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‘Prevent, Prepare’ Key Special Ops Roles, Official Says

By Karen Parrish
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Feb. 10, 2011 – The 2010 Quadrennial Defense Review outlined strategic defense priorities: prevail in war, prevent and deter conflict, prepare for future conflicts and contingencies, and preserve and enhance the force.

“Today I want to unpack the … ‘prevent’ and ‘prepare,’ and discuss how I see [special operations forces] playing a critical role in both of those areas,” Dr. Janine Davidson, deputy assistant secretary of defense for plans, yesterday told attendees here at the National Defense Industrial Association’s 22nd Annual Special Operations and Low-intensity Conflict Symposium.

“What kind of conflicts are we trying to prepare [for] and prevent?” Davidson asked symposium attendees.

Nuclear proliferation, climate change, global pandemics, transnational criminal organizations and terrorism, Davidson said, make up a set of national security challenges more complex than ever before. She noted that future conflicts will more closely resemble current wars.

The response to these challenges requires culturally aware fighters, 21st-century intelligence resources, and a delicate approach to transitioning to peace, she said.

“These complexities are compounded … by an emerging period of fiscal constraint for our federal government,” Davidson said. “We must ask: ‘What can we do smarter, more effectively, and more efficiently while still meeting our defense priorities to protect the American people?’”

Unity of effort across “3-D” -- diplomatic, developmental and defense -- capabilities will remain as critical in the future as it is to today’s capabilities, Davidson said.

Coordination and planning with interagency partners are necessary, she said, but a successful “3-D” effort also will require “insight and knowledge –- something the [special operations] community has excelled at.”

Just as the community developed successful approaches for urban warfare, foreign internal defense and counterinsurgency conflicts, special operations will need to “put their brains around these new challenges,” she said.

One aspect of current conflicts that needs attention, she said, is the security gap created by the historically separate roles of American military and law enforcement organizations.

That gap, she said, is “being exploited by insurgents in the field as well as increasingly sophisticated transnational drug cartels and traffickers, regionally and on a global scale.”

It will take a whole-of-government effort and a thorough understanding of how the “bad guys” operate to counter them, Davidson said.

In transition situations such as in Iraq and the planned security transfer in Afghanistan, Davidson said, it will be important for the military to better understand diplomacy and development.

Realistically, she said, transfer to civilian-led operations doesn’t mean the military exits, but rather defense forces will continue to support their civilian counterparts.

Special operations forces will be critical in 3-D efforts, Davidson said, given “their special skill-sets and talent for bridging gaps among certain populations and communities.”

Only a rigorous effort to understand the differing requirements of defense, development and diplomacy, coupled with careful consideration of possible unintended outcomes, will allow a whole-of-government approach to succeed, she concluded.

 

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Biographies:
Dr. Janine Davidson


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