By Eric Schmitt and Thom Shanker
New York Times, May 2, 2013
WASHINGTON – Not long after Adm. William H. McRaven led the mission to kill Osama bin Laden, he was put in charge of the nation’s entire contingent of Special Operations forces, and set to work revamping them to face a widening array of new threats as America’s combat role in the Middle East and southwest Asia winds down.
His efforts to apply the lessons learned from more than a decade of fighting in the shadows of the larger wars in Iraq and Afghanistan have high-level support from a White House and Pentagon eager to avoid large-scale foreign interventions and to encourage allies to assume more of the burden of combating extremism and instability.
Admiral McRaven’s goal is to recast the command from its popular image of commandos killing or capturing terrorists, and expand a force capable of carrying out a range of missions short of combat – including training foreign militaries to counter terrorists, drug traffickers and insurgents, gathering intelligence and assessing pending risk, and advising embassies on security.
But along the way, the ambitious Admiral McRaven has run into critics who say he is overreaching, or as one Congressional critic put it, “empire building” at a time when the military is shrinking its footprint in Afghanistan and refocusing on other hot spots around the world. Congress has blocked, at least temporarily, an idea to consolidate several hundred of the command’s Washington-based staff members in a $10 million-a-year satellite office here, saying it would violate spending limits on such offices.
At the same time, Admiral McRaven has also faced criticism that he is encroaching on the turf of the military’s traditionally powerful regional commanders.
Shortly before leaving the Pentagon, former Defense Secretary Leon E. Panetta granted Admiral McRaven new authority to make staffing decisions in the Special Operations units assigned to the regional commanders. While they will still have the final say on missions in their region, Admiral McRaven will now have the ability to allocate the much sought-after 11,000 deployed
Special Operations forces where he determines intelligence and world events indicate they are most needed.
Indeed, in the past year, the command has conducted three classified exercises to determine where it can expand Special Operations forces in regions where they have not operated in large numbers for the past decade, especially in Asia, Africa and Latin America.
Phi Beta Iota: The regional commands are dead weight — brain dead theatrical, and grossly over-staffed. What the Republic needs now is a Secretary of Defense that can cut the regional theaters and pull back all our forces from overseas; cut the budget 30%, AND build a 450-ship distributed Navy, a long-haul Air Force, and an air-mobile Army. CINCSOC is the only four star doing his job. What he wants to do is not new — it is the traditional mission of SOF. What is new is an active duty Civil Affairs flag officer, Ferd Irizzary, at JFK School. What is new is NATO/ACT thinking, for the first time, about the eight tribes and an affordable scalable inter-operable C4I architecture that is NOT built by predatory and generally ineffective vendors. What is new — although General Al Gray, USMC, then Commandant of the Marine Corps wrote about “peaceful preventive measures” in 1989 — is that more military professionals are thinking anew about how to avoid wars based on 935 documented lies, and how to keep the peace. What is new — and it is a huge negative — is the neo-conservative network buried inside the military committing treason daily, while other neocons outside the wire spend money and support false flags intended to drive us into attacking Iran and getting Russia to go along. The one thing CINCSOC needs to be successful is the one thing Washington DC is incapable of producing under its present “leadership”: intelligence with integrity for strategy, policy, acquisitions, and operations.