Academic journal article Air & Space Power Journal

Whither Aviation Foreign Internal Defense?

Academic journal article Air & Space Power Journal

Whither Aviation Foreign Internal Defense?

Article excerpt

IN 1994 AIR FORCE Special Operations Command stood up the 6th Special Operations Squadron (6 SOS), the first-ever USAF squadron dedicated to the foreign internal defense (FID) mission area. With roots in special air warfare dating back to the Vietnam War and even as far back as the Second World War, the 6 SOS was created to advise, train, and assist foreign aviation forces in the application of airpower in internal defense and development. Since that time the squadron has expanded its mission to include coalition support roles and combat advisory operations in keeping with the emerging missions that comprise operations other than war (OOTW). Nevertheless, the core mission has remained intact: inculcating in foreign air forces the idea of the utility of airpower across the conflict spectrum.

Since its inception, however, the 6 SOS has been plagued by a host of difficulties in fulfilling the vision of its creators, the most salient of which stem from the question of whether the squadron should have aircraft appropriate to its third world mission. Aircraft remain critical to the original vision of what has become the 6 SOS, but as of this writing, only two aged UH-1N helicoptersoriginally en route to the boneyard-have been assigned to the squadron. This is regrettable since aviation-centered FID rests on the fundamental premise that airpower plays a crucial role in meeting the threat of foreign internal conflict. And airpower means airplanes. Thus the fundamental question: If aviation FID is predicated on the employment of airplanes and the 6 SOS is not properly equipped in that regard, whither aviation FID?

Framing the Discussion

By the end of the 1970s, US special operations forces (SOF) were caput mortuum.1 Army special forces had been gutted, Navy special warfare had fared little better, and Air Force special operations forces (AFSOF) had barely survived a concerted attempt to relegate them completely to the Reserves.2

The Desert One debacle in April 1980-the disastrous Iranian hostage rescue missionsimply underscored the extent to which SOF had atrophied since the Vietnam War. In the aftermath of that effort, the Defense Department "halfheartedly" moved to invigorate SOF- to include the creation of a Joint Special Operations Agency in 1984. The services were reluctant to relinquish control over SOF, however; they regarded this advisory body merely as an irritant and largely resisted its recommendations. Consequently, frustrated by Defense Department foot-dragging, and intent upon putting purpose and power behind SOF revitalization, Congress passed the Cohen-Nunn Amendment to the National Defense Authorization Act of 1986. The unquestionable design of this amendment was to force "revitalization" of "SOF and SOF resources."3

Among the findings of Section 1453 of the Defense Authorization Act of 1986 was the conclusion that SOF "are the military mainstay of the United States for the purposes of nation-building and training friendly foreign forces." The straightforward stated purpose of SOF involvement was to preclude "deployment or combat involving the conventional or strategic forces of the United States."4 Such foreign advisory and training assistance ultimately fell within the purview of foreign internal defense, which was subsequently delineated as one of the five principal missions of American special operations forces.5

Responding to the legislation, the Reagan administration promulgated National Security Decision Directive (NSDD) 277, which outlined US strategy for low intensity conflict (LIC). The subsequent 1988 report, entitled National Security Strategy of the United States, included an unclassified distillation of NSDD 277. Among several salient features, it declared that LIC strategy would seek to "strengthen friendly nations facing internal or external threats to their independence."6

Defense reform was the anodyne of 1986, and the Goldwater-Nichols Act was a sweeping piece of legislation mandating specific actions. …

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