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U.S. Special Operations Officials Underscore Continued Role in Deterring Conflict

U.S. special operations forces continue to deliver critical advantages as the Defense Department confronts a changing national security landscape, top officials said today.

Army Gen. Bryan P. Fenton, commander of U.S. Special Operations Command said that in addition to honing key counterterrorism capabilities throughout the Global War on Terror, the special operations community has maintained its roots in deterring and defeating strategic threats.

A soldier in uniform gestures with his hands as he speaks.
Bryan P. Fenton
Army Gen. Bryan P. Fenton, commander of U.S. Special Operations Command, speaks with U.S. Special Operations Command Africa troops in Manda Bay, Kenya, July 25, 2023
Photo By: Air Force Airman 1st Class Natalie Vandergriff
VIRIN: 230725-F-YD744-1338

He said the joint special operations communities' experience in strategic competition and integrated deterrence will pay dividends as the U.S. faces increasing competition with China, Russia's increasing aggression and Iran's malign activities throughout the Middle East.

"To be clear, DOD's main effort, integrated deterrence, is Socom's main effort," Fenton said in testimony to the House Armed Services Intelligence and Special Operations Subcommittee.  

"Since 1942, your SOF has accumulated six decades of strategic competition experience, now combined with over two decades of hard-earned combat experience in the Global War on Terror," he said. "These eight decades make your special operations tailormade for this era." 

Special operations forces provide the U.S. with strategic options to prevent great power conflict and ensure the joint force prevails should conflict occur, he said, adding that "integrated deterrence and strategic competition are in our DNA." 

Fenton testified alongside Christopher P. Maier, assistant secretary of defense for special operations and low-intensity conflict, who outlined before lawmakers the impacts special operations forces were having in the changing national security environment.

A service member watches two other troops move up a ladder hanging from a military helicopter.
Hovering Hues
East coast based Naval Special Warfare operators fast-rope onto a training vessel during a maritime interdiction operation exercise in Virginia Beach, Va., Nov. 7, 2023.
Photo By: Navy Petty Officer 1st Class Trey Hutcheson
VIRIN: 231107-N-VQ790-1144

In the Pacific, special operations forces' presence and engagement have produced tangible impacts aligned with U.S. efforts to prevent competition with China veering into conflict, Maier said.

He added that special operations forces remained aligned with partners from U.S. Space Command, U.S. Cyber Command and U.S. Strategic Command and are well positioned to "operationalize" integrated deterrence against China.

In Europe, Maier noted U.S. special operations forces' ability to draw on "generational relationships with Ukraine in aiding its fight against Russian aggression." 

He added special operations forces are deepening integration with NATO's newest member, Sweden, as well as with Norway, a founding member of the alliance.

"With these partners and others, SOF is ready for operations in the Arctic," Maier said.

A civilian speaks with service members in uniform.
Troop Talk
Christopher P. Maier, Assistant Secretary of Defense for Special Operations and Low-Intensity Conflict, speaks with U.S. Special Operations Command Africa troops at Camp Lemonnier, Djibouti, July 23, 2023.
Photo By: Air Force Airman 1st Class Natalie Vandergriff
VIRIN: 230723-F-YD744-1140

Fenton said to combat the range of threats the U.S. faces, Socom delivers "asymmetric and asynchronous advantage for DOD." 

Those advantages are enabled by the special operations community's focus on its people.  

"Your special operations attract the most talented men and women driven to solve the most complex problems in politically sensitive and contested environments," he said. "And with them, we win by asymmetrically deterring our adversaries, tearing apart violent extremist organizations and rapidly responding to crisis."

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