Despite their successes in recent conflicts, U.S. special operations forces
need to alter their approach to win the war on terrorism, according to top military
Air Force Lt. Gen. Norton Schwartz, director of operations at the Joint Staff,
sees SOF as a community that needs more ethnic diversity, and must find better
ways to organize the information collection process.
“We have traditionally organized ourselves as A-teams, SEAL platoons,
special tactics squadrons, PSYOPS—as narrowly focused capabilities,”
he told the National Defense Industrial Association special operations conference.
Schwartz advocates creating “purpose-filled” organizations. Tactical
units should possess both human intelligence and signals intelligence capabilities,
scientific and analytical skills. Information operations should be emphasized,
and, most importantly, SOF units should have “a cultural advisor or facilitator
function,” he said.
SOF needs to recruit and select personnel with the right language and ethnic
background for the regions around the world where they conduct operations. Knowledge
of the cultural, social and behavior patterns of the adversary “would
be an incredible power for SOF,” he said.
“Consider developing a cadre of personnel that are fluent in the tools
required to gather and process all kinds of information—a cadre that brings
to bear a cutting-edge database and software tools that recognize patterns for
information too dense to interpret,” he added.
Informational operations also must be more effectively managed at the tactical
level. “These are not skill sets that we have come to accept in this community,”
he said. “This is emblematic of the fact that our main struggle has to
do with information.”
SOF needs will be met best by “tapping into information that can only
be provided by locals. We must improve our ability to exploit that,” Schwartz
said. To break through cultural barriers, SOF units must include troops from
multiple ethnic backgrounds.
“We have an industrial age approach to human capital, it is customized
for recruiting certain aspects of the population, but it is not suited to working
ethnic, computer hacker or other non-traditional skills that are needed,”
The U.S. Special Operations Command should be able to attract the right people.
“If the SOF, 10 years from now looks like you and me...we have failed,”
he told an audience that consisted primarily of white males.
The command also has to rethink both the length and the focus of the deployments,
he said. “We may have to break a team down,” he explained. “We
may have to leave it there not for six weeks, but for six months,” to
maintain relationships that already have been established and to have the appropriate
time for information gathering that can only be acquired over a period of time.
SOF also needs to focus on investing more in junior officers and non-commissioned
officers. “There has never been a time where we needed strong strategic
leadership more than now,” he said.
The conventional forces, meanwhile, should incorporate SOF-like capabilities
and help take over some of the duties from overstretched special operations
forces. A key advocate of transitioning SOF tactics and technologies to the
regular force is Army Chief of Staff Gen. Peter Schoomaker. In order for special
operations forces to continue its successful role in the fight, some of the
weight has to be taken off their shoulders and given to conventional units,
he said. Those capabilities would range from intelligence to aviation and precision,
“This is not a matter of conventional forces replacing the SOF. It is
a matter of how we get the synergy out of moving back and forth,” he told
This type of synergy is achieved “by training all the time together,
by talking and doing all of our battle command training programs together, and
by working in Iraq and Afghanistan, and everywhere else,” he said.
Despite some reported animosity between the conventional and special operations
forces, Schoomaker believes that their relationship “is the best I have
ever seen,” and blames the tension on individual personalities.
Col. Charles Cleveland, chief of staff of Army Special Operations Command,
said there is too much inside-the-Beltway hype surrounding the integration of
conventional and special operations forces. “When you are fighting a war,
I find that those things kind of fade away.”
Army leaders understand what “we can provide them and what they can provide
us,” said Lt. Gen. Philip Kensinger, head of the Army’s Special
The SEALs, meanwhile, are working more closely with the conventional Navy,
including the submarine community, said Vice Adm. (select) Bert Calland, the
commander of U.S. Naval Special Warfare. The Navy and its special ops branch
have already integrated their efforts in the procurement of the Littoral Combat
Ship, which is being designed with modules to support special warfare, said
“Every platform that the Navy is developing, they all have requirements
to support SOF and integrate that into their design,” he said.
The SEALs also are incorporating a detachment of 85 Marines into one of their
squadrons. Depending on the outcome of this first deployment, the Marines and
the SEALs will formalize doctrine, concept of operations, and tactics techniques
and procedures, according to Brig. Gen.Robert Neller. The Marines also may pick
up certain missions to free up SOF units, he said.
The Corps also has expanded its joint training with the Army special operators
by sharing training areas, such as Alaska and the National Training Center.
The service also is doing live fire training at Eglin Air Force Base, said Neller.