SOFIC NEWS: Special Operators Deploying to U.S. Tech Hubs
Photo: iStockU.S. Special Operations Forces are used to deploying to warzones like Afghanistan and other austere and dangerous regions of the world. Now, some are being sent to innovation hubs in the United States.
Gen. Richard Clarke, commander of Special Operations Command, has authorized the deployment of “technology liaison officers” to Silicon Valley, Boston, Austin, Texas and Washington, D.C., according to SOCOM Acquisition Executive Jim Smith.
“These are operational officers — not acquisition officers — that are going to be located in four very important technology centers in our country,” Smith said at the National Defense Industrial Association’s Special Operations Forces Industry Conference. “These will be folks that are out there looking across the labs and academia and industry partners for those capabilities that we can pull into USSOCOM, or that you want to push to USSOCOM,” he told attendees at the virtual confab.
The personnel will be focused on high-tech solutions for the command’s top modernization priorities, which include: next-generation intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance; next-gen mobility; hyper-enabled operator; biotechnologies; data and networks; and precision fires.
One of the liaison officers, or LNOs, is already in place in Washington. The ones assigned to Silicon Valley and Boston are coming on board this summer. The position in Austin has yet to be filled, Smith said.
Additionally, the command has authorized non-commissioned officers from each of the components of SOCOM — Air Force Special Operations Command, Army Special Operations Command, Marine Special Operations Command and Naval Special Warfare Command — to join what Smith called the new “SOF technology network” this summer.
“What I'm envisioning is a very vibrant network of requirements coming in from the components and then being put out to our technology LNOs out there; and then your capabilities coming in through the technology LNOs and being assessed by our great NCOs,” Smith told conference attendees.
The network is expected to reach initial operating capability this summer.
“I plan to get this network humming as quickly as I can,” Smith said. “So, I think it would behoove you — wherever you are in the country — to kind of know who your local SOCOM [technology liaison] person is and get to know them.”
Col. Scott Giller is the command’s tech liaison officer in Washington. Lt. Col. Sean Cochran and Lt. Col. Adam Caruso will be stationed in Silicon Valley and Boston, respectively.
Sending personnel to the nation’s tech hubs to bridge the divide between the military and the commercial sector has been an increasing focus for the Defense Department in recent years.
The Defense Innovation Unit, launched in 2015 by then-Secretary of Defense Ash Carter, is headquartered in Mountain View, California, in Silicon Valley, and has additional outposts in Austin and Boston as well as the Pentagon.
Army Futures Command, which was established in 2018 to spearhead the service’s top modernization initiatives, is headquartered in Austin.
Additionally, Special Operations Command is closely partnered with SOFWERX, which was created in 2015 to work with nontraditional collaborators in industry and academia to address the command’s technology challenges. SOFWERX is located in Tampa, Florida, where SOCOM is headquartered.