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Changes Proposed to U.S. Special Operations Command

By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Jan. 7, 2003 – U.S. Special Operations Command will receive more people, equipment and greater responsibility if President Bush accepts a DoD proposal.

During a Pentagon press conference today, Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld called the proposal another example of military transformation. He said the department is still set up to defend against armies, navies and air forces.

"In Afghanistan and elsewhere, we've seen the indispensable role that special operations forces have and are currently playing," he said. "Today, we're taking a number of steps to strengthen the U.S. Special Operations Command so it can make even greater contributions to the global war on terror."

A senior defense official speaking on background said the big change would allow the Florida-based command to become a "supported command." The command has traditionally been a "supporting" command, meaning that it has trained, organized and equipped special operations forces that regional commanders then use.

A senior military official said supported command status really was implicit in the Special Operations Command's charter, but just hadn't been used before. The senior defense official said the change does not require congressional approval.

The change means that Special Operations Command would receive more personnel to set up and run operations at headquarters and the theater special operations commands. Also, more people would be needed to handle an increase in acquisition responsibilities. Rumsfeld said the Army's 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment, based at Fort Campbell, Ky., would also receive more people and equipment.

The senior defense official said the change would allow the command to "plan strategically" to counter threats the department expects. The command will also receive command, control and communications facilities that would allow the commander to plan and execute operations worldwide.

The officials declined comment on press reports that speculate the command would receive 4,000 more people and a $7 billion budget.

The senior defense official stated that the Special Operations Command change is part and parcel with other changes the department has made, such as standing up U.S. Northern Command, merging Space and Strategic commands into a new U.S. Strategic Command, and realigning the duties and responsibilities of U.S. Joint Forces Command.

"In all four cases, we are trying to arrange those commands and give them the types of responsibilities and authorities that match the needs of the environment that we are in and the ones we anticipate," he said.

The change would mean that regional commanders would sometimes support U.S. Special Operations Command as it conducts missions. Each regional commander has theater special operations commands that normally answer to him, but in some cases, those subordinates will answer to Special Operations Command in Tampa. The senior defense official said this would give the U.S. military a bit more flexibility.

"What it means in practical terms is the theater special operations command would have access to (conventional) units that would act in response to its direction and control," he said.

The changes would also shift Special Operations Command mission priorities. The officials said there would be less emphasis on certain special airlift missions, counterdrug operations and routine foreign military training and civil support that other U.S. forces or agencies can pick up.

"The global nature of the war, the nature of the enemy and the need for fast, efficient operations for hunting down and rooting out terrorist networks have all contributed to the need for an expanded role for the special operations forces," Rumsfeld said. "We are transforming that command to meet the need."

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Related Sites:
DoD News Transcript: DoD News Briefing - Secretary Rumsfeld and Gen. Myers, Jan. 7, 2003
DoD News Transcript: Backgrounder with Senior Defense Officials on Special Operations, Jan. 7, 2003

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