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Special Ops Commander

Vice Adm. William H. McRaven
Vice Adm. William H. McRaven
President Obama talked with Vice Adm. William H. McRaven, who as the Navy’s commander of the Joint Special Operations Command had operational control of the mission to get Osama bin Laden. | Photo: Aaron Stipkovich, | William H. Mcraven, Special Operations, Osama Bin Laden, Navy, Barack Obama,

Posture statement of USN Commander to Congress

Posture statement of Admiral William H. McRaven, USN Commander, United States Special Operations Command before the 112th Congress Senate Armed Services Committee: 2012.3.6
Mr. Chairman and distinguished members of the Committee, thank you for this opportunity to address the Committee in my first posture statement as the 9th commander of United States Special Operations Command (USSOCOM). As always, we deeply appreciate your continued commitment and support of United States Special Operations Forces (SOF) around the world.

In response to a rapidly evolving strategic landscape and an increasingly constrained fiscal environment our leadership has recently issued new strategic guidance to focus the efforts of the Department of Defense (DoD). My intent today is to provide a brief review of how SOF will support this guidance while also highlighting USSOCOM's responsibilities, authorities, structure and major programs and initiatives.

USSOCOM Assigned Responsibilities, Authorities, and Structure
As the only Unified Combatant Command legislated into being by Congress, USSOCOM has a distinct appreciation for the advocacy and unique authorities given to us since 1986. We are one of nine Unified Combatant Commands and similar to others in many regards, yet USSOCOM is distinct in that we exercise numerous Service, military department, and defense agency-like responsibilities under guidance provided by the Secretary of Defense (SECDEF) and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs (CJCS), the Unified Command Plan, and Title 10, Section 167 of the U.S. Code.

Unlike Combatant Commands with specific geographic Areas of Responsibility, USSOCOM is a functional Combatant Command with global responsibilities. We are the lead Combatant Command tasked with synchronizing the planning of global operations against terrorist networks. USSOCOM is also responsible for providing, training, and recommending sourcing solutions for combat-ready SOF forces supporting the Geographic Combatant Commands' (GCC) requirements. While these forces normally deploy under the control of the GCCs' Theater Special Operations Commands (TSOC), USSOCOM can execute global operations against terrorist networks when directed to do so by the President or Secretary of Defense.

USSOCOM is also the lead component with executive agent-like responsibilities for the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) SOF Headquarters (NSHQ) responsible for strengthening the role of NSHQ in fostering special operations capabilities within NATO. This includes advocacy for resources, personnel, and funding within DoD; sharing best practices and lessons learned; and providing the latest releasable U.S. policy, strategy, operations, tactics, and training for NSHQ-supported SOF. This advances a worldwide network of SOF professionals conducting operations to increase, return, or develop peace and stability in support of U.S. national interests.

Through the foresight of Congress, USSOCOM is empowered by unique legislated budget and acquisition authorities in Major Force Program-11 (MFP-11). MFP-11 allows rapid and flexible acquisition of "SOF-peculiar" equipment and modification of service common systems to meet special operations requirements. MPF-11 funding supports SOF's persistent global presence meeting the SECDEF's guidance for forces "agile, flexible, and ready for the full range of contingencies and threats." We appreciate the Committee's authorization of $10.5 billion for FY 2012. In FY 2013, the command is requesting a total of $10.4 billion; $7.8 billion of baseline and $2.6 billion of Overseas Contingency Operations (OCO). This includes beginning the transition of funds from OCO to the base USSOCOM budget in recognition of the enduring nature of many of our global requirements.

The total FY 2013 USSOCOM budget request is 1.7% of the overall proposed DoD budget. When combined with the Service-provided capabilities necessary to enable our operations we still represent less than 4% of the DoD total.

Unique to Special Operations, our 1208 authority remains critical to funding SOF's work with indigenous forces in support of counterterrorism operations around the world. We appreciate the Committee's extension of this funding through 2015 and its approval of increasing the annual cap to $50 million in 2012. Your continued support with 1208 has provided us the flexibility to support current operations today and rapidly address emerging operations tomorrow.

