Small Wars Journal

US Special Operations Command

Passing the Paramilitary Torch from the CIA to Special Operations Command

The CIA’s primacy in matters of paramilitary activities is well-established through existing Congressional legislation and presidential executive orders. However, today the United States faces serious threats from near-peer state adversaries, terrorist groups, and other sub-state actors that should lead its leaders to rethink its organizational and operational approaches to paramilitary activities to optimize both its capabilities and capacity to meet these threats.

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SOF in Competition: Establishing the Foundation of Strategy (v1.3)

With a clearer understanding of competition and the role of SOF within that context, USSOCOM can begin to shape its approach to the strategic environment. To support the advancement of U.S. interests, USSOCOM should guide SOF to capitalize on opportunities that provide an advantage, promote favorable foreign relations positions to create influence, enable global defense posture, support diplomatic and intelligence actions globally, and help manage escalation. Bringing this case into practice requires changing how SOF thinks strategically about the complex global environment, focusing on interests rather than threats. USSOCOM must educate Joint Force, interagency, and multinational partners on SOF capabilities and collaborate on shared interests to more effectively unified common efforts.

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The Hyper-Enabled Operator

Recent technological, socio-economic, and geopolitical trends, coupled with the reemergence of great power competition, complicate the future environment in which U.S. Special Operations Forces (SOF) must operate. SOF professionals will need to operate not only across traditional physical domains such as land, air, and sea but also in the virtual and cognitive domains. In particular, achieving cognitive dominance over adversaries will be essential to the success of future SOF missions.

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Harnessing David and Goliath: Orthodoxy, Asymmetry, and Competition

The U.S. remains in a position to have a disproportionate impact on the shape of the future, but the window of opportunity is closing. While the military must continue to prepare for distant and unlikely wars, the U.S. is losing ground in the present. Outside of war, actors are achieving desired outcomes and increasing their positional and policy advantages – often at the expense of U.S. interests. These actors have stolen intellectual property, annexed the sovereign territory of neighboring nations, interfered in political processes, and even caused the deaths of innocent non-combatants.

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