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Special Operations Eyes Present, Future Threats

By Jim Garamone DoD News, Defense Media Activity

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WASHINGTON, January 28, 2015 — Special operations forces are very busy today, but they must also plan to confront future threats, Michael J. Dumont, the principle deputy assistant secretary of defense for special operations/low-intensity conflict said here yesterday.

Dumont spoke during the National Defense Industrial Association’s Special Operations/Low-intensity Conflict Symposium here.

There is no shortage of threats, the deputy assistant secretary said. Special operations personnel are confronting the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant terror group in Iraq and are planning to train Syrian moderate forces opposed to ISIL, he said.

An Array of Threats

Russia’s annexation of Crimea and further incursions into Ukraine are also issues for special operators and they are working with NATO allies and partner nations in Eastern and Central Europe to counter the Russian provocations, Dumont said.

Boko Haram in Nigeria, Abu Sayyaf in the Philippines, al Shabob in Somalia, transnational crime syndicates in Central America -- all of these are threats to the United States and its allies, he said. And, all are threats, he added, that special operators must understand and deal with.

Long after these specific threats fade, special operators will still be involved in counterterrorism and counternarcotics operations, peacekeeping and stability operations, Dumont said. Special operations must also understand how to operate in the cyber environment. Dumont called this last “a complex issue, but one that is emerging as we’ve seen in recent [cyber] attacks.”

Vital Component of U.S. Military

Dumont’s office in the Pentagon oversees policy decisions and the budget for special operations forces to ensure they have what they need today and tomorrow. Special operations, he said, is recognized as a vital component of the U.S. military.

“Despite the austere [budget] environment that exists, the administration and Congress have demonstrated a clear commitment to the SOF community,” he said. “I think you will see that evidence in the SOF budget for the current fiscal year.”

But long-term problems require long-term strategic thinking and resourcing decisions, Dumont said. And the world is not going to get less complex. “What this does is show us that we need to work together -- as an industry, as defense establishment, as a government -- for solutions to complex problems ranging from countering violent extremism to stopping money laundering that fuel terror organizations and the like,” he said.

This is more than listing the data points and understanding ambiguity, he said. “We also need to open up the aperture and get perspectives from a range of sources -- sources we’ve never considered before, maybe even sources we don’t particularly care for,” Dumont said.

“To make big decisions, we need a big view -- a holistic view,” he said. “In our work, the ability to decide also requires speed joined by rigorous analysis.”

And, the special operations community must invest in people and the capabilities they require for success, Dumont said.

(Follow Jim Garamone on Twitter: @garamoneDoDNews)