Magazine article National Defense

Special Operators Gain Civilian Assistance Unconventional Wars

Magazine article National Defense

Special Operators Gain Civilian Assistance Unconventional Wars

Article excerpt

As it plans for an extended struggle against terrorism, the U.S. Special Operations Command is realizing that it is going to need a lot of outside help, and it is reaching out to civilian agencies, allied nations and private contractors.

Lining up that help is proving to be a complicated task, SOCOM officials told a recent ND IA-sponsored conference in Arlington, Va.

While special operators now are deploying in larger numbers than they ever have before, the State Department is emerging as a key civilian partner to SOCOM, said Thomas W. O'Connell, assistant secretary for special operations and low-intensity conflict.

The office of the coordinator for reconstruction and stabilization, or S/CRS, was created in 2005 to facilitate the work of a wide range of non-military agencies, including the State. Justice and Treasury Departments.

"Our job is not to duplicate the work of other agencies nor take their place," said Marcia Wong, acting coordinator. "Our job is to serve as a force multiplier so that all agencies involved can do their jobs better."

In addition, Wong's office is working with similar units that were established recently by allied nations. "The United Kingdom, Canada, France and Germany all have created offices similar to S/CRS," Wong told the conference. "Australia. Denmark, Finland and Sweden have been active leaders in these issues, as well. We have been working closely with all of them."

The S/CRS is exchanging ideas and information with the United Nations, European Union and NATO, Wong said. "We hope to strengthen regional organizations, such as the African Union, since the neighbors of weak or conflict-ridden states bear the brunt of refugees, disrupted trade and humanitarian assistance flow."

With funding, training and logistical support from the United Nations, NATO and the United States, the AU--which is made up of 53 African nations--has deployed 7,000 peacekeepers to protect non-Arab black residents of Darfur, Sudan, against raids by government-supported Arab militia. The UN Security Council agreed in February to send up to 20,000 more troops within the next year.

Thus far, the State Department office's part in such activities has been small. It started out with a staff of 39 and is growing slowly. By 2007, the office plans to have 80 full-time personnel, plus a "response corps" of State Department officers trained and ready to deploy to embattled embassies or to combat areas with U.S. and coalition military forces.

"We have an initial roster of more than 400 State Department employees--active-duty and retirees--who have volunteered to be on 'standby' status and available for training and deployment," Wong said. "We also are looking to expand the surge capacity throughout the U.S. government, as well as tap into the vast experiences and skills outside of the federal government."

Being sought are specialists in such fields as criminal justice, electrical power, fuel, sanitation, finances, social welfare, agriculture, construction and local government.

The State Department lacks the facilities to train and equip a response corps, but the Defense Department does not. Recognizing this, Congress included in the 2006 defense appropriation a provision permitting the Pentagon to spend up to $200 million a year over two years for that purpose, O'Connell noted. In addition, the State Department requested $75 million in its 2007 budget to build its civilian response capabilities, Wong said.

As part of that effort, the Defense and State Departments are cooperating with other U.S. and international agencies in a series of training exercises. In March, for example, the U.S. Joint Forces Command partnered with the State Department to launch Multinational Experiment 4, involving eight countries and NATO to practice interagency and coalition planning.

Previously, civilian agencies rarely had a chance to train with military services. …

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