September 24, 2013 defense-aerospace.com
(Source: Congressional Research Service; issued Sept. 18, 2013)
U.S. Special Operations Forces (SOF): Background and Issues for Congress
Special Operations Forces (SOF) play a significant role in U.S. military operations, and the Administration has given U.S. SOF greater responsibility for planning and conducting worldwide counterterrorism operations.
U.S. Special Operations Command (USSOCOM) has about 67,000 active duty, National Guard, and reserve personnel from all four services and Department of Defense (DOD) civilians assigned to its headquarters, its four components, and one sub-unified command.
In February 2013, based on a request from USSOCOM and the concurrence of Geographic and Functional Combatant Commanders and Military Service Chiefs and Secretaries, the Secretary of Defense reassigned the Theater Special Operations Commands (TSOCs) to USSOCOM. This means that USSOCOM now has the responsibility to organize, train, and equip TSOCs as it previously had for all assigned SOF units. While USSOCOM is now responsible for the organizing, training, and equipping of TSOCs, the Geographic Combatant Commands will continue to have operational control over the TSOCs.
The current Unified Command Plan (UCP) stipulates USSOCOM is responsible only for synchronizing planning for global operations to combat terrorist networks. This limits its ability to conduct activities designed to deter emerging threats, build relationships with foreign militaries, and potentially develop greater access to foreign militaries. USSOCOM is proposing changes that would, in addition to its current responsibilities, include the responsibility for deploying and, when directed, employing SOF globally with the approval of the Geographic Combatant Command.
In March 2013, Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel directed a DOD-wide Strategic Choices Management Review (SCMR). SCMR proposals include a possible reduction of USSOCOM and Service Component Headquarters by as much as 20%, a reduction in headquarters intelligence staff and capabilities, and possible reductions to SOF force structure.
USSOCOM’s FY2014 budget request was $7.483 billion for Operations and Maintenance; $373.693 million for Research, Development, Test, & Evaluation; $1.614 billion for Procurement; and $441.528 million for Military Construction funding. These totals reflect both base budget and Overseas Contingency Operations (OCO) requests.
The House and Senate versions of the FY2014 National Defense Authorization Act recommended selected cuts in Operations and Maintenance funding, including limitations on spending for selected proposed family support programs, Regional SOF Coordination Centers, and the USSOCOM National Capitol Region.
The House and Senate Defense Appropriations bills also recommended cuts to the Operations and Maintenance budget request and had similar limitations on family support programs, Regional SOF Coordination Centers, USSOCOM National Capitol Region as well as expressed concern “regarding the quality of the operation and maintenance budget justification submitted by the Special Operations Command (SOCOM).”
Potential issues for Congress include U.S. SOF, the SCMR, and the upcoming 2014 QDR and the Global SOF Network and related concerns about its necessity and how certain aspects of this network will be developed in a highly resource-constrained budgetary environment. This report will be updated.
Click here for the full report (27 PDF pages) hosted on the website of the Federation of American Scientists (FAS).