Collectively these funds support a force with a current strength of approximately 66,100 personnel (growing to near 71,100 by FY 2015), spread across five subordinate component commands: the United States Army Special Operations Command, Air Force Special Operations Command, Naval Special Warfare Command, Marine Corps Forces Special Operations Command, and the Joint Special Operations Command.

SOF Support for 21st Century Defense
As articulated in Sustaining U.S. Global Leadership: Priorities for 21st Century Defense, the global security environment presents an increasingly complex set of challenges and opportunities. By their very nature, SOF are particularly well-suited to respond to this rapidly changing environment, and I fully expect the operational demands placed upon SOF to increase across the next decade, and beyond.

As the current CJCS General Martin Dempsey recently noted, "We're at a strategic inflection point, where we find a different geopolitical challenge, different economic challenges, shifting of economic and military power." Strategic trends and challenges are producing a distinct change in the character of conflict. Insurgents, transnational terrorists, criminal organizations, nation states and their proxies exploit gaps in policy developed for the more predictable world of yesterday. Increasingly these threats are networked, adaptable, and empowered by cyberspace to find new ways to recruit, train, finance, and operate. In short, the strategic environment is changing ' quickly and constantly.

The decade of war after 9/11 has proffered many lessons; among them, specific to SOF, is the complementary nature of our direct and indirect approaches and how these SOF approaches are aligned to this changing strategic environment. The direct approach is characterized by technologically-enabled small-unit precision lethality, focused intelligence, and interagency cooperation integrated on a digitally-networked battlefield. In today's global counterterrorism fight, U.S. SOF continues to directly degrade Al Qaeda and its affiliates' leadership around the world, greatly reducing their ability to effectively plan and conduct operations. Extreme in risk, precise in execution and able to deliver a high payoff, the impacts of the direct approach are immediate, visible to public and have had tremendous effects on our enemies' networks throughout the decade. As Al Qaeda and other extremist organizations attempt to franchise their ideology and violence globally, we will likely remain engaged against violent extremist networks for the foreseeable future. As Secretary Panetta recently stated, "We need to continue to put pressure on them, whether they're in Pakistan, whether they're in Yemen, whether they're in Somalia, whether they're in North Africa." The direct approach will remain a hallmark capability for SOF in order to provide the necessary means to disrupt this threat. However, the direct approach alone is not the solution to the challenges our Nation faces today as it ultimately only buys time and space for the indirect approach and broader governmental elements to take effect. Less well known but decisive in importance, the indirect approach is the complementary element that can counter the systemic components of the threat.

The indirect approach includes empowering host nation forces, providing appropriate assistance to humanitarian agencies, and engaging key populations. These long-term efforts increase partner capabilities to generate sufficient security and rule of law, address local needs, and advance ideas that discredit and defeat the appeal of violent extremism.

While both approaches build trust and confidence with our partners and assure them of our support and reliability, the indirect approach values local-led efforts to buy down our partners' security threats. Here, SOF amplifies our partners' capabilities, epitomizing the SECDEF's assertion that "building capacity elsewhere in the world also remains important for sharing the cost and responsibilities of global leadership."

As for the future, the indirect approach will be critical in the fight to deter, disrupt and deny sanctuary to our enemies. Therefore, we must use this approach to strengthen and foster a network of mutually supporting partnerships that are based on shared security interests. Through this network of relationships, SOF can provide a hedge against strategic surprise by identifying and working preemptively to address problems before they become conflicts.

One way SOF achieves this goal through the indirect approach is through forward and persistent engagement of key countries. Small in scale by design, this engagement directly supports the Country Teams' and GCCs' theater plans to counter threats to stability. This approach directly supports the SECDEF's direction that, "Whenever possible, we will develop innovative, low-cost, and small-footprint approaches to achieve our security objectives, relying on exercises, rotational presence, and advisory capabilities." Throughout the year, SOF conducts engagements in more than 100 countries worldwide. At the heart of this presence is the operational context and access it provides. Operational context is the thorough understanding of the environment gained through the knowledge and experience built in personal relationships from multiple visits to the same locations. This includes understanding the local culture and society, language, economy, history, politics and leadership, physical and virtual terrain as well as the enemy. It provides insight into the society's beliefs, values, and motivations. The addition of Cultural Support Teams (U.S. females attached to SOF units in Afghanistan) furthers this cause, enabling dialogue and routine interaction with the Afghan females normally isolated from exposure to male SOF personnel. This depth of context makes SOF more precise in enabling early action to maximize desired effects and minimize unintended consequences.

