More Special Forces

Phil Carter has an interesting post on a NYT report that we’re losing military special operators to private security firms and even the CIA. He concludes,

Finally, I think we should be very careful as we go about expanding special operations — which includes everything from Delta Force and the SEALs to Army Civil Affairs — in order to meet the demands of current and future operations. The key to special ops success is people; they wholeheartedly endorse the John Boyd saying of “People, Ideas, Hardware — in that order!” Special operations puts an enormous amount of resources into its people, and into building its units into the most professional and effective teams imaginable. Expanding special operations too quickly will almost certainly affect the quality of the special operations community, and that would be a very bad thing. It might make a lot more sense for the Army, for example, to make more of its units “special operations capable” like the Marines presently do with their MEUs prior to deployment. Similarly, it might make more sense to give Army units more full-spectrum capability in the area of low-intensity combat and stability operations, rather than standing up more Civil Affairs units and Special Forces units. The right answers are not necessarily apparent, and it may not be wise to simply throw money at the problem.

I agree with respect to most of the special operations forces. There’s a reason these guys are elite: not many people have the inherent abilities and mindsets these guys bring to the table; we can’t simply crank them out. I would disagree with respect to Civil Affairs and Psychological Operations forces, though. Not only do we have plenty of people with the talent for these jobs available but the last decade plus has demonstrated that the need for a whole lot more of these people isn’t going to go away any time soon. We’ve got most of those assets in the Reserve Component right now. That has to change.

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James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.