Every year since 2015, the Global SOF Foundation releases a “SOF Imperatives” document. It started in 2014, when our team met with Congressional staffers on The Hill to discuss what we were doing to advocate for SOF.
In that meeting, a senior staffer asked us if we would consider producing an annual “platform” document that focused on SOF issues…and the SOF Imperatives document was born!
The document is made through a multi-step process:
- SUMMER: We send a call to all of our Active Duty SOF members and Advisors to submit SOF issues for consideration.
- FALL: We take all valid submissions and include them in a survey that we send to all of our members, rating each topic on a scale of importance.
- WINTER: We consolidate that feedback into a cohesive document that lists all issues, by category, to which the majority of our members gave high credence. That document is then distributed to Congress and our Members.
Throughout the year, we also host Forums and Roundtables that dive deeper into specific issues with the greatest sense of urgency.
Meet the 2021 Imperatives
Now that you know our SOF Imperatives origin story, here’s a look into this year’s document. You can always read the whole thing on our GSOF Imperatives website.
It fully outlines the Global SOF Foundation’s recommended priorities for Special Operations, highlighting that U.S. and partner SOF are among the most capable and affordable instruments in safeguarding our security to U.S. Congressional leadership. Here’s some highlights, section by section:
The inauguration of the new Presidential administration brings with it the opportunity to adjust national security priorities and strategies. But the year 2021 will also be marked by many challenges stemming from the coronavirus pandemic, not the least of which include the financial impact on global markets, the U.S. economy specifically, and thus also the defense budget. The Global SOF Foundation (GSF) remains focused on ensuring U.S. special operations forces (SOF) receive the capabilities, resourcing, and direction they require and deserve.
As vaccinations increase and we settle into a “new normal”, our adversaries will not cease. We will continue to face significant threats from both violent extremists and near peer competitors, and SOF will continue to be one of the most effective components of our military force.
With the recommended priorities and initiatives listed below, the GSF aims to highlight the importance to U.S. Congressional leadership of U.S. and partner SOF as among the most capable and affordable instruments in safeguarding our security.
We have three primary strategic recommendations for U.S. SOF:
- Enforcing the previous National Defense Authorization Acts’ (NDAAs) establishment of a new administrative chain of command for USSOCOM by elevating its ASD position to an Undersecretary of Defense position to ensure SOF has the appropriate level of influence and oversight in the Department of Defense (DoD).
- Recruiting for SOF is a huge issue. Congress should consider a modern day Lodge-Philbin Act designed to recruit a diverse and robust number of men and women for Special Operations that are from nations that are critical to the U.S. National Security Strategy and better capable of supporting Irregular Warfare.
- To ensure proper management and programming, but also to better integrate SOF effects and capabilities into defense planning, Congress should add Preparation of the Environment as a core USSOCOM mission to ensure proper management, oversight, manning, and programming.
Support to Operations, Training, and Readiness
The Foundation lists several topics in this area, covering these primary themes:
- The shift from counter-terrorism to inter-state strategic competition, including increased funding for Partner Nations in the INDOPACOM region
- Designation of a lead proponent for Personnel Recovery
- The urgent need for low probability of detection/low probability of intercept (LPD/LPI) communications for tactical SOF
- Improved procurement and contracting processes for SOF, including for SOF-unique and support TSOC-led sensitive activities
Support to the Force
This section is especially important, as it focuses directly on the long-term effects of SOF service on our community.
One issue that particularly has our attention is the high rate of cancer that is impacting our force. Congress should ensure that veterans exposed to toxins at Karshi-Khanabad, Uzbekistan, known as “K2”, get their illnesses recognized by the DoD and Department of Veterans Affairs as connected to their time at the base. This recognition should be executed preemptively–prior to the conclusion of the study mandated by the FY21 NDAA.
We also include added provisions for Congress to track cancer rates among SOF.
Another highlighted health concern is PTSD–congress should ensure DoD expands treatment of PTSD via stellate ganglion block (SGB) therapy.
Other highlights in this section include expansions to Imminent Danger Pay, tax-free retention bonuses, and more support for base construction and tuition support.
Land, Maritime, and Aviation Support
The remaining sections of the document focus on specific support to the force for land, maritime, and aviation operations.
For land forces, we recommend Counter Unmanned Aerial Systems (CUAS) for small SOF elements, funding of additional 120mm mobile mortar systems, and military construction to complete the Special Warfare Center construction, and to replace and refurbish the facilities at the multi-Service Combat Diver School in Key West.
For maritime, we recommend a study to determine if Marine Forces Special Operations Command (MARSOC) is currently structured correctly, development and incorporation of other means of energy generation to extend range and increase operational flexibility, and an increase in the number of heavy and medium stealth maritime combatant craft and crews to ensure the force is capable of meeting GCC mission requirements.
For aviation, the development of an Armed Overwatch capability remains our top priority for the second year in a row. We also believe that Congress must address the lack of Rotary Wing support for maintenance and requalification of special forces personnel and that there is not enough SOF aviation for tactical formations to train at home station.
Continuing the Conversation
We don’t just send this document into the world and hope it all happens by magic (although that would be nice).
Each year the release of this document launches a campaign for our team where we engage with key members of Congress and their staffers to discuss these issues and let them know why they matter.
In addition to those small engagements, we also have larger-scale Roundtables and Forums. Obviously, these looked a little different in 2020 and 2021, but we are still pushing the envelope, albeit virtually.
Some events are only open to Military, Government, and our Corporate Partners, but the annual SOF Imperatives Forum is open to anyone who purchases a ticket. This year, that event is happening on 16 JUNE 2021. We will announce soon if it is happening virtually, in-person, or in a hybrid format.