The successful application of the indirect approach is evident in the ongoing relationship between SOF and the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP). This effort originally began when SOF deployed to the terrorist safe haven of Basilan Island in 2002 to assist the AFP in operations against the insurgent group Abu Sayyaf. Immediately upon arrival, SOF personnel conducted a series of engagements with the local residents to learn their basic needs and grievances as a precursor to severing their ties with the insurgents. As SOF trained and advised the AFP personnel leading the security efforts, they coordinated a comprehensive interagency and multinational program to address water, security, medical care, transportation, and education needs. As a result, people in the area continue to support AFP and SOF's presence today facilitating the return of economic prosperity and stability to the region.

Other examples of the indirect approach are SOF's contributions supporting interagency diplomacy and development efforts. Currently, 22 Military Information Support Teams (MISTs) and four Regional Information Support Teams (RISTs) support the Department of State by augmenting and broadening their public diplomacy efforts. MIST elements are requested by U.S. Chiefs of Mission and work under their direction to blend the embassy's Mission Strategic Plan and the GCC's Theater Campaign Plan.

USSOCOM also supports interagency development efforts by deploying civil-military support elements (CMSEs) to address refugees, displaced persons, populations at risk, and humanitarian or disaster assistance. CMSEs are engaged in 17 countries today and are forecasted to expand to 20 countries in FY 2013 and 30+ countries by FY 2017. Today, SOF Civil Affairs (CA) elements are integral to Joint Special Operations Task Forces (JSOTFs) in Afghanistan, the Trans-Sahel, and the Philippines to support population-focused indirect approaches to combat violent extremism. To support these increasing demands, USSOCOM added a fifth SOF CA battalion in FY 2012 to ensure regionally-oriented CA support is available to each GCC.

These underreported, yet vital, contributions are designed and prioritized to create long-term effects beyond the direct, kinetic actions that are essential for winning the current fight. In the end, it will be such continuous indirect operations that will prove decisive in the global security arena. Of course, both direct and indirect approaches will continue to be necessary and mutually supportive elements of effective SOF employment. Nowhere is this more true than in the emerging SOF requirements for SOF in Afghanistan.

As total forces start to draw down in Afghanistan, SOF's unique ability to simultaneously blend direct and indirect approaches will likely drive increasing requirements for SOF. While the aggregate number of total personnel in Afghanistan will decrease as we approach 2014, the SOF contribution may increase by some small amount. Currently, SOF constitute 8% of the forces in Afghanistan, but has the lead for two major elements of operations; Village Stability Operations/Afghan Local Police (VSO/ALP) initiatives and the ongoing CT mission. In conjunction with other ISAF elements, SOF have recruited and trained nearly 11,000 ALP who are vetted by our Afghan partners. There are now VSO in 57 districts increasing stability and enabling local governance, development, and security at the village level. Additionally, our Afghan Commando partners are making significant progress in CT operations. Virtually all CT operations are now partnered with the Afghans and an increasing number are led by Afghan elements with SOF fulfilling an advisory and supporting role. To command and control these efforts, USSOCOM currently provides an operational SOF headquarters and the requisite planning capabilities which directly support the ISAF commander.

While supporting USCENTCOM efforts in Afghanistan remains our top priority, we also recognize that providing SOF capabilities to the other GCCs is critical to mitigating regional threats to stability. Even with the conclusion of operations in Afghanistan, historical deployment data reveals a constant demand for a "steady state" deployed force of nearly 12,000 SOF to support the GCCs' requirements. Continuation of the QDR-directed SOF growth is essential to meeting this current and projected demand for SOF. By FY 2017, we assess our programmed growth will provide adequate capacity to meet contingency demands without having to accept undue risk in global CT operations. Because SOF are uniquely recruited, assessed, selected, and trained to perform these difficult missions, the projected 3-5% growth rate through FY 2017 is the maximum rate of growth that is sustainable.

