The Army’s special operations forces need a closer look at how to operate as they prepare for an increasingly complex world, the commander of Army Special Operations Command said.
“We must understand our critical vulnerabilities and challenge all assumptions, processes and everything that’s been developed for the counterterrorism fight,” Lt. Gen. Jonathan Braga said July 27.
Speaking during the Association of the U.S. Army’s inaugural Warfighter Summit and Exposition near Fort Bragg, North Carolina, Braga said special operations forces must “consider every space, every domain contested.”
“As a nation, we need industry, academia, warriors, policymakers to come together for a whole-of-nation—not just whole-of-government—approach to innovate against future threats,” Braga said as part of a panel discussion focused on the future of irregular warfare.
Special operations forces provide commanders with “asymmetric options with tailorable solutions” and a “unique mindset to prevail in any conflict,” Braga said.
Today’s strategic environment requires Army Special Operations Command to optimize force structure and modernize for multidomain operations, he said. From the proliferation of technology to challenges from peer adversaries such as Russia and transboundary complexities such as pandemics and climate change, the force faces “unprecedented challenges,” and it must prepare for a growing prevalence of irregular warfare, Braga said.
Irregular warfare requires “continuous” effort, forward presence and strong relationships with partners and allies, Braga said. The Army’s special operations troops benefit from “deep generational relationships” with their partners, Braga said.
With more than 2,800 special operations soldiers deployed to 77 countries, the Army maintained those deployment cycles even during the height of the global war on terror, he said. “We didn’t step away from those generational relationships,” he said. “[Special operations forces] depend on these strong relationships with our allies and partners, and that requires deliberate investment and really can’t be built overnight.”
To prepare for the future, the Army also must focus on intellectual training, said Carolyne Davidson, assistant professor of strategic studies at the National Defense University.
“Your brains are a massive capability,” she said. “If we can’t think nimbly about competition and how to use the tools we have effectively and efficiently, we’re going to lose the vital edge we have.”
Irregular warfare requires an educated force, Davidson said. “We need smart technologies, absolutely. We need human ingenuity. We can’t have smart bombs and not-too-smart personnel. We need both, and the stakes are really high.”
Soldiers must be able to think strategically, creatively and critically, Davidson said.
“The global threat landscape is as complex and challenging as it has been in decades,” Braga said. “Today’s challenges are truly a team sport, and [Army Special Operations Command] will be ready for the [People’s Republic of China] pacing threat and the Russian acute threat.”