Part Ii -the Tools of Influence and Access Ussocom and Sof: War Around the Edges

PART II - THE TOOLS OF INFLUENCE AND ACCESS
USSOCOM and SOF: War Around the Edges
Eric T. Olson*
INTRODUCTION . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 71
I. WHY DO WE HAVE A USSOCOM AND SOF?. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 72
II. USSOCOM, SOF, AND THE PIVOT TO CHINA . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 74
III. USSOCOM AS A MILITARY SERVICE? . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 75
IV. WHAT IS AN ASD (SO/LIC)? . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 76
V. THE PEOPLE OF SOF.................................... 77
VI. EQUIPPING SOF. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 78
CONCLUSION: SOF AS AN ENTERPRISE. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 79
INTRODUCTION
Over the past 35 years, the U.S. Special Operations Forces’ expertise in asym-
metrical, indirect, and direct action warfare has made them the envy of the
world’s militaries. They’re not perfect by any means, but they are lean, effective,
and mostly successful, with well-earned reputations for innovation, audacity,
teamwork, tenacity, and courage. Their tactical actions often have strategic
impact. Once known as quiet professionals, their continuous engagement in the
wars of the last two decades has enabled the celebration of many victories,
required the mourning of many lost teammates, and – most unexpectedly
dragged these warriors uncomfortably from the shadows such that they are now
cause for great American pride.
But spending these last two decades focused primarily on larger-scale, endur-
ing conf‌licts has required the United States Special Operations Command
(USSOCOM) and its Special Operations Forces (SOF) to rebalance.
1
SOF is a
smaller scale force and its traditional roles in rapid deployment direct action and
longer-term global training gave way to continuous combat deployments on the
conventionally organized battlef‌ields of Afghanistan and Iraq, where SOF tactical
units often served under non-SOF commanders.
During this period, the force has more than doubled in size, more than tripled
in budget, and—during the more intense periods—more than quadrupled in
* Eric T. Olson is a former commander of U.S. Special Operations Command. © 2021, Eric T.
Olson.
1. USSOCOM is the United States Special Operations Command, a headquarters with primary
responsibility for organizing, training, equipping, and deploying SOF. SOF is the Special Operations
Force or Special Operations Forces, used almost interchangeably in singular or plural. “Special Forces”
is a term that refers specif‌ically to the Army’s “Green Berets.”
71

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