The U.S. Special Operations Command has reorganized its headquar-
ters at MacDill Air Force Base, Fla., in order to fulfill a new leadership
role in the war on terrorism.
The core of the reorganization is the Center for Special Operations, explained
SOCOM’s chief, Army Gen. Bryan D. Brown.
The center “is a joint and interagency directorate that has responsibility
for all war on terrorism-related operational issues,” Brown told National
Defense in an e-mail interview.
“We are working toward a structure that allows SOCOM to serve as a standing
joint task force headquarters, offering an in-place capability for seamless
planning and execution of operations that span the spectrum of conflict,”
“Essentially, [the center] serves as SOCOM’s ‘war-fighting’
hub,” Brown said. “Free of administrative functions, the center’s
sole responsibility is for planning, supporting and executing special operations
in the war on terrorism.”
Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld directed SOCOM take the lead in planning
and leading future U.S. counter-terror operations, rather than merely supporting
other combatant commands, as it has in the past.
Since 2001, special operators have played major roles, first in Afghanistan
and then in Iraq.
“You hunted Scuds, pinpointed high-value targets, secured oil fields,
established landing strips in the desert ... When we were unable to get our
forces into Iraq from the north, special operations forces mobilized the Kurdish
Peshmerga ... and helped unravel the northern front with amazing speed,”
Rumsfeld said at the change of command ceremony at MacDill in September, when
Brown took over SOCOM.
In December, special operators participated in Saddam’s capture at a
remote farm near Tikrit.
Despite the prominent role played by SOF troops in Afghanistan and Iraq, the
overall campaigns have been planned and managed, thus far, by the U.S. Central
Command, which also is based at MacDill.
Now, the commander of SOCOM, for the first time, will execute specified operations,
when directed by the defense secretary to do so, Brown said.
The new center gives SOCOM the ability to plan and run such operations, Brown
explained. The center functions much like a joint task force, which the geographic
combatant commands have used for years to coordinate their operations.
Headed by a major general, “the center reviews global strategies, develops
courses of action and makes operational recommendations for force employment
through SOCOM’s commander to the chairman of the joint chiefs of staff
and the secretary of defense,” Brown said. “The center can plan,
direct, monitor and assess combat operations directed against selected targets
anywhere on the globe.”
Specifically, Brown said, the center “is working on increasing the cross
flow of information between multiple agencies and the Department of Defense
in support of the war on terrorism.”
The center employs a Web-based collaborative-planning environment, or CPE,
Brown explained. The CPE links planners and decision makers from the office
of the defense secretary, joint staff, intelligence community, geographic combatant
commands, military services, the departments of State, Justice, Treasury and
Energy, as well as SOCOM.
“CPE facilitates simultaneous planning and sharing of products,”
Brown said. “SOCOM has been directed to coordinate, organize and institute
a collaborative-planning architecture that enables a time-sensitive planning
SOCOM uses several information-technology tools to facilitate planning and
sharing of information, Brown said. For example, the Center for Special Operations
includes a Joint Operations Center, which “has greatly enhanced the capability
of headquarters to monitor—and when necessary to command and control—operations
in the global war on terrorism,” he noted.
To help coordinate the CSO’s efforts, SOCOM recently created an Interagency
Executive Council, Brown said. Chaired by the center’s deputy director,
the council “serves as a vehicle for key interagency leaders to address
command issues, exchange information and create an environment for feedback
in support of the war on terrorism.”
The JOC uses Web-based information systems, combined with real-time blue-force
tracking, to locate friendly forces and obtain imagery, and video from unmanned
The JOC also employs the Defense Collaborative Tool Suite to enable real-time,
simultaneous coordination with geographic commanders, joint staff, agencies
and others around the world, he said. The DCTS includes voice and video conferencing,
document and application sharing, instant messaging and whiteboards.
