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Retaining a Precarious Value as Special Operations Go Mainstream

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The United States Special Operations Command USSOCOM and Special Operations Forces SOF are growing to meet the increasing irregular warfare challenges posed by violent extremist organizations. Although a tradition of tension exists between conventional military forces and SOF, there is little disagreement within USSOCOM and the broader defense community that the current threats facing the United States require an increased SOF capability. The challenge is how best to implement and manage the growth while retaining the unique capabilities resident in our special operations community. Jessica Turnley wades into the discussion with a short monograph on the concept of organizational identity or organizational culture and the difficulty of developing and, more importantly, retaining these in the face of changing organizational structures and institutional growth. Her discussion cuts to the heart of what it means to be SOF vice what it means to be a member of USSOCOM. In the current organization, they are not synonymous. A significant percentage of the command is made up of non-SOF members assigned from the various services. As the command grows, these SOF enablers will remain a critical element within the command and the SOF community at large. Underlying much of Dr. Turnleys discussion is the unique position USSOCOM and SOF have within the Department of Defense. It is the only combatant command with Title 10 Service-like responsibilities and authorities as well as operational command authority. Jessicas research highlights how this tension in responsibilities and authorities drove USSOCOM to create what she describes as a blended organization. As the tensions of growth and the current global struggle continues over the years, this dichotomy of missions will need to be addressed to ensure that the formal requirements of the Service-like requirements do not undermine the inherent flexibility and creativity associated with traditional SOF activities.

Subject Categories:

  • Administration and Management
  • Military Forces and Organizations
  • Unconventional Warfare

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