August 4, 2015
Despite their “quiet professional” ethos, special operations forces have received a lot of attention in the past several years. From movies such as “Zero Dark Thirty” to speeches at football games and graduations, recent, public conversation about special operations forces has dispelled many of the myths and legends about this long misunderstood group of American war fighters.
Or has it? There’s no doubt that special operations forces perform some of the US military’s most sensitive and important missions. But the targeted raids that garner media attention represent just a fraction of what they do. As the number of troops assigned to US Special Operations Command has increased in recent years, so has the organization’s funding. But so have the number of deployments and the types of missions, and so has the presence of American special operators around the world. To keep our special operations forces at the ‘tip of the spear’ and to enable them to continue to drive innovation within the military, the next president will need to carefully consider when, how, and why he or she chooses to use them over other tools of national power.
1. Since September 11, 2001, both the size and budget of special operations forces have grown. Do you think that they have been used appropriately since that time?
The base budget for and the number of troops affiliated with the United States Special Operations Command have reached their highest levels since the command’s inception in 1987. Many would argue that the increased number and frequency of asymmetric threats faced by the United States justify the expansion. But as the conventional forces face increased budgetary pressure, it is tempting to use special operations forces for missions, such as large-scale stability operations and certain types of military assistance, which could be addressed as well or better by conventional forces. This temptation to use special operations forces—who operate below the radar of the American public—has too often proven too difficult for leaders to resist. If you were president, which missions would you prioritize for special operations forces, and which, in your opinion, would be better handled by the conventional force?
Read the full article at the American Enterprise Institute: 5 questions every presidential candidate should answer: Special operations forces edition