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Leaders Update Special Ops Vision, Strategy  

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The civilian and military leaders of America's special operations forces have combined to issue the new Special Operations Forces Vision and Strategy to guide the force into the future.

Christopher P. Maier, the assistant secretary of defense for special operations and low-intensity conflict, and Army Gen. Richard D. Clarke, the commander of U.S. Special Operations Command, wrote the document as a handbook for the changing world security environment.  

A man surfaces in a frozen lake.
Immersion Training
An Army ranger participates in cold-water immersion training at Fort McCoy, Wis., Feb. 18, 2022.
Photo By: Army photo by Kevin Clark
VIRIN: 220218-A-UY387-9034A

This is especially important as the National Defense Strategy emphasizes the return of strategic competition with China and Russia.  

"The updated Special Operations Force Vision and Strategy reflects our overarching strategic guidance to the enterprise, highlighting force modernization, force employment, development and design, and helps ensure forces are postured to support the National Defense Strategy," Maier said in a written statement. "Aligned with national policy and strategy, the Vision and Strategy serves as the foundation for the shaping of SOF near-term and in the future as an adaptive, agile and capable force that can compete and prevail against any adversary, in any environment, while also recognizing the need to preserve and grow readiness and strengthen our force and families."  

The joint release of the Vision and Strategy highlights the cooperation at the highest levels of the community. "Special Operations Forces' full range of core activities, tailored capabilities and deep partnerships provide critical options for campaigning to bolster deterrence," Clarke said in a written statement. "These documents underpin our efforts to build enduring advantage. They ensure our special operations forces remain the most capable and credible in the world by providing a lasting foundation to guide future activities and investments focused on innovation, modernization and taking care of our most critical resource — our people."  

The vision statement takes the Special Ops core values of honor, courage, excellence, creativity and respect and pushes that basis into the future. Special operators must be "a resilient enterprise capable of conducting integrated all-domain special operations."  

Special operators, of course, have a role to play in countering moves by China  America's pacing challenge — and Russia — whose action in invading Ukraine shows the threat they may become.  

"China is currently the only nation capable of combining the economic, diplomatic, military and technological power to rival the U.S. and destabilize the international system that has advanced our interests for 75 years," the Vision and Strategy document says.  

But this doesn't mean the threats are any smaller from Iran, North Korea or from violent extremist organizations. Organizations like the Islamic State seek to reconstitute anywhere they can find a safe haven. Ungoverned, little governed or corruptly governed areas of the Middle East, Southwest Asia and especially Africa could provide that necessity.  

A man jumps out of an aircraft with snow-covered ground in the background.
Artic Edge
Navy SEALs conduct a high-altitude, low opening airborne operation in support of exercise Arctic Edge 2022 in Deadhorse, Ala., March 4, 2022.
Photo By: Air Force Staff Sgt. Alexzandria Gomez
VIRIN: 040322-N-SE123-0002A

The strategy looks to establish a 10-year framework of strategic aims, strategic efforts and resources to "create strategic and asymmetric advantages" for the United States.  

Over the next decade, special operators must be prepared "to conduct operations to support priority missions in critical locations as part of integrated deterrence, to reduce strategic risk and to facilitate integration with conventional forces during high-end conflict."  

The community also must modernize for the missions of the future. This is more than simply buying new equipment, but examining new concepts, doctrine, methods and capabilities.  

Staying true to its roots is yet another priority in this strategy with its strong emphasis on recruiting and retaining the best people for the missions. The force will also sustain the Defense Department's deployment-to-dwell and mobilization-to-dwell ratios.  

Again, regarding personnel, the strategy calls for emphasizing diversity and inclusion within the community while also calling for accountable leadership.  

Special operations forces will be key in helping the greater military operate with partner and allied military organizations, according to the strategy.  

Maier and Clarke see the Vision and Strategy as a chance to continue discussions within the special operations community. Still, they delineate what qualities they deem important and the path they would like to take — together — moving ahead.  

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