Having emerged from the Cold War as a uniquely postured superpower, America's armed forces stand at the threshold of a new millennium -- peering into a seething cauldron of global activity.
As we venture into an uncertain future, threats to U.S. interests are developing new dimensions. We are being increasingly challenged by regional instability, transnational dangers, asymmetric threats and the likelihood of unpredictable events -- threats that are not easily addressed by simple force-on-force calculations.
To meet these challenges, we must leverage the best capabilities and potential of our armed forces. This will be a difficult undertaking, for as Joint Vision 2010 counsels, "We will have to make hard choices to achieve the trade-offs that will bring the best balance, most capability and greatest interoperability for the least cost." America's special operations forces (SOF) have an important and growing role in addressing many of these challenges, and effectively satisfy[ing] the cost-benefit criteria.
Since being created by the Cohen-Nunn Amendment to the DoD Authorization Act of 1987, the U.S. Special Operations Command (USSOCOM) has provided highly trained, rapidly deployable and regionally focused SOF in support of global requirements from the National Command Authorities, the geographic commanders in chief, and our American ambassadors and their country teams.
During 1997, SOF deployed to 144 countries around the world, with an average of 4,760 SOF personnel deployed per week -- a threefold increase in missions since 1991.
SOF consists of over 46,000 people, active and reserve, that are organized into a variety of land, sea and aerospace forces including: