US Special Operations Forces: The Quiet Warriors of USSOCOM
How the Special Operations Community “Takes Care of Business” in a Dangerous World
The Day to Remember: 05.01.11
On May 1st, 2011, personnel of US SOCOM's Joint Special Operations Command (JSOC), Commanded by Vice Admiral William H. Mc Raven, raided a large private compound in Abbottabad, Pakistan, just north of the capital city of Islamabad. There, Special Special Mission Unit (SMU) personnel from Seal Team Six, based out of Virginia Beach, VA, shot and killed al Qaeda head Osama bin Laden in his bedroom, along with a number of his confederates within the compound. After verifying the identity of bin Laden and doing a sensitive site exploitation (SSE) of the residence, the SMU personnel took bin Laden's body and the SSE materials and returned to their base. Though one aircraft, a MH-60 Black Hawk, was lost during the operation -- which was reported to have had Stealth modifications ( including Radar Absorbing Coverings and Special Coatings) -- no US personnel were lost, and the mission is considered a full success. Within hours, bin Laden's body was buried at sea in accordance with Islamic religious traditions. His body sent into the sea from the aircraft carrier USS Carl Vinson (CVN 70). This action concluded the search for bin Laden, and was the culmination of a cooperative effort by US Special Operations forces (SOF), law enforcement, and the intelligence community that actually predates 9/11. It has been a long 10 years to settle this score.
The Morning After - A Nation Reflects
As the sun rose over America on May 2nd, 2011, it began to shed a bright light of renewal in the triumph of good over evil. And it gave us all some closure. Here we were as a nation, celebrating the news of the successful Special Operations Forces' (SOF) mission that hunted down bin Laden and “finished the unfinished job” of killing the al Qaeda leader. Most people had never heard of JSOC, who are a key part of the Special Operations Forces Command, until news of the missions success was made public. And today, still very few have little knowledge of who these elite warriors are. That is as it should be. What JSOC and its special warriors do for America and the world every day -- indeed what all our Special Operators do -- must necessarily remain clandestine and behind the scenes. This mission in Pakistan was not a reckless and risky attack to rush in and get the most wanted criminal on the planet. Rather the United States knew since last summer that bin Laden likely was holed up in large compound in Pakistan, not in a remote mountain cave somewhere in Afghanistan. With that intelligence in hand, US forces demonstrated remarkable restraint and discipline, painstakingly planning a special operations mission that absolutely could not fail. It was a singular success, thanks to the courage and astounding skill of those in the special operations units assigned to this mission. The special operators avenged the attack on thousands of innocent Americans who, on September 11th, showed up for work on a crisp sunny morning in New York City and Arlington, Virginia. The names of the men of Seal Team Six, whose average age was about 37, may never be known, but this spring their story and their heroic exploits captivated the world's imagination for some time as few special operations missions ever have.
The Bin Laden Mission: “Geronimo – EKIA” (Enemy Killed In Action)
People in this Special Operator community know that missions like this only go one of two ways, they are either successful or they are not. There is nothing in between. The American psyche had been hardened against this type of high risk mission, with the failed Iran hostage attempt more than 30 years ago, “Operation Eagle Claw.” It was a disaster, with lives lost and planes and helicopters destroyed in the desert before the mission really got started. And more recently with the movie telling the story of “Black Hawk Down” and the unpleasant memories of some very bad circumstances in Somalia that went so very wrong, there are still many horrible images in a lot of American minds. Indeed, the actual strike against bin Laden was like something out of a Hollywood movie script or a video game. People go in, get what they want, and get out with no causalities. In the real world, it hardly ever happens that way. And a lot of people in the National Command Center in the basement of the White House and over at the Pentagon, breathed a huge sigh of relief when the SOF aircraft were “feet wet” and out over the ocean and heading toward their home base. The extent of “electronic connectivity” between Abbottabad, Pakistan and the US National Command Leadership has been greatly conjectured upon. Solders wore helmet cameras and data links were most probably established back to the US and the National Command Authority. Drones were up overhead, and people were reported to be in adjacent buildings. It must have been quite a thrilling and sometimes scary account to be a first person witness in Washington. Viewing this in real time must have been just like a scene out of a Tom Clancy movie “The Sum of All Fears.” A few days later after addressing the nation, President Obama and Vice President Biden visited Ft. Campbell, Kentucky on May 6th and privately thanked Seal Team Six and the Army's Night Stalkers of the 101st Airborne Division who flew the helicopters on the successful mission. All the SOF mission contributors were given a Presidential Unit Citation for their efforts in the successful SOF Operation that capped a close to 10-year effort of a global manhunt.
