Abolish SOCOM

BY Herschel Smith
7 years, 3 months ago

Regular readers already know my history regarding special forces (and read here also special operations forces).  While on the one hand advocating specialized billets for certain forces that would  be too expensive to establish across the board, I have also strongly advocated against the reliance on SOF as direct action troops while relegating GPF (general purpose forces) to counterinsurgency efforts and policing the population.

SOF troops come in the middle of the night and kill high value targets (always members of some one’s family), disappear into the night, and leave the GPF to explain the next day why it all occurred.  It’s horrible for the campaign, bad for morale within the GPF, bad for maintenance of capabilities within the GPF, and bad for the overall qualifications of SOF and SF.

Furthermore, it misses the point of why SF were created.  Finally, it allows the degradation of the qualifications and capabilities of GPF by rule, regulation and law.  To rehearse yet another sore spot, I have strongly opposed women in combat billets, and yet with the division of SOF to perform DA missions and GPF to perform COIN, it makes it easier to justify women in these billets, especially if they operate out of huge bases rather than from combat outposts.  The Army in the Korengal Valley has proven that GPF can do what is needed in terms of DA missions and other combat.  The Marines in the Helmand Province have also shown why only males are allowed in combat billets (with combat loads of 120+ pounds).

The Small Wars Journal has an interesting commentary on whether SOCOM has outlived its usefulness.  You can read the entire commentary at the SWJ, but a few comments are lifted out and given below.

… many outside the military establishment are enamored with the myth and romanticism of Special Operations. There are so many “groupies” among staffers and in academia that it is hard to see Special Operations for what it really is and what it has become. And within the military, Special Operations has been “hijacked” by a group of hyper-conventional Ranger types and other supporting elements that Special Operations and most important, its heart and soul – Special Forces – has lost its way …

USSOCOM has allowed itself to become dominated by the hyper-conventional side of SOF with domination by the so-called direct action forces to the detriment of Special Forces, Civil Affairs, and Psychological Operations. The cultures of these two types of forces hinder effective cooperation and coordination. There is probably more disdain between the direct and indirect forces of SOF than there is between SOF and conventional forces.

The entire paper is worth the study time.  A comment made by MAJ Mike Dhunjishah is also telling:

As a former 7th SFG officer who has been away from group for several years, I find it interesting to talk to my contemporaries who, upon returning to group, find that SF has indeed “lost its way.” I’m not sure who is to blame, but it seems as if Army SF is focused on DA at the expense of UW. After 9/11, Army SF filled a void that General Purpose Forces (GPF) could not regarding DA missions. However, now, 8 years later, the GPF have developed the capability to do all but the most complicated DA missions. Therefore, it is time for SF to do what SF was created to do; conduct missions that the GPF cannot. We need to refocus on the hard stuff, read UW, before we lose our institutional knowledge. Great article on some of the hard questions Army SF and the Special Operations community in general needs to address.

Finally, as one pictorial depiction of just what is being said, see this photo taken from Foreign Policy.

SOF_Beards

I’ll let you read Foreign Policy’s take on why this bearded SOF is not good for the campaign.  But take note of what has happened.  This special operator no longer looks anything like any of the Afghanis, even if he is SF and not SOF.  If he is SOF performing direction action operations along with other SOF operators, then with the backwards ball cap, sleeveless shirt and lack of a uniform, he simply looks like an undisciplined thug.  Nothing more.  He doesn’t need to look like he does.  He has no compelling reason to appear thuggish and silly.

Again to the position that I have pressed: just like Force Recon Marines, attach all SOF to infantry (and Force Recon has no business with SOCOM, as they are simply another Marine billet attached to infantry).  If an infantry unit needs a specialized billet, then train to that billet.  Rely on GPF to perform most if not all DA missions, and this reliance will shape the force.  It’s time to end the absurdity that has become SOCOM.  If you want the romantic notion of direct action SOF operators who perform missions like those that can be found in Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 (air support from the AC-130), then train a few operators to do this.  It’s still better to make this capability more widely distributed rather than less, and to attach these troopers to infantry.

