Academic journal article Prism : a Journal of the Center for Complex Operations

Regional Understanding and Unity of Effort: Applying the Global SOF Network in Future Operating Environments Communications

Academic journal article Prism : a Journal of the Center for Complex Operations

Regional Understanding and Unity of Effort: Applying the Global SOF Network in Future Operating Environments Communications

Article excerpt

The convergence of popular wars, ethnic and religious conflict, ideological extremism, and competition over diminishing resources are "messy" scenarios that defy prescriptive solutions. Yet this messiness is what increasingly defines today's operating environment, requiring adaptive combinations of knowledge and action within a unified interagency framework. In this context, Special Operations Forces (SOF), to include Information Operations and Civil Affairs, plays an increasingly active and necessary role. To this end, "the global SOF network vision consists of a globally networked force of SOF, interagency allies and partners able to rapidly respond to, and persistently address, regional contingencies and threats to stability."1 The success of both the conventional military and the global SOF network requires sustained regional expertise for success in future operating environments, as well as institutionalized relationships with interagency partners born from mutual respect, common interests, and a shared understanding of the operating environment. This article proposes an increased emphasis on understanding both the institutional and geo-cultural operating environments. In theory, this is nothing new, but in reality, it requires a shift in the ways we look at military education, senior leaders, and strategic expectations.

Overseas military operations in today's operating environment are frequently coordinated and conducted in U.S. embassies, each of which represents an interagency task force that seeks to gather information, promote development, empower allies, and disrupt terrorist networks through both direct and indirect activities. It is accepted that the U.S. military, to include SOF, needs to operate in joint, interagency, intergovernmental, and multinational (JIIM) environments, as well as in volatile, uncertain, and ambiguous (VUCA) situations. These concepts join the dustbin of hollow buzzwords, however, if they are not realized through institutionalized emphasis and mechanisms for operational application. It is not enough to say something is "complex." There must be efforts to understand the elements of that complexity. This is particularly the case with SOF, which must possess the dual capability of interacting with conventional counterparts and operating effectively out of U.S. embassies throughout the world. With this in mind, no matter how proficient SOF is in direct action, SOF will ultimately be unsuccessful without the participation of other entities, to include U.S. embassy country teams, Geographic Combatant Commands (GCCs), and in most cases, partner nations.

Interagency

Military success in dealing with other government agencies must go beyond tired clichés of different institutional cultures. Like any objectification of culture, there will exist certain simplistic elements of truth in such characterizations. Even where broad ends are compatible, different ways and means result in interagency approaches that may seem to favor some and marginalize others. However, interagency relations are obscured by a more complex reality in which geopolitical context, personality, and variable levels of experience and competence carry a heavy influence. While interagency accommodation and integration is incumbent on all agencies, some types of military activities, such as training of host nation military forces contribute to the gradual transformation that the Department of State is often trying to promote. Other activities may be seen as undermining it.

State Department efforts at transformational diplomacy seek to change governments through a stimulation of civil society and democratic processes, not armed conflict.2 Defense institution building (DIB) is an important element of these efforts. Here the military provides sought after expertise. The use of U.S. embassies as nodes in other than declared theaters of conflict (ODTAC), however, represents a new paradigm that is contrary to the traditional steady-state mission of the U. …

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