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Azimuth Check: Envisioning U.S. Army Special Forces in the Next Peer War


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U.S. Army Special Forces are adept at accomplishing their core tasks, often within the cooperation and competition realms of the conflict continuum, and against less-than-peer adversaries. Their methods, skills, and capabilities may be insufficient to complete the same tasks against a peer competitor during armed conflict; some tasks may need to be accomplished differently, and new ones may need to be developed. As the Department of Defense re-directs its focus on great power competition in the midst of an increasingly complex operating environment, this study explores how Special Forces could contribute to defeating a great power adversary in large-scale combat operations between 20302050. After describing a future operating environment based on a synthesis of national-level future studies and providing an analysis of historical Special Forces missions that highlight a peer competitor focus, this study presents observations from a ready-to-use Table Top Exercise scoped toward Special Forces operating against a peer competitor in armed conflict. The study offers an analysis of the TTX observations by presenting a DOTmLPF and War Fighting Functions crosswalk meant to highlight potential capability gaps within U.S. Army Special Forces. It then concludes by presenting recommendations centered on transforming leadership and education practices as well as exploring new concepts and doctrine within U.S. Army Special Forces to better prepare the regiment for war against a peer.



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