SOCOM General Says Rate of Deployment “Unsustainable.”
SOCOM Commander General Raymond Thomas III and assistant deputy secretary of defense for special operations/low intensity conflict, Theresa Whalen, testified before the Senate Armed Services Committee, and the House Armed Services Committee the day before. The General was pressed by Senators who were concerned about the “operational tempo” of Special Forces.
Increasingly in recent years, the US has relied on the Special Operators as “advise and assist” troops, as well as counter-terrorism missions, and numerous other tasks world wide.
Countering Terrorism, Combating Russian Aggression, Preparing for North Korea contingencies… Approximately 8,000 Special Forces are deployed in 80 countries, at least 700 of them in Iraq and Syria. The General told them about trying to handle the strain of 15 years of continuous warfare on his Command, and trying to help families cope.
But when Senator McCain pressed him about the tempo of Special Operators deployments, the General was forced to admit that the rate of Spec Op deployments is “unsustainable.”
The Senators were skeptical that SOCOM could continue as the “go to” force. The General remarked that the caps on budgets remains a challenge.
Spec Ops can’t do everything
“We are not a panacea. We are not the ultimate solution to every problem, and you will not hear that coming from us…That has been misconstrued in some of the media circles…You’re right to worry about the perception, and it’s something we battle all the time. There have been too many books and movies that imply that we go it alone or do it alone. That’s completely incorrect.” General Thomas
He’s right, it’s not a movie. Combat is real, it’s hell, and as the death of a Navy SEAL yesterday illustrates, people die. The idea that the government can accomplish its strategies solely with the use of Special Forces was questioned at the hearing. General Thomas told the committee that they utilize allies and local forces on a regular basis.
The General also gave a response to the question about “adequate resources” that made Senator Inhofe skeptical. He called the General’s claim that the force was adequately staffed “inconsistent.” Stars and Stripes noted: Thomas testified Tuesday that Special Operations Command was working to battle the rate of suicides in its ranks, though he did not release any figures. Inhofe said that pointed to a force that was “overdeployed.”
Theresa Whalen told the committee that future readiness was suffering in the current deployment environment with severe budget cuts. “We have, essentially, had to eat our young, so to speak. We’ve had to mortgage the future in order to facilitate current operations.”
The entire testimony is here at C-Span.