Oversight from Capital Hill -- A View on Special Operations
Who are these “Special Operators”? And how do they operate? Are they operating on their own without any org chart responsibility? The Special Operations community is not a bunch of “rouge warriors operating without any rules,” but rather a disciplined corps of professionals whose conduct is governed by the rule of law. One of the most critical responsibilities of The Congress is to balance the need to provide our Special Operations Forces the legal authority that is required to pursue its mission with the oversight role that is required by the Constitution. On one hand, Special Operations Forces need to have a certain freedom of action to be effective, but on the other, it is the duty of the legislative branch to ensure those actions remain consistent in the broader frameworks of US policy and current laws. Since 9/11, Congress has been very active in providing new Special Operations Forces with Counter-Terrorism authorities, which include Special Operations Forces support of foreign or irregular forces, assisting in counter terrorism operations, establishing a counter terrorism fellowship program that helps friendly countries strengthen their counter terrorism programs, and finally funding rewards for those who provide counter terrorism related information to the United States. These guys have a playbook and they follow it to the letter of the law.
The Money Spigot Is Flowing for Special Operations
As you can imagine, in Washington, this kind of mission success brings a lot of attention, and it's usually good attention when it comes from the DoD Budget Funding Committees on Capital Hill. House Armed Services Committee Chairman Howard Buck McKeon, R-CA, backed giving special operations programs every dime they requested for the Fiscal 2012 budget year that begins this fall. McKeon's rousing endorsement of special operations programs comes after the brilliantly successful special operations mission to take out bin Laden. In a time of deep defense cuts, McKeon nonetheless backed providing every special operations funding request in full. Specifically, The Special Operation Forces will be getting a lot of funding: Special Operations Technology Development, $26.591 million; Special Operations/Low Intensity Conflict, $45.028 million; Joint Robotics Program, $11,129 million, Special Operations Aviation Systems Advanced Development, $89.382 million, and Special Operations Tactical Systems Development, $1.011 million. Also, Operations and Maintenance, Defense wide, for the Special Operations Command, $3.986 billion. Further Special Operations Intelligence Systems Development, $27.916 million; SOF Operational Enhancement, $80.915 million; Special Operations CV-22 Osprey tilt rotor aircraft development $10.775 million; SOF Communications Equipment and Electronic Systems, $41.392 million; AC/MC-130J aircraft Programs, $18.571 million; SOF Weapons Systems, $41.392 million. And SOF Soldier Protection and Survival systems, $2.971 million; SOF Visual Augmentation Lasers and Sensor Systems, $3.011 million; SOF Tactical Vehicle Programs, $3.522 million ; SOF Munitions, $1.5 million; SOF Rotary Wing Aviation programs, $451.123 million; SO Underwater Systems, $92.4234 million; SOF Surface craft, $14.475 million; SOF Military Information and Support Operations $2.99 million; SOF Global Video Surveillance Activities, $8.923 million; SOF Operational Enhancements Intelligence, $9.473 million; and classified programs, $4.228 billion.
Opportunities for the Microwave Industry
As the Microwave Industry looks at this laundry list of funding, it should generate quite a bit of interest as potential opportunities for our technology and products. And this is across the board in many areas as the SOF mission appears to be “sensor and communications dominated.” The radio and communications hardware that these operations platforms will require are just a few opportunities for our industry's products. The SOF community will require specialized antennas, power amplifiers and advanced sitcom terminal capabilities. In addition, networking of many nodes on the battlefield will be needed. The force protection needs are increasing so SOF Jammers (vehicular and man portable) and associated technology will be required. There was substantial discussion about smart phones — and their use by special operators. Make no mistake about it, SOF operators will be deployed in countries where 3G/4G networks will be the backbone of SOF communications portfolio of options. And with specialized applications (military apps) there is a huge market here. And most importantly, systems that operate in a “spectrum challenged” environment will be desired. Also advanced RF and microwave sensors will play a big part in SOF operations. And millimeter wave is finding its own place in the battlefield. And with all this funding, I suspect that the Special Operations folks will do fine in the upcoming Defense budget debate. For our industry, this is a potentially large market space to sell our products.