In the 25 years since USSOCOM's creation, the global environment has undergone, and continues to experience major change; established powers falling, new ones rising, and the number and scope of threats increasing exponentially. The attacks of 9/11 forced the U.S. to confront the growing danger posed by ideologically-driven non-state actors. As a result, we have been involved in a decade long war that has been costly not only in terms of our fallen and injured, but also financially. These costs, combined with today's constrained fiscal environment, are forcing us to be more innovative and inclusive in the development of solutions to our global security challenges. To effectively address these problems, we must work closely with our allies and partners to effectively build partner nation capacity, integrate forces where appropriate, and improve information sharing.

Europe's NATO SOF Headquarters (NSHQ) serves as an example of how SOF has adapted to the realities of today as it typifies the potential of an integrated multinational approach. Secretary Panetta's recent comment that, "most European countries are now producers of security rather than consumers of it" helps to validate the success of NSHQ and recognizes the contribution that our NATO partners have made to the current fight. Consequently, USSOCOM will continue to bolster and strengthen the vitality of U.S. SOF's contribution to NATO through our increasing role as the NSHQ lead component and advocate to the Joint Staff and Office Secretary of Defense. Another example of how USSOCOM and the SOF community are adapting to the current environment is exemplified in how we are preserving our force's capabilities to meet the enduring nature of war. My predecessor Admiral Eric Olson initiated a Pressure on the Force and Families (POTFF) study to examine the effects of a decade of continuous combat operations on the SOF community. The study identified core problems, their underlying factors, and captured best practices of Service and SOF support programs. The research included more than 400 non-attribution focus groups, consisting of more than 7,000 service members and more than 1,000 spouses from 55 different SOF units located at home and overseas. The results of the study illustrated two primary sources of ongoing stress. First is the lack of predictability resulting from a demanding operational tempo, exacerbated by significant time spent away from home for training. Second is an increased difficulty for our force when reconnecting and reintegrating into family activities.

Armed with these findings, I have appointed a Brigadier General and my Command Sergeant Major to transition the Pressure on the Force and Families Task Force to the Preservation of the Force and Families Task Force. More than simply a name change, this inter-disciplinary team is empowered to build and implement innovative solutions across the SOCOM enterprise to improve the well-being of our force and families. While we understand that this begins with increasing predictability, the holistic approach will also ensure we provide responsive counseling, medical, psychological, and rehabilitative care to our SOF warriors and their families.

Many SOF-specific support programs and organizations do exist and are addressing portions of the challenges we face. Resiliency programs are facilitating early identification of underlying SOF issues relating to physical, mental, and spiritual well-being. Programs such as Naval Special Warfare Command's Third Location Decompression Program and the Tactical Human Optimization, Rapid Rehabilitation and Reconditioning Program (THOR3) are noteworthy. The Third Location Decompression program allows operators time to stop and stand down at an enroute location easing the transition from combat to domestic life. During this time, evaluations are conducted to assess members' well-being and identify early areas of concern. THOR3 is designed to train, educate, and evaluate SOF on human performance, rehabilitation, and nutrition to optimize battlefield effectiveness. THOR3 has improved recovery time and increased return-to-duty rates from acute and chronic injuries.

Additionally, the USSOCOM Care Coalition program provides outstanding support to SOF warriors and their families and is a model advocacy effort within DoD. For the life of a wounded, ill or injured SOF warrior, the Care Coalition tracks and supports the member through the rehabilitation and reintegration process whether returning to duty or transitioning to civilian life.

But the required solutions go beyond these care programs and rehabilitative services. Based on our findings, we are also focused on improving how our PERSTEMPO (to include time away from home) is used to track and report individual and unit readiness. Ultimately, this will be incorporated into the force generation process to provide us a more accurate picture regarding the health of our force, units' availability for deployment, and predictability as a key element of long-term performance and resiliency.

