Debate Club

Red Tape No Excuse for Giving Special Ops Autonomy

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Special operations forces should not be given more autonomy. Current law already grants authority to the president and secretary of defense to designate U.S. Special Operations Command as the supported commander. Specifically, Title 10 of the U.S. Code allows special operations activities (the mission) to be conducted under the command of the regional unified combatant commander.

[Pentagon Budget Ends Post-9/11 Era, Ushers in Pacific Era.]

Special operations forces are a small, elite community of warriors who operate mostly in the shadows. They have been granted ever greater responsibilities for planning and conducting counterterrorism operations around the globe by the current administration and the one before it.

The temptation to grant them more autonomy grows increasingly seductive as President Obama has dramatically escalated U.S. counterterrorism operations in countries like Yemen and Somalia and increasingly leans on this community to help facilitate a speedier exit from Afghanistan. It sounds reasonable enough: Just grant the commander authority to maneuver forces across geographic lines of authority established by the Pentagon's unified command plan.

But instead of a knee-jerk, blind approval of more authority or autonomy, civilians should not give away more control to the U.S. military without serious debate. Congress should be carefully examining the growing other special operations forces that have traditionally fallen under the purview of the CIA.

[U.S. Official: 'No Out of the Ordinary' Military Moves on Syria, Iran.]

In fact, a recent report by the Congressional Research Service has already suggested that Congress examine "the conditions or rules that apparently enable U.S. special operations forces to operate more secretively and more rapidly under CIA control than under U.S. Special Operations Command control." The report goes on to state that another "possible concern is whether U.S. SOF are operating under CIA control in order to 'get around restrictions placed on military operations.'"

While no one disputes that the Department of Defense is a big bureaucracy—slow in its decision-making processes—giving this community even more autonomy to go around rather than fix the bureaucracy is the wrong solution.

Mackenzie Eaglen

About Mackenzie Eaglen Resident Fellow at the American Enterprise Institute

military strategy

Other Arguments

22 Pts
Demand for Special Operations Will Increase

Yes – Demand for Special Operations Will Increase

Thomas Henriksen Senior Fellow at Stanford University's Hoover Institution and at the U.S. Joint Special Operations University

21 Pts
Special Operations Best Weapon Against New Adversaries

Yes – Special Operations Best Weapon Against New Adversaries

Michael P. Noonan Director of Foreign Policy Research Institute's Program on National Security

19 Pts
It's Time to Make Special Operations a Separate Service

Yes – It's Time to Make Special Operations a Separate Service

Douglas Macgregor Combat Veteran and Author of Warrior’s Rage: The Great Tank Battle of 73 Easting

-3 Pts
Wars Should Be Hard to Start

No – Wars Should Be Hard to Start

Benjamin H. Friedman Research Fellow in Defense and Homeland Security Studies at Cato

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