US Special Operations Command (USSOCOM) -- Getting To Know The Key Leaders, Organizations, And Program Executive Officers (PEOs)
With the complexity of today's global environment, our country demands much more of our Special Operations Forces. Now more than ever, they must have the necessary skills, and have to be equipped with the right capabilities to respond whenever and wherever needed. To that end, each year USSCOM invites industry in for a forum for collaboration and positive and proactive networking between all key stakeholders. From industry, academia, professional organizations, and other government agencies, all who support the special operations enterprise in one way or another, are welcome at the forum. This is important as we as a nation require our SOF community to be able to adapt to unpredictable threats around the globe. This SOF meeting is an annual event and it is called SOFIC 2011 (The Special Operations Forces Industry Conference 2011). It was held in the Tampa area in late May of this year. This years theme, “SOF: Setting the Course” was the foundation from which USSOCOM Commanders and Senior leaders engaged with industry and all stakeholders for three days in top level discussions on key acquisition requirements, operations, and technology issues. It was very interesting to listen to leadership talk in frank and open ways with their collaborators and industry partners. And all the discussions were held under the framework laid out by USSOCOM's Commander Admiral Eric Olsen. The discussions were in the context of SOF's capability areas: Understand, Communicate, Move and Engage. I was there again this year and it’s an amazing get-together. SOFIC 2011 was a unique opportunity for USSOCOM to share perspectives with industry and provide vital insight on current and future core capabilities and how they directly relate to USSOCOM acquisition programs. I will summarize briefly what I can talk about in the open literature about USSOCOM. And hopefully provide you with some “rough course vector navigation headings” on how to engage this community in this portion of the defense marketplace. It will not be easy to win business here as these folks are a very demanding customer. That said, if you have an innovative technology solution, there are folks there who will listen to what you have to say. So let’s take a quick look at the US SOCOM organization, who does what, and who has what programs.
Key Leaders /PEOS of the US Special Operations Command-US SOCOM
The leadership of the US Special Operations Command, headed by Admiral Eric Olsen, is made up of career military men who have risen to the highest level of their services in the Special Operations Community. They are: US Army Special Operations Command, headed by Lt. General John Mulholland; AFSOC-The Air Force Special Operations Command headed by Lt. Gen Donald Wuster; NAVSPECWARCOM-Navy Special Warfare Command headed by RADM Edward Winters; MARCOM-Marine Corps Forces headed by Maj. Gen. Paul Lefebvre, and the Joint Special Operations Command (JSOC) headed by Vice Admiral William H. McRaven. Yes, that is correct, it isn’t a typo. The US Marines are full partners here in USSCOM. They have stood up and have running a special war fighting group that is part of the overall Special Operations Community. And they are not administrative types pushing paper around. They are special operators in every sense of the word, and are true heroes like their brother services, whose courage is displayed every day in many countries around the world.
Special Operations Forces Program Executive Officers (PEOS)
Fixed Wing-USAF Colonel Duke Richardson PEO-FW
The mission of PEO-FW is to deliver SOF manned and unmanned wing air power capabilities to effectively enable SOF. To meet this mission PEO-FW partners with the war fighter and various development and support organizations to synchronize acquisition activities to field an array of advanced technology sensors, defensive countermeasures, advanced avionics, and mission training systems.
Maritime-US Navy Captain Richard Blank PEO-M
The mission of PEO-M is focused on providing SOF War fighters with operationally effective and sustainable surface and subsurface maritime mobility platforms and maritime equipment. PEO-M's portfolio includes 25 surface and subsurface acquisition programs, with its primary customer being the Naval Surface Special Warfare Command.
Rotary Wing-US Army Colonel Doug Rombough PEO-RW
The mission of PEO-RW is to focus on providing the SOF Community with the most advanced vertical lift capability available to the US military. PEO-RW has placed emphasis on rotary wing transformation, with the initial focus on commonality of platforms and reduction of inventory. The rotary wing fleet now consists of the MH-47 Chinook, three different models of the MH-60 Blackhawk, and the A/MH-6M Little Bird. Additionally, a Non Standard Rotary Wing program has been added to the portfolio and includes the Mi-17 aircraft.