Additionally, USSOCOM will continue to work with the Services to secure priority access to local ranges and training areas reducing SOF's need to "travel to train." Increasing this priority and access for deploying SOF units will further improve predictability and PERSTEMPO. I have spent much of the last few months visiting each of my component commands to listen and talk with the force and families and address POTFF-related issues ensuring we are on the right track.

We have a resilient force and it remains steadfast in its mission. While SOF capabilities are not in danger of degradation now, we must and will continue to look for ways to mitigate potential problems in the future. We will continue to work with the Services and this committee to develop solutions to this problem. We recognize and appreciate your long-standing advocacy and funding of support programs for our warriors.

Finally, in order to drive and sustain change within our formations, USSOCOM is forging a comprehensive leadership development program designed to train, educate, and manage the career paths of future SOF leaders. We will develop tailored SOF professional military education to provide the tools required for today's complex environment, and we will work with the Services to more effectively manage career progression of SOF leaders including key combined, joint, and interagency assignments.

Funding and Equipping the Force
USSOCOM has a solemn obligation to appropriately fund and equip the warriors from whom we ask so much sacrifice. We also recognize the increasingly austere fiscal environment for the Department. To that end, USSOCOM is in compliance with the Department's Savings and Efficiencies guidance and that model has been incorporated into SOF business practices. USSOCOM is in a fiscally sound position, but the force requires continued support. The President's Budget Request for FY 2013, if approved, is an essential step towards meeting the growing demand on our force by providing USSOCOM the resources required to sustain our programs and initiatives.

USSOCOM's funding request for FY 2013 totals $10.4 billion of which $7.8 billion is baseline and $2.6 billion is OCO funding. FY 2013 begins the directed migration of requirements previously funded with OCO resources into the baseline appropriation. Nearly $960 million will migrate to the baseline from OCO, supporting approximately 37% of FY 2013 global SOF operations and sustainment costs.

Last year, USSOCOM made a significant investment in Military Construction (MILCON) to better support SOF operations, training, maintenance, and storage facility requirements. This effort was targeted at addressing MILCON shortfalls attributable to new capabilities and missions, force structure growth disconnects, and primarily, inherited antiquated infrastructure. USSOCOM is committed to sustaining a consistent level of funding to satisfy our critical infrastructure needs. As such, the FY 2013 MILCON request of $536 million equates to 6.8% of USSOCOM's baseline MFP-11 funds and is in line with the command's new Strategic Planning and Programming Guidance of a 6% minimum funding level for MILCON. The FY 2013 budget includes 21 construction projects in nine states, one overseas, and one at a classified location.

Also critical to meeting the demand for SOF capabilities worldwide is USSOCOM's ability to execute rapid acquisition of its material and service programs. USSOCOM's acquisition enterprise remains at the forefront of DoD, continuing to meet the high demand to deliver and field critical material requirements and new technologies. Key to success is our major recapitalization and modernization effort to incorporate enhanced capabilities in our rotary, fixed-wing, and maritime mobility platforms. We are grateful for strong Congressional support in FY 2012 enabling us to continue with these efforts.

The need for SOF Combat Support (CS) and Combat Service Support (CSS) has increased due to programmed operator growth over the past decade. By design, SOF are inherently lean and we have not attempted to grow organic "enablers" that duplicate Service-provided capabilities at the same rate as our operational elements. Therefore, leveraging the logistical support of the Services continues to be important.

The heavy-lift rotary wing MH-47G Chinook has completed the Service Life Extension Program with 61 MH-47Gs delivered. The upgrade of MH-47Gs to a Block 2 configuration is underway and a new program to build eight additional monolithic hull MH-47Gs was initiated to bring the total number to 69 by FY 2015. The MH-60 recapitalization effort to replace the MH-60L/K with the MH-60M delivered six new MH-60M aircraft, bringing the total number delivered to 12.

The vertical mobility of the tilt-rotor CV-22 continues to deliver unmatched speed and range to SOF battlefield commanders. Twenty-three of the planned 50 aircraft are fielded to date. We completed modification of 12 MC-130Ws with a Precision Strike Package (PSP) which continues to perform superbly in combat. USSOCOM has started the AC-130J recapitalization effort, using the MC-130W PSP as a key risk reducing capability. The MC-130J program is on track to replace our aging MC-130Es and MC-130Ps, with core HC/MC-130J aircraft having successfully completed developmental testing in June 2011.

