Special Operations Takes Front-Line Role in Anti-Terror War
By Gerry J. Gilmore
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, March 12, 2004 U.S. special operations troops have become a key military weapon in the war on terrorism, DoD's top special operations official told U.S. House of Representatives' members here March 11.
Special operators are "taking the war to the terrorists before it can be fought on our own soil or that of our allies," Thomas W. O'Connell said in testimony before the House Terrorism, Unconventional Threats and Capabilities Subcommittee. O'Connell is the assistant secretary of defense for special operations and low-intensity conflict.
He told House members that special operations forces played a front-line role in routing the Taliban and disrupting al Qaeda's influence in Afghanistan, as well as "destroying the brutal (Saddam Hussein) regime in Iraq."
U.S. special operations forces, O'Connell pointed out, are also assisting Colombian and Philippine authorities in their fight against terrorists.
New global realities brought about by the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks on the United States, he asserted, have given special operators "a prominent, front-line, essential role in the defense of our nation."
Consequently, U.S. special operations has required "necessary increases in support and training" to continue the fight against global terrorism, O'Connell noted. The proposed fiscal 2005 DoD budget, he pointed out, provides $6.6 billion for special operations' needs, a 34 percent funding boost over last year.
Some proposed new funding will be used to add 3,700 more special operations' troops to the rolls over the next five years, O'Connell noted, a personnel boost necessitated by "a significant increase in operational tempo."
The increased funding for special operations is "essential to sustaining the necessary operations in the war on terrorism and to ensuring we can meet essential transformation requirements," O'Connell said.
He pointed out the extra money will also be used to track terrorists and mount stealthy attacks against them; maintain operations in places where terrorists are operating; purchase required aircraft manufactured to meet special operations' unique needs; and improve special operations' communications network.
In the wake of 9/11 and in acknowledgement of a changed national security environment, O'Connell noted that U.S. special operations has become "a global, proactive and preemptive force."
As special operations forces continue to evolve to meet 21st century contingencies such as global terrorism, O'Connell suggested that lessons learned could also be applied in the transformation of Cold War-era, legacy forces.
Special operations' innovations, O'Connell declared, "can be a critical tool to inform the evolution of the larger military and support the transformation of our national defense as a whole in coming years."