

That's apparently your game.<blockquote>"...I was in OEF when those helos went down, and yes maybe some people should have been fired but there is a whole lot more to the story."</blockquote>I wouldn't intrude for anything.


Mon, 12/28/2009 - 9:58pm

Now that's funny! You take care and keep telling your war stories!

Ken White (not verified)

Mon, 12/28/2009 - 9:53pm

Whoops, that was me... I is not anon...

Anonymous (not verified)

Mon, 12/28/2009 - 9:51pm

<b>Citizen Warrior:</b>

Nah. It's not hard to give up the past, been doing it every day for almost 80 years. Did it in and with the Marines and Army for 45 of 'em, millinery and sillyvillian. Learned something new every day. Still do. Some from various relatives including kids and grandkids scattered about, all working for a living.

However, it obviously is rather hard for some to wrap their heads around who does what and why it is or was designed that way.

I don't know who you're working side by side with but folks I talk to in the Groups and other places who actually go out and do things insist that they are doing quite different things. I guess when you work in an office, you can lose sight of what's going on in the field...


Mon, 12/28/2009 - 9:28pm

I work side by side with them all and they do! It's hard to give up the past and move on to a new reality isn't it? Hmmm

Ken White (not verified)

Mon, 12/28/2009 - 9:14pm

<b>SOCOM GO:</b>

May I repeat Dave's invitation to rebut the article with more detail. As an SF soldat long ago and far away -- prior to Barbwire Bob standing up USSOCOM, before the Beret and with Teal Blue guidons and Unassigned brass -- I'm very curious as to just how unbearable life would be without SOCOM.

I will grant that in the early days of SOCOM, good things were done -- but then Parkinson's Law did its thing. So please, tell us just what SOCOM today brings to the fight...

<b>Citizen Warrior:</b><blockquote>"I get tired of "Tab Protectors" talking about we do this and that..."</blockquote>That implies that you believe that the Cadillacs that are SF and the tricked out Dodge Pickups that are the Ranger regiment and JSOC are all equally adept at the same things. Possible but that certainly was not true before I retired and folks, both SF and shooters, tell me it is decidedly not true today.<blockquote>"... SOCOM has evolved and it is the only DOD entity that has evolved and continues to do so."</blockquote>Really? Amazing statement. I see examples of evolution in all the services almost daily...<blockquote> The current environment at SOCOM finds ARSOF, NAVSOF, and MARSOF (SOF Ground Units) and let me inform you all they all have the same core tasks and mission sets to include UW!"</blockquote>Ah, yes -- but do they all <i><b>do</b></i> the same things in that UW environment...


Mon, 12/28/2009 - 8:23pm

1. The reality is SOCOM is here to stay and it should. They are years ahead of the COCOMs and if anything needs to be 'Restructured' it is the Geographic Commands to align more with the inter -agency environment. I hear a lot about the DOD bureaucracy but we have already had a major shift with the Goldwater-Nichols act and yes maybe we do need another modern day reincarnation of this but it first needs to start with DOS and secondly the Geographic Commands. DOD beau racy; Hmmm! I wander how we became so big, you don't think it was because there was a lot of grey-space and agencies primarily like DOS couldn't, wouldn't step up to the task! Hmmm!

2. I get tired of "Tab Protectors" talking about we do this and that. SOCOM has evolved and it is the only DOD entity that has evolved and continues to do so. The current environment at SOCOM finds ARSOF, NAVSOF, and MARSOF (SOF Ground Units) and let me inform you all they all have the same core tasks and mission sets to include UW! There are a finite number of special operators and more RFFs than bodies and the high priority environments just keep increasing. SOCOM used to be so divided along those ARSOF/NAVSOF and now MARSOF Mission sets but we have evolved past that and in my opinion there are two sides to SOCOM; the white SOF and black SOF.

Do you really want to start throwing darts at every SOF event and what went wrong; I was in OEF when those helos went down, and yes maybe some people should have been fired but there is a whole lot more to the story--- SEALs should only do Maritime (Piracy), piracy could be defeated in less than 30 days, the problem is not the execution of the mission but where those ECs are going to go; into Yemen or Somalia Court System and then back on the street and this issue is still plaguing the international community. Please, SOCOM has evolved; SF this, MARSOC this and SEALs this; no I think SOCOM is in the right direction. Every SOF element in SOCOM are executing UW and carrying out COIN, yes; DOS needs and should have a bigger role after you change their culture and yes, the inter-agency environment will continue to expand because there are just too many tasks and it has to be a "Joint-interagency-one team fight."

Tab Protectors with your cold war mentality, dont change please! Environments change and so is SOCOM; dont be surprised if SOCOM becomes its own branch one day.


We truly are a fair and balanced site here at <i>SWJ</i> - we stand by to publish any well written and informed rebuttal to the original article.

Dave D.

A SOCOM GO (not verified)

Mon, 12/28/2009 - 4:39pm

If some of you really believe that life in SOF would be better without SOCOM, all I can say is that you really do not have a good holistic understanding of what SOCOM does and does not do. Life would be unbearable without SOCOM...believe me!

DOG21 (not verified)

Sun, 12/27/2009 - 7:21pm

Just my take:

1. Of course we need it. To the extent is the question. Should it dominate todays operations and take an enormous piece of the pie?

I would say that it is far too large now. The very things that made it great, such as de-centralization, separation from the bureaucracy etc., have enslaved it.

My thoughts are that we need to bring back the Light Infantry Divisions of President Reagans day (badly needed).

I also think that regular units should either be trained on Manuever warfare or COIN and have a corresponding mission.

Then again, I have never been accused of being a smart guy!

And, salutes the operators in question. There is a great quote by Teddy Roosevelt about the guy in the area which very much applies here.

Happy holidays all.