Special Reconnaissance, Surveillance, and Exploitation-Mr Doug Richardson PEO-SRSE
The mission of PEO-SRSE is to focus on acquisition, fielding, and sustainment of intelligence collection, processing, and exploitation and dissemination systems for SOF. PEO-SRSE capability portfolio includes tagging, tracking, and locating sensors; and biometrics and forensic systems in addition to intelligence analysis and training and planning systems; including the intelligence information-sharing environment.
Special Operations Forces-Warrior-US Army Colonel Jim Smith PEO-SW
The mission of PEO -SW is on rapid acquisition of capabilities that allows the SOF War Fighter to successfully carry out the mission in a consistently changing Environment. PEO-SW manages a portfolio that includes more than 160 programs and projects in the areas of ground mobility, Visual Augmentation Systems, Ammunition/Demolition, Weapons Systems, and Soldier Protection and Survival Systems.
Command, Control, Communication and Computers-Tony Davis PEO-C4
The mission of PEO-C4 is focused on the development, acquisition, and fielding of C4 and Military Information Support Systems (MISO) that collectively forms the SOF Information Enterprise (SIE). The SIE is an extension of DOD's Global Information Grid that provides additional SOF peculiar capabilities and extends those capabilities to exceptionally remote and austere locations. The PEO-C4 portfolio consists of 17 programs in the areas of Enterprise Networks, Transport Systems, Tactical communications, enterprise tools, and MISO and Civil Affairs Systems. PEO-C4 efforts will continue to focus on the integration of state of the art technologies and further standardization throughout the SOF community.
Special Operations Forces Support Activity-US Army Colonel Tim Chyma PEO-SOFSA
The mission of PEP-SOFSA is focused on support of activities based out of Blue Grass Station, in Kentucky. PEO-SOFSA's mission is to support the community through the execution of contracting, financial management, and operations oversight to ensure dedicated, responsive and cost effective contractor logistic support services.
Directorate of Science and Technology-Mr William Shepard SORDAC-ST
This directorate serves as the Senior Science Advisor who reports directly to the USSOCOM Commander on technology matters. The Science and Technology (S&T) mission is to create an effective S&T Enterprise that develops the technologies and new capabilities needed by the SOF Operators in five areas: Soldier Systems; Power and Energy; Mobility and Materials; Radio Frequency (RF) and Antennas; and Demonstrations, Experiments, and International Programs. Additionally SORDAC-ST manages USSOMS Small Business Innovation Research program, which stimulates technology innovation in small businesses. The Directorate is also an active participant in DOD's Joint Capability Technology Demonstration Program, which showcases SOF-related technologies, assesses utility, and helps develop complementary concepts of operation.
Director of Procurement-USAF Colonel Kurt Bergo SORDAC-K
The mission of SORDAC-K is to rapidly transform acquisition strategies into superior technologies, equipment, and services for SOF War fighters worldwide. SORDAC-K fulfills its mission through twenty Contracting Offices throughout the United States. It awards command-wide large dollar special operations equipment and performance based contracting service contracts. SORDAC-K manages contingency operations in support of overseas contingency operations.
Technology and Industry Liaison Office/TILO Christopher Harrington TILO
The TILO mission is to assist industry representatives, USSOCOM senior leaders, and the Command with communications, collaboration, and connections that facilitate business opportunities and a better understanding of the Command's acquisition interests. The Office of Small Business advocates on behalf of small business by striving to meet the goals mandated by Congress and the Office of The Secretary of Defense for equal Opportunity to conduct business with the Command.
The people of the United States, in particular, and the world in general, are deeply indebted to USSCOM, JSOC, and Seal Team Six. With this narrative I wanted to provide the reader with some insight into the mostly quiet world of the SOF Operator, some additional information on the bin Laden raid, how their Combatant Command at SOCOM is organized to do business with Industry partners. And for our microwave industry, how they can begin to interact with this knowledge as a starting point with USSOCOM to potentially address their mission needs with our advanced technology and products. As the bin Laden affair slowly fades away in the public's memory, these special operators will continue to do their special jobs every day in their own special ways. They will do it in small teams, embedded in foreign lands in the far flung corners of the globe, without most of the comforts of home. They are doing a tough job that they have so courageously volunteered to do. These brave warriors have pledged their lives to defend, protect and serve the United States of America and other countries.