Odierno: Strengthen Ties Between Special Operators, Big Army

By Stew Magnuson
Army Gen. Ray Odierno
Chief of Staff of the Army Gen. Ray Odierno said the Army, Marine Corps and Special Operations Command are moving forward to integrate the lessons they have learned over the past 10 years battling for the hearts and minds of local populations.
He is a believer that a “seventh warfighting function” should be added to the Army's skill set. It acknowledges that the human and cultural domain is an important part of any battle zone. Understanding the nature of local populations is something that Army Special Operations Forces knows well.
Conflict hasn’t changed, Odierno said. People still want to dominate resources, populations and environs. That is what leads to conflict. “To me that is about the human domain/human dimension,” he told Washington, D.C.-based reporters May 7.
Odierno spearheaded the establishment last year of the office of strategic landpower, which will be staffed by Army, Marine Corps representatives and special operators. There will be offices in the Washington area and possibly one of the Army Training and Doctrine Command facilities, he said.
“To me it’s very important. We are trying to take the lessons we have learned over the past 10 or 11 years and then to project that into a more complex environment,” he said.
“One of the things we have learned is that this relationship between conventional and special operations forces is very important. We have worked very closely together over the past six or seven years. We have to continue to project that in the future,” he added.
At the heart of the seventh warfighting function concept is the acknowledgement that forces must also wage a war of ideas with adversaries.
A working group comprising members of Special Forces, TRADOC and other Army organizations is looking at whether SOF and its special skill sets should be considered as an essential part of the Army core capabilities. The other six warfighting functions are: mission command, movement and maneuver, intelligence, fires, sustainment and protection.
But the idea didn’t move forward then because the doctrine to support it was not yet in place.(See story in the May 2013 issue of National Defense Magazine)
“We can’t be revolutionary because of the uncertainty we have in the world today. We have to be evolutionary. We have to evolve,” Odierno said. Not everyone agrees with him, he acknowledged.
The new office will look at future conflicts and answer questions such as, how does the human dimension/human domain come into play? How does the Army need to adjust doctrine, organizations and its approach to missions?
Future wars will require the Army to engage in high-end combined maneuvers with some aspects of counterinsurgency, and stability operations mixed together, he said. The service must be prepared for to operate in a number of scenarios including potential conflicts in North Korea, Syria, Iran, or a failed Pakistani state.
Uncertainty “is what makes this time in history very different from others,” Odierno said.
“There are a variety of potential threats out there that could cause us to have to respond based on the president’s decision,” he said. One example is Syria.
“I kind of believe it is not a mater of ‘if,’ it is a matter of ‘when,’” the regime there falls, he said. He is concerned about the stability of that nation “the next day.” Nothing happens independently in the Middle East. A Syrian government collapse may have repercussions on Israel, Lebanon, Jordon, Iraq, Turkey, Saudi Arabia and Iran, he said. Throw in the complication of chemical and biological weapons and terrorists among the rebels, and “there is lots to be worried about,” he said.
“It could change the whole face of the Middle East or it could go smoothly,” he added.
While the Army could be called in to respond to any of these hotspots, budget issues such as sequestration and continuing resolutions are taking a toll on preparedness, he said.
“Our readiness is okay right now, but it is degrading significantly,” he said.
The Army has already canceled six combat training center rotations, and reduced flying time for aviators. The degraded readiness will now spill over into fiscal year 2014.
“We already start ‘14 with a hole because we haven’t done the training we wanted to do in ’13,” he said.
Check the National Defense Magazine blog for updates from the Special Operations Forces Industry Conference in Tampa May 14-16.
Photo Credit: Defense Dept.

Topics: Simulation Modeling Wargaming and Training, Special Operations-Low Intensity Conflict, Logistics

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