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Creating Paths of Change: Under What Conditions Can Special Operations be the Supported Command

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Technical Report

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Naval Postgraduate School Monterey United States

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This thesis focuses on command and control for irregular warfare operations and the organizational design elements that determine when special operations forces SOF can be a supported command. The complexities, uncertainty, speed, and need for interoperability in the 21st-century operational environment require flexible organizations capable of integrating across U.S. governmental agencies. Integration and organizational flexibility are fundamental to conventional forces but what about their interdependence with SOF to achieve maximum effects Militaries have long been uniting conventional and irregular forces. Since the Revolutionary War, U.S. conventional and irregular forces have fought side by side. Throughout each conflict, SOF have performed a supporting role. The conditions on todays battlefields are much more decentralized and much less simple. The environment is unstable, with U.S. and enemy forces conducting asymmetrical warfare. Insurgencies have required fighting unconventionally. Additionally, information flows can cause friction that further destabilizes the environment. The argument is not that conventional forces cannot adapt to a dynamic operational environmentonly that their organizational structure is less effective in an uncertain or complex environment. Dynamic, unpredictable environments call for an organic, decentralized structure. Insights from organizational theory suggest SOF units can be the supported command in these conditions.

Subject Categories:

  • Military Forces and Organizations
  • Unconventional Warfare

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