The Largest Security-Cleared Career Network for Defense and Intelligence Jobs - JOIN NOW


U.S. Special Operations Command

US Special Operations Command [USSOCOM] was formally established as a unified combatant command at MacDill AFB, FL, on 16 April 1987, and commanded by a four star general officer with the title of Commander in Chief, United States Special Operations Command (USCINCSOC). USSOCOM, one of nine unified commands in the US military's combatant command structure, is composed of Army, Navy, and Air Force SOF. USSOCOM's mission is to support the geographic CINCs, ambassadors and their country teams, and other government agencies by preparing SOF to successfully conduct special operations, including CA and PSYOP. US Special Operations Command had an annual budget of $4.9 billion for FY2002, about 1.3 percent of the overall DOD budget.

In July 2002 Defense Secretary Rumsfeld ordered Air Force Gen. Charles Holland, who heads US Special Operations Command, to come up with a new campaign plan for using special-operations forces to locate and eliminate terrorists around the world. In September 2002 it was reported that Gen. Holland told the Pentagon he needed $23 billion in added spending during the next five years beginning with the budget that starts 01 October 2004, nearly a doubling of his allocation. The budget request would add $4.6 billion annually over five years, nearly doubling annual spending on the operations. Gen. Holland also requested that the special operations community of 47,000 personnel be increased by 9,000. Special-operation commanders normally like to maintain a ratio of 3-to-1: For every unit deployed, commanders want three stateside training and resting for the next mission.

In October 2002 SOCOM's estimates submitted to Rumsfeld in recent days put the figure closer to $50 billion over the next several years. SOCOM planned to use the money to increase the number of support personnel and add more special operatives. Some of the money might also go toward fielding the CV-22.

The commander in chief of USSOCOM (USCINCSOC) has two roles. In his capacity as a supporting CINC, he provides trained and ready SOF. In his role as a supported CINC, the USCINCSOC must be prepared to exercise command of selected special operations missions when directed by the NCA.

Congress mandated the creation of USSOCOM in 1987 to correct serious deficiencies in the ability of the United States to conduct special operations and engage in low-intensity conflict activities. The command was assigned many service-like responsibilities, including training, ensuring combat readiness, monitoring personnel promotions and assignments, and developing and acquiring SOF-peculiar equipment. USSOCOM was also given responsibility for managing a separate major force program (MFP), MFP-11, which ensures the SOF program has visibility at the Department of Defense and congressional levels. These last two tasks give USSOCOM great flexibility in training, equipping, and employing its forces. USCINCSOC is the sole unified commander with responsibility for planning, programming, and budgeting of military forces. In addition, he has the authority similar to that of a service chief for the development and acquisition of special operations-peculiar equipment, materials, supplies, and services. In short, he is the only CINC with a checkbook.

Under the same legislation that created USSOCOM, Congress also established the Office of the Assistant Secretary of Defense for Special Operations and Low-Intensity Conflict (ASD(SO/LIC)) as the policy and resource focal point for all special operations and low-intensity conflict activities of the Department of Defense. Aided by these reforms, enormous improvements in the readiness and capabilities of special operations forces were made.

Special Operations (SO) encompass the use of small units in direct or indirect military actions focused on strategic or operational objectives. They require units with combinations of trained specialized personnel, equipment, and tactics that exceed the routine capabilities of conventional military forces. SO are characterized by certain attributes that cumulatively distinguish them from conventional operations. These operations are politically sensitive missions where only the best equipped and most proficient forces must be deployed to avoid detection and possible mission failure that can result in damage to US prestige and interests.

All SOF of the Army, Navy, and Air Force based in the United States are placed under USCINCSOC's combatant command. USSOCOM has three service component commands: Army Special Operations Command (USASOC) Ft. Bragg, NC; Naval Special Warfare Command (NAVSPECWARCOM) Coronado, CA; Air Force Special Operations Command (AFSOC) Hurlburt Field, FL; and one sub-unified command, Joint Special Operations Command (JSOC) Ft. Bragg, NC. USSOCOM exists to provide special operations forces to the National Command Authority (NCA), regional combatant commanders, and American ambassadors and their country teams for successful conduct of special operations during both peace and war. USSOCOM prepares SOF to successfully conduct special operations, including civil affairs and psychological operations.

Responsibilities of USSOCOM include:

  • Readiness of assigned forces and monitoring the readiness of overseas SOF.
  • Monitoring the professional development of all SOF personnel.
  • Developing joint SOF tactics, techniques, and procedures.
  • Conducting specialized courses of instruction.
  • Training assigned forces.
  • Executing its own program and budget (its funding comes directly from Congress and not from the Services).
  • Conducting research, development, and acquisition of special operations peculiar items.

Since 1988 each of the theater unified commands have established a separate Special Operations Command (SOC) to meet its theater-unique special operations requirements. As subordinate unified commands, the theater SOCs provide the planning, preparation, and command and control of SOF from the Army, Navy, and Air Force. They ensure that SOF strategic capabilities are fully employed and that SOF are fully synchronized with conventional military operations, when applicable.

Theater SOCs offer several advantages to regional commanders. As peacetime elements, the SOCs are the nucleus around which a Joint Special Operations Task Force (JSOTF) can be structured. They provide a clear chain of command for in-theater SOF as well as the staff expertise to plan, conduct, and support joint SO in the theater's area of responsibility. These special operations may include General Purpose Forces (GPF) under operational control (OPCON) to a SOC. Theater SOCs normally exercise OPCON of SOF (except PSYOP and CA) within each geographic Commander in Chief's (CINC) area of responsibility. Additionally, the SOCs ensure that SOF personnel fully participate in theater mission planning and that theater component commanders are thoroughly familiar with SOF operational and support requirements and capabilities. While USCINCSOC provides funding and personnel for the SOCs, each SOC reports directly to the geographic CINC.

SOCs, established as sub-unified commands of the combatant unified commands, are the geographic CINCs' sources of expertise in all areas of special operations, providing the CINCs with a separate element to plan and control the employment of joint SOF in military operations. Additionally, SOCs provide the nucleus for the establishment of a joint special operations task force (JSOTF), when a joint task force is formed. There are six SOCs supporting geographic CINCs worldwide.

Special Operations Command, Central (SOCCENT), headquartered at MacDill AFB, Florida, is a subordinate unified command of US Central Command (USCENTCOM). It is responsible for planning special operations throughout the USCENTCOM area of responsibility (AOR); planning and conducting peacetime joint/combined special operations training exercises; and orchestrating command and control of peacetime and wartime special operations as directed. SOCCENT exercises operational control of assigned and attached SOF which deploy for the execution of training and for operational missions in the USCENTCOM AOR as directed by USCINCCENT. When directed by USCINCCENT, SOCCENT forms the nucleus of a JSOTF.

On November 01, 2005, the Department of Defense announced that the Secretary of Defense had approved a joint recommendation by U.S. Special Operations Command (USSOCOM) and the Marine Corps to create a Marine special operations command (MARSOC) as a component of USSOCOM.

Join the mailing list

One Billion Americans: The Case for Thinking Bigger - by Matthew Yglesias

Page last modified: 04-02-2014 16:43:31 ZULU