The Future of U.S. Special Operations Forces: Ten Years After 9/11 and Twenty-Five Years After Goldwater-Nichols
As prepared for the Subcommittee on Emerging Threats and Capabilities
Washington, September 22, 2011
Twenty-five years ago, Congress added an amendment to the Goldwater-Nichols legislation to create the United States Special Operations Command (SOCOM). The law lists 12 core mission areas for the Command and gave SOCOM some unique authorities.
It is certainly appropriate for Congress to review its handiwork, especially as we look back on a decade of fighting terrorists -- a decade in which SOCOM has roughly doubled in personnel, tripled in budget, and quadrupled in overseas deployments. We may not be able to quantify as precisely its achievements over these ten years; yet, they are undeniable.
Looking back on the past decade, my strongest impression is of the incredibly talented, committed, hard-working individuals who serve our country in SOCOM units. As I have traveled to Iraq, Afghanistan, and elsewhere, I am continually impressed and inspired by them, just as other members of this subcommittee are. The capability that these people, with their training, their hardware, and their supporting organizations bring to our country is without parallel anywhere in the world.
Some of that capability was on display to the world in the Osama bin Laden raid. But SOCOM does much more --often with little or no fanfare, as it should be. It may well be that the future of the Command will require greater emphasis on some of those other mission areas, such as unconventional warfare and foreign internal defense.
Of course, we consider the future of SOCOM and of our entire military within the constraints of tight budgets. But it seems to me that it would be the height of foolishness to provide insufficient resources to an entity charged with fighting terrorists, preventing weapons of mass destruction from being used, and training other nations to defend themselves so we don’t have to.
The first job of the federal government is to defend the nation, and SOCOM is truly the tip of the spear that does that.
We are honored to have Admiral McRaven in his first testimony before this subcommittee since assuming his new position and appreciate Assistant Secretary Lumpkin, himself a former SEAL, being here as well.