Men on a Mission
U.S. Special Forces are retooling for the war on terror. Here's their plan
The SOCOM budget for equipment has almost tripled, to $2.7 billion since 9/11, and the majority of resources have gone to the larger white Special Forces, but it is still proportionately less than the amounts the much smaller black units receive. There are occasions, however, including the manhunts in Iraq, when the latter have shared air and intelligence resources.
About 90 percent of the funding for "urgent deployment acquisitions" has gone to white SOF since 9/11, says Dale Uhler, head of acquisitions at SOCOM. For example, when Special Forces units were trying to form an alliance among feuding Afghan warlords, the lack of face-to-face meetings between chieftains made deals impossible. So SOCOM bought eight suitcase-size video teleconferencing units. Thousands of unmanned aerial vehicles like the Pointer, the Raven, and the waterproof Aqua Puma were also purchased, as well as high-tech air-ground communications gear.
The debate over the balance between indirect programs and manhunts has captured attention among lawmakers and Pentagon officials. A proposal to create an "unconventional warfare command" was floated at June hearings held by Rep. Jim Saxton, the chairman of the special operations subcommittee. While praising direct-action successes, Saxton says, "I believe the key to our military efforts rests in the unconventional capabilities." He has not decided yet whether such a command within SOCOM is necessary but says "it is vital that policy makers in the Department of Defense not lose sight of the strategic importance of unconventional warfare and ensure that we capitalize on those capabilities."
General Brown is also taking another look at things. "Some think the establishment of some sort of an integrated Unconventional Warfare command under SOCOM may be of value," he says. "I have asked my staff and Army Special Operations Command to determine if that idea has any merit."