Our Non-Standard Aviation Program (NSAV) continues to demonstrate great success in operations around the world. Looking forward, we have several initiatives to more efficiently meet demand.

The modernization of our maritime mobility systems is underway with significant developments occurring this year. Competitive prototype contracts for the Combatant Craft ' Medium (CCM), as a replacement for the Naval Special Warfare Rigid Hull Inflatable Boat (RHIB) and Mk V fleets, were awarded this fall with development of test articles expected in September 2012. Thanks to Congressional support, the purchase and fielding of 24 High Speed Assault Craft (HSAC) will provide a critical "bridge" capability to SOF until the CCM is complete.

As the land contingent of SOF mobility, the SOF Family of Special Operations Vehicles (FOSOV) provides a variety of specialized combat wheeled vehicles for SOF missions. These vehicles are modified to achieve required performance for global deployments across a wide range of environments and threats. These SOF-unique vehicles provide enhanced tactical mobility and force protection, as well as platforms to support command, control, communications, intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance capabilities. Two specific programs underway are the Non-Standard Commercial Vehicles (NSCV) and the Ground Mobility Vehicle (GMV 1.1). The NSCV provides low profile commercial vehicles modified with ballistic protection and communications equipment enabling SOF to operate non-obtrusively supporting a multitude of SOF missions. The GMV 1.1 is the next variant of medium vehicles designated to replace the SOF-modified, service-common High Mobility Multipurpose Wheeled Vehicle (HMMWV). This vehicle satisfies the critical need to deploy from the CH-47 aircraft internally.

Protection and casualty care improvements for our SOF warriors continues with research, development, testing, and acquisition of personal protective equipment. Recent OSD ballistic test initiatives have been integrated into the USSOCOM acquisition process and several mission-specific protective systems are now available. Optimization of signature management and camouflage initiatives provide multi-spectral protection for SOF operators.

Continued progress in information communications and networking capabilities with our SOF Deployable Node (SDN) family of Wide Band SATCOM systems is providing increased access to the SOF Information Environment (SIE) voice, data, and video services for our deployed headquarters and operational elements worldwide. In FY 2013 our command focus areas are providing greater access to the SIE for SOF operators by downsizing system profiles, engineering common and scalable components, extending access through SDN to wireless users, and providing SIE access to maritime and ground mobility platforms.

USSOCOM continues to advance our technical surveillance and intelligence collection programs through evolutionary technology insertions, while making SOF ISR data more discoverable and external information more accessible with our Defense Common Ground/Surface System. Our other investments include a mix of manned and unmanned airborne ISR systems as well as the accompanying Processing, Exploitation, and Dissemination capabilities and supporting communications architectures. Although we continue to pursue investments in airborne ISR capability, including High-Definition ISR technology, we also rely heavily on the Services to expand their capabilities and capacity that benefit DoD across the board.

Our effort to identify key emerging technologies beneficial to SOF ensures our forces are equipped with the right capabilities to detect and engage our adversaries. This includes conducting collaborative technology discovery, coordinating research and development activities, and rapidly integrating and inserting new technology developments for equipment and techniques across the force. This process will align SOF capability gaps with technology enablers to focus ongoing efforts across the Science and Technology enterprise as well as identify additional innovation that is required to address these gaps.

During 2011, we saw significant emphasis on the employment of SOF. SOF operators, to a degree greater than ever before, performed missions that they were selected, trained, and equipped to do.

Special Operations Forces are a source of deep national pride. Their ingenuity, perseverance, spirit, and skill are unprecedented. In significant ways, our forces are creating visible and dramatic effects of the greatest magnitude across the globe. I consider it a profound honor to lead such an extraordinary group of professionals -- it is a privilege to represent them before this committee.

As always, our success is only possible because of your continued advocacy for Special Operations Forces and our assigned missions. Your support for the President's budget will ensure our continued ability to successfully address the most challenging security demands of our Nation. Thank you.

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Updated Feb 1, 2018 7:52 AM EST | More details


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