Prior:

The Cult of Special Forces

Special Operations Forces Navel Gazing

Fathers and Sons, Diamonds and Goats

Special Forces category

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Tweets that mention The Captain's Journal » Abolish SOCOM -- Topsy.com

[…] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Michael Ehline, Captain's Journal. Captain's Journal said: New post: Abolish SOCOM http://www.captainsjournal.com/2009/12/13/abolish-socom/ […]

Townie 76
Member

Interesting post. If the SF must look like Coxe’s Army so be it; but don’t have your picture taken! You are right he looks like a thug.

jbrookins
Guest
I had to take a couple days to digest your post here before I wrote but feel I can comment after re-reading. First off I think you have some valid points and certainly this had been a battle for years in the military community. As a Special Forces soldiers with roughly 23 yrs in these are my thoughts. One I agree we should not rely on SOF forces for all direct action. However many direct action operations I don’t feel could be handled by Conventional forces. I’m not talking major operations which I think Conventional forces are well suited for but smaller in and out operations which SOF forces train specifically for. The idea that Conventional forces must explain a middle of the night raid by SOF forces is a bit off. Generally these raids aren’t for the fun of it and friends, neighbors and relatives are not mindless innocents most times. That does not mean at times when bad intelligence instigates a raid the SOF forces shouldn’t do their own explaining. That being said I’m not a great fan of SOF. I’m Special Forces and frankly in and out raids don’t often change the situation on the ground very… Read more »
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Another argument for increased engagement « EUCOMversations

[…] just this week and another post on a separate site that was influenced by the SWJ post, entitled Abolish SOCOM.  Although I don’t agree with the authors’ assessments, I am confident that some […]

Boot
Member

Captain,
Thought provoking post especially since I have been nominated for a tour at USSOCOM. I now feel like I am walking into oblivion!
I have to agree with some of the comments of jbrookins also. Lastly you are dead off on your assessment of Marine Force Recon. They are NOT just infantry or a billet in infantry. Do they belong in SOCOM?, I think there is a place for their deep recon skills AND much of their training is similar or the same as SeAL platoons. Force Reconnaissance is a specialized skill with a specialized mission that serves the Division and MEF commanders.
I would say there is so much misconceptions about all SOF, SF and Marine organizations that its getting kind of stupid.

Boot
Member

Captain,
Again Force Recon is NOT infantry. They are NOT specialized infantry and have never been attached as a billet in the infantry. Two types of Recon in the Marine Corps is Force Recon and BN Recon. Traditionally Force the MEF CMD’s eyes and ears that could be anywhere from where BN Recons AO dropped off up to 200K inland. Force and BN Recon are their own organizational units one falls under the Division Commander one the MEF Commander.

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The Captain's Journal » High Value Target Campaign is Failing in Afghanistan

[…] months ago I said: SOF troops come in the middle of the night and kill high value targets (always members of some […]

Ringo
Guest
Does the United States need US Special Operations Command cannot really be completely answered without first understanding the evolution and de-evolution of the mission of SOCOM since 9/11. Almost overnight SOCOM transformed from a Title 10 HQ (man, train and equipment) with little or no operational authorities (outside those executed by its war-fighting three star component command), to a HQ with a global synchronization role against terrorist networks. In order to facilitate this new found mission, then General Brown created the Center for Special Operations, under the control (not command) of a two and subsequently three star general officer. The CSO was ideally organized (although extremely top heavy with multiple layers of senior officers) to perform its role as a global synchronizer because J2, J3, J5 and Interagency Task Force (IATF) functions were under the control and direction of a single director, but it also created numerous problems with span of control. Under this new configuration the command was split between executing its original Title 10 functions and the evolving and ambiguous mission of synchronizing the CT plans and planning of Geographical Commandant Commands. This responsibility automatically encountered friction both within the Interagency and DoD (e.g. the GCC’s and other… Read more »
Andy
Guest

When I was still at the Q-course, two years ago, we were told that USASFC and SWCS was putting a renewed emphasis on UW. Not sure if it’s where Mike Dhunjishah feels it should be, but SF definitely recognized that it needed to get back to what it’s best at.

S
Guest
I’m a SEAL. I’ve worked with SF my entire career, so the similarities are the same. I stumbled on this blog by accident as I was pulling info on various subjects. I couldn’t disagree more with the original post. The problem that we see whenever a “former” SOF/SF/NSW member speaks out is that things have typically already changed several times over. When these members leave their unit, they’re read-out of all classified information and can only draw on their experience…sometimes limited based on their deployment record and so on. When I see posts like this, it shows me how detached people can get from what’s currently going on. And the worst part is, those members typically use the hype and lore of the title “SF” or “SEAL” to give credibility to what they say. It is all just an opinion of the individual operator and not typically relevant to current operations. That being said, the “thug” in the picture is dressed exactly how he should be. When an enemy sniper starts scanning the area for a target, the typical high-and-tight soldier is going to draw first blood. This guy’s appearance will give him a few extra seconds to assess the… Read more »
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The Captain's Journal » Concerning Declarations Of War And Tech Ninjas

[…] Abolish SOCOM […]

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You are currently reading "Abolish SOCOM", entry #4318 on The Captain's Journal.

This article is filed under the category(s) Infantry,Special Forces and was published December 13th, 2009 by Herschel Smith.

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