Together, WIC and DCTS enable up to 50 partners to use audio and video conferencing,
chat, program sharing, file transfer and file storage, Brown noted. SOCOM’s
DCTS Dashboard currently has more than 450 individual user accounts from combatant
commands, services, components and interagency planning partners, he said.
Another facility, the Special Operations Joint Interagency Collaboration Center,
was established in December 2001. Unlike major national intelligence organizations,
the SOJICC handles short turn-around products in response to SOF priorities,
“What makes SOJICC unique is that it allows IT engineers, intelligence
analysts and special operations officers—working in concert—to integrate
and use advanced software tools tailored to SOF mission sets,” Brown said.
SOJICC has a “dual-hatted nature,” he explained. Like Lockheed
Martin’s Advanced Development Program, Brown said, SOJICC is a ‘Skunk
Works,’ a secretive effort to produce innovative designs quickly and efficiently.
It also is a data-mining facility.
SOJICC already has been used extensively in Afghanistan and Iraq to support
SOF and other missions. “SOJICC has successfully integrated complex data
streams from the CIA, Defense Intelligence Agency and National Security Agency,”
Brown revealed. “Additionally, thanks to collaboration on other efforts,
SOJICC has data from most of the national laboratories and the Joint Warfare
As its missions expand, SOCOM is receiving a significant budget increase—a
35 percent boost in fiscal year 2004, pushing its annual budget to $4.6 billion.
It has been authorized to add 5,100 troops during the next five years to the
current level of 47,000 active-duty and reserve personnel.
The additional personnel will include two Navy SEAL teams, an aviation battalion,
a psychological operations company, a civil affairs company, and a reserve civil
affairs battalion, Brown told a U.S. Senate panel.
He warned, however, that special operations forces cannot grow quickly. “SOF
cannot be mass produced,” he said. “The service members who volunteered
for SOF in September 2001 and successfully completed the arduous selection and
training regimen are just now entering the deployable force.”
Efforts are being made, meanwhile, to stretch SOF forces by sharing tasks with
conventional forces that have similar capability, Brown said. Examples include
training foreign combat forces, de-mining training, combat search and rescue,
and tactical air-traffic control in airfields seized by U.S. assault units.
The responsibility for training troops in the former Soviet Republic of Georgia
was transferred recently from the 10th Special Forces Group to the Marines.
“Critical missions may have a ‘core’ SOF manning, with security,
intelligence, communications and service support provided by the nearest available
conventional forces,” he said. SOF could be deployed with Marine or Army
light infantry elements for base and perimeter security, and conventional service
support and air support.
Instrumental to SOCOM’s success, Brown said, has been its acquisition
authority, which is independent from the military services and less hampered
“The Special Operations Acquisition and Logistics Center was exceptionally
adaptive during Operation Enduring Freedom and Operation Iraqi Freedom,”
Brown said. “Advanced technology systems were fielded in as little as
seven days, with most delivered to combat forces in less than six months.”
Among the technologies were man-portable decontamination equipment, small UAVs,
laser markers, remote sensors, tactical local area networks, force-protection
gear, environmental protective clothing, body armor, pickup trucks, coalition
video teleconferencing technology, leaflet delivery systems and blue-force tracking
SOCOM’s acquisition program currently is being realigned to focus more
on the war on terrorism, Brown said. “We know we must press forward by
eliminating some of our legacy systems and leverage saved resources to invest
in the future,” he said.
Among the systems that SOCOM is developing currently are the CV-22 Osprey tilt-rotor
aircraft, the MX aircraft (to supplement the command’s C-130 cargo airplanes)
and the Advanced Seal Delivery System.
“We will refocus development on the individual as a platform,”
Brown said. “We need to develop enhanced protection, armor, night vision,
lightweight sustainment systems and better weaponry.
“Power has been—and continues to be—a major problem for SOF,”
Brown said. “After-action reports from every recent deployment indicated
that often one third of the weight carried into combat is batteries. We need
to address this critical need.”
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