The SOCOM commander, Adm. William H. McRaven, told the Senate Armed Services emerging threats subcommittee Tuesday, “On any day of the year you will find special operations forces [in] somewhere between 70 and 90 countries around the world.”
In budget documents released Wednesday, the Defense Department said SOCOM must “continue to grow” and have the flexibility to “hold al Qaeda and its affiliates and adherents under constant pressure, wherever they may be.”
While the other services are cutting back training this year for all but those scheduled for deployment overseas, the SOCOM budget for next year increases training to regain land warfare skills in areas other than the mountains and deserts of Iraq and Afghanistan. “Specifically, [Special Operations forces] will place a renewed focus on battalion-level Security Force Assistance and Unconventional Warfare training in the jungle and forested environment,” according to Defense Department Comptroller documents.
McRaven explained to the Senate panel, “I can provide a global view of the problem [of extremists and terrorists] and help link and synchronize global effects across geographic boundaries.”
Emphasizing that he works only with the approval of the president, defense secretary, geographic combatant commanders and U.S. ambassadors in countries involved, McRaven said he is developing a plan to network his “U.S. interagency counterparts and our foreign allies and partners around the world.”
SOCOM is stepping up partnerships and training for irregular warfare and counterterrorism in “high risk or sensitive environments” with Theater Special Operations Commands, McRaven said. He is also sending Special Operations liaison officers to key U.S. embassies to work with the U.S. country teams advising partner nations’ special forces in countries such as Jordan, Poland, Turkey and Kenya.
While SOCOM’s existing global communications network keeps all the command’s forces connected, McRaven is looking to expand his communications infrastructure to other partner countries.
Here in the national capital region, McRaven said, “One-to-three-person Special Operations Support Teams work with our interagency partners . . . [to assist] in synchronizing [Defense Department] planning for training, exercises and operations.” He has established a SOCOM vice commander who resides in Washington to ensure “that the perspectives and capabilities of interagency and international mission partners are incorporated into all phases of [Special Operations forces] planning efforts.”
Not only that, but the SOCOM forces in the Washington area are to conduct “outreach to academia, non-governmental organizations, industry and other private sector organizations to get their perspective on complex issues affecting” Special Operations forces, McRaven said.