McRaven: Special Operations Can Learn From FedEx

By Dan Parsons
TAMPA, Fla. — The leader of U.S. Special Operations Command is looking at the business model of a package delivery company in planning for the future.
Adm. William McRaven, chief of U.S. Special Operations Command, said May 14 that FedEx serves as a model on which he is basing his vision for the future of globally deployed forces. The company has a network and a logistics base that the military should emulate, he said.
“FedEx runs a global operation. ... If we’re going to run a globally networked force, I wanted to find out how they do business. There is a standard of excellence that FedEx has set,” McRaven said in a speech at the 2013 Special Operations Forces Industry Conference.
McRaven is positioning special operators as a globally available force that can perform roles ranging from surgical-strike direct-action missions to “small-footprint” humanitarian efforts. When the war in Afghanistan ends in 2014, it is his intention to shift forces to other parts of the world.
SOF is already focusing on the Pacific and Africa. McRaven said troops are in 70 to 80 countries, mostly in small teams of fewer than than 10 personnel.
Most of them are not doing anything that involves the Hollywood heroics like nighttime airborne raids. The future will be a balancing act of maintaining lethal skills learned during the wars of the last decade and the winning hearts-and-mind tactics that McRaven said are equally important in the fight against global terrorism.
That will require those commandos who have been constantly deployed in combat zones to learn and maintain skills that are less lethal than kicking down doors and killing insurgents. Special operators will have to be able to both kick down doors and drink tea with neighbors of their enemies, McRaven said.
“There is an … understanding by the door kickers that they have to know how to drink three cups of tea,” McRaven said. “But those guys drinking tea have to know how to fight.”
Special operations leaders believe that areas of the world where water is scarce are just as unstable and potentially dangerous as those that are experiencing outright violent conflict, he said.
“It can be pretty frightening when you look at it,” McRaven said. “Look at things like water availability and population density. We need to be appropriately postured to be able to do something about it” if conflict breaks out over such issues, he said.
Increasingly McRaven is seeking partner nations in far-flung parts of the world. It is through those partners that the ultimate success of a forward U.S. military presence abroad rests, McRaven said. He called the plan “operations that move at the speed of trust.”
“We will remain the world’s finest direct action force,” he said. “The way you are going to solve these problems is preparing the host nation to deal with the problems. The way to do that is with a small footprint, cost effective and networked so you can get information and support whenever you need it.”
Photo Credit: Defense Dept.

Topics: Logistics, Special Operations-Low Intensity Conflict

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