Death, Taxes, and Disasters: AFSOF's Utility in Disaster Response
Naval Postgraduate School Monterey United States
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The United States has participated in overseas humanitarian assistance and disaster relief HADR efforts since its inception. Today, the principal government agent responsible for HADR responses is the U.S. Agency for International Development USAID, which works closely with the U.S. Department of Defense, including Marine, Navy, Air Force, and special operations forces to provide logistical support. Air Force special operations forces AFSOF are an especially useful HADR asset, given their speed,organic command and control, and unique mission sets. Despite this, AFSOF is often overlooked as a rapid responder in HADR operations. This thesis investigates the use of AFSOF as a rapid responder through two case studies the 2004 HADR operation following the earthquake and tsunami in Southeast Asia and the HADR operation following the 2013 super typhoon in the central Philippines. In both cases, AFSOF provided critical support in the hours and days after these disasters, and helped pave the way for more sustained efforts undertaken by other U.S. and international responders over time. To improve AFSOFs capabilities as a HADR force, this thesis recommends creating one set of HADR definitions for the U.S. government, improving AFSOFs and USAIDs relationship, and implementing an AFSOF Disaster Response Concept of Operations.