LPierson (not verified)

Sun, 12/27/2009 - 7:05am

The above was not supposed to be "Anonymous", I wrote the above. My apologies.

Anonymous (not verified)

Sun, 12/27/2009 - 7:02am

Well, that was interesting reading... Where does one start with this?

Having a relook at USSOCOM is not a bad thing, as long as there is an associated relook at USASOC and down. However returning elements to their parent services is not the answer either.

A better argument would be to continue the discussions regarding Title 10/Title 50.

While the author points out some significant problems (e.g. the apparent USSOCOM/JSOC seamlessness), a better job of articulating specifics would better serve the discussion.

Bear with me, just a couple items related: the over-reliance on the CT charter to rationalize USSOCOM/JSOC intervention into all theaters; and hyper-conventionalism of the headquarters.

As Dave Maxwell correctly stated we have a problem within USC Title 10. Frankly, UW does not fit well into that bit of writ. UW by its nature can only be prosecuted over a long period of time, of which, secrecy will shroud most aspects of that campaign. Who on the executive side, as well as, who on the congressional oversight side would go for an executive "finding" allowing DOD to execute a secretly declared unconventional war? Not happening. Folks, real UW is executed by someone else. Like it or not.

Thus, the only real operational spectrum all of us non-DA SOF types comes through openly debated and openly resourced Title 10 programs. So is it the fault necessarily of congress that USSOCOM and JSOC are seemingly out of control? Nope, that damn CONPLAN and CT Charter provides a perfect framework for that situation.

The joint planning cycle, be it Deliberate or Crisis Action planning is a tool that all echelons clearly understand. Everything that USSOCOM/JSOC does fits well under the joint planning umbrella. They plan and execute just like an infantry centric JTF. Hence the hyperconventionalism

SF stuff on the other hand, well that is a bit more cerebral. Where does an area study that is continously updated fit into the current planning process? It doesn't, and remember we weren't going to ever do things that would be construed as "intell" collection ever again when there was a separation between "Black" and "White" SOF. So the best we had to hope for was FID, and there isn't enough of us to do that now.

So the title 50 warfighting efforts trumps us. Additionally, how can an unconventional war be properly resourced when you have personnel requirements such as NCOES, CGSC, JPME, career moves for senior individuals every two years or so? Etc, etc. And the author points to USSOCOM/JSOC hyperconventionalism....? Pot calling the kettle black.....

GEN McCrystal and the USSOCOM/JSOC nexus are looking to capitalize on the environment and conditions that were established to support a "national force." The national force framework allows for forming a AF/PAK center of excellence, where individuals from that "national force" architecture can stay in place to prosecute operations for years. We don't have that on the SF side.

Conceptually the "national force" framework fits very into the Title 10 environment. USSOCOM/JSOC has command of the operation language, they have significant resources and they have the initiative.

How many officers wearing crossed arrows working in the SF groups put foward a similar concept? (Count how many were involved in GEN Patreaus' COIN doctrine efforts...) Not too many. One has to ask why?

Carping on about USSOCOM does us a disservice. Quite frankly, with all the JSOC warts, USSOCOM has served us well given the current DOD arrangement.

Pave Low John (not verified)

Sat, 12/26/2009 - 3:07pm

Well, since none of the AFSOC folks have jumped in yet (as far as I know), I'll throw in my .02 cents and let ya'll see an air opinion on this whole thing.

As a career SOF rotor-head who first started out flying Hueys in the 1st Fighter Wing under the old TAC (now a basketball conference), I can state with total confidence that 'Big Blue' aka the conventional USAF, knows absolutely nothing about training, equipping or employing aviation SOF assets. And there is no desire in the Big Blue leadership to change that. So that is definitely one reason NOT to throw AFSOC back under ACC or AMC or whoever would get tagged if SOCOM went away.

Reason number two would probably be money. The USAF is broke and getting broker. The aircraft are too old. They got rid of 40,000 airmen two years ago to save funding for F-22s (I know, I couldn't believe it either, one of the bigger WTF? moments of my career). So, with all the Air Force money being blown on F-22s and F-35s, the only people that will pay for AFSOC training and procurement are sitting in Tampa.

Now, are there good reasons to get out Air Force units out of SOCOM? Sure there are, here are my favorite two.

Reason to Leave #1: Thanks to Doug Brown and Dell Dailey, USSOCOM now has 40 fewer heavy lift helicopters than it had 7 years ago. It wouldn't be an understatement to say that the 160th SOAR hates Al Qaeda only a bit more than it hated the Pave Low helicopter. They spent 25 years trying to kill the 20th SOS and they finally got their wish in 2008. Goodbye MH-53s, hello SOF rotary wing shortage white papers. If AFSOC is ever going to get out from under Big Green (SOCOM is really spelled A-R-M-Y, as the old joke goes), escaping SOCOM mismanagement of air assets is definitely the first step.

Reason to Leave #2: AFSOC has been trying to grow and expand its Aviation FID unit since 2001 (yes, it has ONE company-sized unit to do world-wide Aviation FID. Go figure). Unfortunately, as the paper above points out, if an AFSOC unit isn't supporting DA, SOCOM ain't interested. Hence, tons of money and growth for ISR platforms and CV-22s. Not so much for Hueys, Mi-17s or maintenance sergeants that speak Arabic or Spanish. I honestly don't know if Big Blue would take the FID mission more seriously than SOCOM but at this point, it would be hard to do worse.

Finally, I see a lot I agree with in the comments. USSOCOM started out in the 80s for an excellent reason. Like all established organizations, though, it gradually turned into a top-heavy bureacracy that is getting further and further away from it's original concept. At this point, I think the choice is whether to reform or start over from scratch. Of course, I'll be retired in two years, so I'll probably miss that part (thank god)...