The Spellchek blog has been in existence for a few years now. We tend to meander all over the landscape with our blog topics, however, one area that we return to often is national defense. In particular, America’s national defense priorities. We’ve pointed out to you the important role natural resources play in our national defense strategy. But I don’t think we’ve spent enough time covering the ways and means by which those priorities are executed. Enter USSOCOM.

USSOCOM is the acronym for the United States Special Operations Command. Headquartered out of MacDill Air Force Base in Tampa,FL, and currently commanded by Adm. William McRaven. Essentially, USSOCOM is still in its infancy having just been formed in 1987. Their various commands comprise a force of approx. 66,000 and they deploy all over the globe. On any given day, they will be conducting ops in excess of 75 countries.

USSOCOM is the current, and for the foreseeable future, go to defense force protecting America and its interests. Both the budget and the role of the traditional forces are in decline.  The time of deploying a national defense capable of fighting two major wars at once are gone. The Army, Navy, Marines and Air Force are an outdated model more suited for repelling invasions or conducting occupational wars abroad, neither of which appear to be likely in the future. No, they won’t be disbanded anytime soon, but their role will increasingly modified to become more of a support role rather than the primary role they’ve been accustomed to for so many years.

The USSOCOM is the preferred vehicle for national defense for very basic reasons. Their operations and budgets are largely shielded from meddling by Congress. They also tend to be quicker and more mobile in response to constantly changing conditions in the global war theater. They are essentially joined at the hip with the NSA for intelligence. They also are the beneficiaries of Section 1208 of the Defense Budget Aid Program which gives them $50 million dollars annually to dole out to foreigners. This can be for any reason they want if there is a perceived intelligence value or simply to give direct aid to foreign fighters.

As Adm. McRaven points out in the Posture Statement of the USSOCOM given to Congress, Sec. 1208 is crucial.

Additionally, Section 1208 authority has been absolutely critical to our current and future efforts against al-Qa’ida and organizations of their ilk. It provides us the ability to apply a modest portion of our annual budget to deliver critical enablers to select irregular forces, groups or individuals, directly involved in the terrorism fight. This authority uniquely provides USSOCOM with access and skill sets in locations where the SECDEF has granted specific operational authority. This authority uniquely provides USSOCOM with access and skill sets in locations where we may not otherwise be able to operate, subject to SECDEF granting specific operational authority. The strategic value of enabling and leveraging such forces to carry out tactical operations alongside, or even in-lieu of, U.S. forces cannot be overstated. We are appreciative of Congress’ support for this authority since 2005, and are hopeful for continued support.

USSOCOM is the Army Green Berets and Rangers, Navy SEALS, and Air Force and Marine Special Ops units as well as many other sub-units. In short, they are the best of the best from the most advanced military the world has ever seen. They are known as ‘The Quiet Professionals’. Staffing numbers are increasing to nearly 70,000 not including the international support they receive around the globe working with partner agencies.

The USSOCOM fact book will give you all the details including a mention of the ultra-secretive JSOC. They are the elite even amongst USSOCOM agencies and get the most crucial assignments. With black budgets and classified staffing and operational details, this is the Presidential dream team.

The headline conflicts are Ukraine, Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan, yet USSOCOM operates in many more countries everyday that simply aren’t in the mass media news. For example, it is precisely their behind the scenes existence that factors in to recent foreign policy decisions such as ending the Cuban embargo. Cuba is a valuable intelligence asset for Russia and the best way to combat that and keep abreast of Russian activities is to enable access for our intelligence agencies.

We have to keep in mind that U.S. national defense policy is a very dynamic, multi-faceted web that is always changing to reflect different administrations and ever-changing global events. Decisions such as the Cuba decision come from evaluating all aspects of our national defense priorities and if it makes sense to accomplish as many agenda items as possible, it gets the green light.

The days of show of strength displays as the world’s policeman are becoming more limited and likely less necessary. The fact is that there are logistically far too many conflict zones to ever deploy assets in even a minority of them. The U.S. could always post a Navy carrier fleet or conduct exercises and war games nearby to give a warning to any potential aggressors in the past, but a drone flying overhead is likely to strike more fear in the heart of a terrorist today.

If you’re a reader of TomDispatch, then head over there and read up on even more detail concerning USSOCOM – http://www.tomdispatch.com/blog/175945/tomgram%3A_nick_turse%2C_a_shadow_war_in_150_countries/

The bottom line is expect to see less and less of the classic Normandy beach pictures of American national defense accomplishments. Despite the recent high-profile events with the SEALS and the killing of Bin Laden, you can expect ‘The Quiet Professionals’ to stay in the shadows. The federal government is moving at an ever faster rate to nationalize our nation’s police forces. They will be the high profile presence we’ll see in combating terrorism.

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