Special Operations Command North (SOCNORTH)
Special Operations Division, J3 Operations Directorate, NORTHCOM
Special Operations Command North (SOCNORTH), US Northern Command's Theater Special Operations Command (TSOC), has the ability to provide unique capabilities for Defense Support to Civil Authorities during natural or man-made disasters, as well as Homeland Defense and Theater Security Cooperation. For example, per the Maritime Operational Threat Response (MOTR), Special Operations and other DoD forces have a critical role in responding to high-end maritime threats to the homeland. Special Operations Forces also bring unique capabilities to disaster response. SOCNORTH continues as the lead entity for security cooperation functions previously handled through NORHTCOM's Special Operations Division.
Functionally, the establishment of SOCNORTH was an administrative change and expansion of NORTHCOM's Special Operations Division (SOD), a staff division within the J3 Operations Directorate of the NORTHCOM headquarters. The replacement of NORTHCOM's SOD with SOCNORTH placed a component commander in charge of things already being done and allowed for expansion to meet mission requirements.
The SOD had filled the role of a theater special operations command prior to the establishment of SOCNORTH by serving as the theater special operations advisor to the Commander, NORTHCOM and by integrating special operations into theater plans and operations. The SOD's roles and responsibilities had already expanded since June 2002 when the NORTHCOM Implementation Plan established an MFP-2 resourced SOD to perform special operations staff functions. The volume and urgency of developing and implementing critical war on terrorism plans, as well as planning, monitoring and assessing special operations, activities and actions (e.g. Joint Combined Exchange Training, Subject Matter Expert Exchanges, and Integrated Surveys) contributed to expanding the SOD's role.
The SOD's overall mission had been to, as directed by the NORTHCOM J3, integrate special operations equities throughout NORTHCOM plans, exercises and resources; execute special operations activities and actions within the area of responsibility; and synchronize the command's Global War on Terror (subsequently Overseas Contingency Operations) efforts with SOCOM to achieve the NORTHCOM Commander's objectives. The SOD's ultimate purpose was to combine special operations, activities, and actions to defend the homeland against asymmetric threats. The SOD integrated special operations throughout the continuum of missions, served as the command's synchronization linkage to USSOCOM for the Global War on Terror, and was organized to plan, exercise and execute in accordance with the campaign's direct and indirect approach strategy. This was a coordinated effort within the command, other federal agencies and departments, and Mexican and Canadian special operations partners. The SOD's goal was to create and maintain a robust network of relationships and rapid planning and execution capabilities that result in successful operations, actions and activities to defeat terrorist threats and support the command's broader objectives in the NORTHCOM area of responsibility.
As of August 2008, the SOD consisted of 25 personnel, which included military, government employees, and contractors, all with Army, Air Force, and Navy special operations expertise. The SOD was an integral component to the battle staff and led several key NORTHCOM teams, boards, and cells, to include the Counterterrorism Assessment Team (CTAT), the War on Terror Synchronization Team, the War on Terror Assessment Board, the Counterterrorism Joint Targeting Coordination Board (CT-JTCB), and the Compartmented Plans and Operations Cell (CPOC). The SOD also hosted the SOCOM and Joint Special Operations Command (JSOC) liason officers, and maintained strong ties to the command's interagency representatives.
On 31 December 2012, Secretary of Defense Panetta approved a request by General Jacoby, the commander of US Northern Command (NORTHCOM), and Admiral McRaven, the commander of US Special Operations Command (SOCOM) to establish a theater special operations command at NORTHCOM, subsequently designated Special Operations Command North (SOCNORTH). The establishment of a theater special operations command for NORTHCOM was intended to enhance execution of NORTHCOM's existing defense support to civil authorities, security cooperation, and homeland defense responsibilities. The establishment of SOCNORTH also provided NORTHCOM with a command and control structure that matched that of all other geographic combatant commanders. SOCNORTH was initially established as a provisional command, but was scheduled to achieve initial operational capability in 2014.
In January 2013, it was announced that NORTHCOM would look to expand its training cooperation with Mexican security forces engaged in counternarcotics and other operations. This training had grown out of the Merida Initiative, formalized in 2008, and the desire to expand the program was part of the decision to create a Theater Special Operations Command within NORTHCOM in December 2012. SOCNORTH would also continue to be involved in other security cooperation activities.
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