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Specials ops request funding to modernize, transform

by Army Sgt. 1st Class Doug Sample
American Forces Press Service

3/21/2005 - WASHINGTON (AFPN) -- A continued need for modernization and transformation of special operations forces brought that community’s leaders to Capitol Hill on March 17 to testify on their portion of the president’s military spending request.

The fiscal 2006 defense budget request that President Bush submitted to Congress includes a 3 percent increase in funding for U.S. Special Operations Command, for a total of $6.7 billion.

Thomas W. O’Connell, assistant secretary of defense for special operations and low-intensity conflict, and Army Gen. Bryan D. Brown, SOCOM commander, told the House terrorism and unconventional threats and capabilities subcommittee that the increased funding was needed to maintain “force readiness and sustainability,” and to provide the sufficient force structure to fight the war on terror.

In 2003, Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld expanded SOCOM’s role in the war on terrorism by giving the command a lead role in planning and synchronizing Defense Department activities.

“This increase is essential to sustaining the necessary operations and to ensuring we can meet the secretary’s transformation requirements,” Mr. O’Connell said.

He said the funding request will continue modernization and transformation efforts the command started two years ago.

Those efforts, Mr. O’Connell said, include transforming capabilities to better locate and track terrorists worldwide and to conduct small, surgical operations with minimal risk to the employed force, as well as to maintain sustained operations in areas where terrorist networks are operating.

The funding also would go toward continued investments in critical low-density and high-demand aviation assets that provide Special Forces units with the mobility necessary to deploy quickly and to execute their missions, he said.

Other funding will go toward better command, control and communications infrastructure, and to help SOCOM forces continue worldwide deployments and 24-hour-a-day operations.

During his testimony, General Brown said that his command’s priorities in the war on terrorism are “the readiness of our forces, and building SOF’s future capabilities to be even more capable to meet the demands of the changing strategic environment.”

He focused on a request for an $85 million increase in the command’s operations and maintenance budget, to $2.2 billion. That increase includes $22 million for training, as well as funds associated with sustaining SOF-specific weapons systems -- “technologies that enable our operators to become faster, stealthier, more precise, lethal, survivable and sustainable,” he said.

General Brown said the nation’s special operations capabilities cannot afford to stand still.

“Special operations forces will continue to play a lead role in this war by bringing terrorists, their supporters and their state facilitators to justice, or by bringing justice to them,” he said. “But winning this war will require new capabilities, sustainable increases in capacity and significant improvements in the global reach and speed of specials operations forces.”

General Brown told the committee that the “long-term success” in the war on terrorism depends largely on the military’s ability to rapidly employ a “sustainable mix of capabilities with little warning -- requiring agile, adaptive and responsive warriors.”

He said the command is quickly transforming its forces to better provide the “on-the-ground capability to operate in the different ‘gray areas’ around the world where conventional forces are traditionally uncomfortable.”

Mr. O’Connell warned lawmakers that the United States is at a “critical moment” in the war on terrorism.

“We have realized initial successes and achieved a degree of momentum that together support a general assessment that we are making progress in winning this war,” he said. “But sustaining that momentum and continuing the successes against terrorists and their supporters now and into the future is just as critical. We must ride the crest of successes of the Afghan and Iraqi elections to a new level of democratic processes in the region.”