An Interview With: Assistant Secretary of Defense for Special Operations and Low-Intensity Conflict
O'Connell, Thomas W., Joint Force Quarterly
JFQ: For those who are not familiar with the breadth and depth of your duties, could you speak to your mission and responsibilities?
Secretary O'Connell: Title 10, Section 138 of the U.S. Code requires my position to provide civilian oversight of special operations activities of the Department of Defense [DOD]. As a principal staff assistant and civilian advisor to the Under Secretary of Defense for Policy and the Secretary of Defense on special operations matters, I am responsible for ensuring that our Special Operations Forces [SOF] of the Army, Navy, Air Force, and now Marines are appropriately tasked and employed and that senior policymakers, to include our interagency partners, understand SOF capabilities as well as their limitations. I provide policy oversight of U.S. Special Operations Command [USSOCOM] programs and am dedicated to ensuring our elements continue to be the best trained, best equipped, most flexible, and effective fighting force available to our country. I consult closely with General Doug Brown, the commander of USSOCOM, on a wide range of special operations policy issues. I am also an executive member and co-chair of USSOCOM's board of directors, the command's executive resource body.
In the interagency arena, I, along with selected members of the Joint Staff, serve as the Defense Department's representation on the Counter-Terrorism Security Group, the National Security Council staff body that considers national counterterrorism issues and potential responses. This oversight, advisory, interagency response, and consultation effort helps us shape a SOF program and budget that stresses force readiness and sustainability and provides sufficient force structure to meet the demands of the geographic combatant commanders and General Brown in his role as the supported commander in the global war on terrorism.
My office also works with other DOD components to institutionalize our capabilities for stability operations, which involve such tasks as providing basic security, humanitarian assistance, and essential services, as well as rule of law and governance in failed or at-risk states of strategic importance. The recent issue of a new DOD Directive on Stability, Security, Transition, and Reconstruction Operations underscores the importance that DOD attaches to this mission. The department must be prepared to fill critical gaps in stability operations when civilian partners are not available or when the security situation precludes civilian involvement. We are concurrently working with a range of partners, within the U.S. Government and among international and nongovernmental organizations [NGOs], as well as host nation counterparts, to bolster the capacity of civilian providers to satisfy these fundamental social requirements, which are critical to achieving long-term security in the current environment.
The recent passage of Sections 1206 and 1207 of the National Defense Authorization Act for fiscal year 2006 provides the department with new latitude. Both sections recognize the need for the Department of Defense to operate in close coordination with the Department of State on matters related to building partnership capacity and to provide DOD support for reconstruction, security, and stabilization assistance for foreign nations. Both Sections 1206 and 1207 authorize expenditures to support these two programs that provide the ability for other nations to counter threats against their government, to provide …
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Publication information: Article title: An Interview With: Assistant Secretary of Defense for Special Operations and Low-Intensity Conflict. Contributors: O'Connell, Thomas W. - Author. Magazine title: Joint Force Quarterly. Issue: 44 Publication date: January 2007. Page number: 8+. © 2000 National Defense University. COPYRIGHT 2007 Gale Group.
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