Unconventional Warfare: Rebuilding U.S. Special Operation Forces

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Brookings Institution Press, 2011 M02 1 - 336 pages

For four decades after World War II, U.S. Special Operations Forces—including Army Special Forces, Navy SEALs, Air Force special operations aircrews and Special Tactics Group—suffered from mistrust and inadequate funding from the military services. They were nearly eliminated from the active force following the Vietnam War. But in the past fifteen years, special operations forces have risen from the ashes of the failed 1980 rescue of American hostages in Iran to become one of the most frequently deployed elements of the U.S. military. They are now adequately funded, better-equipped, and well-trained. Special operations forces are often the nation's first military response when faced with a crisis in today's uncertain and unstable international security environment.

What caused this dramatic turnaround? As this book shows, it was a long way from congressional outrage at TV images of burned bodies of U.S. servicemen in the Iranian desert to the establishment of a special operations force of nearly 45,000 active and reserve personnel. The drama of how this happened sheds light on how public policy is made and implemented. It illustrates the complex interaction between internal forces within the special operations community, as well as between the executive and legislative branches of the U.S. government. The implementation of legislation establishing a special operations capability is seen to rebuild and protect these forces to an extent never imagined by the early "quiet professionals."

While offering insights into how the U.S. government makes policy, Susan Marquis also offers a revealing look at the special operations community, including their storied past, extreme training, and recent operational experience that continues to forge their distinctive organizational mission and culture. She describes the decade-long struggle to rebuild special operations forces, resulting in new SOF organizations with independence that is unique among U.S. military forces, an independence approaching that of a new military service.

 

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Unconventional warfare: rebuilding U. S. special operations forces

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This remarkable case study, based on personal interviews, congressional records, and other official documents, shows how defense policy is made and how difficult it can be to implement. The primary ... Read full review

Unconventional warfare: rebuilding U. S. special operations forces

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This remarkable case study, based on personal interviews, congressional records, and other official documents, shows how defense policy is made and how difficult it can be to implement. The primary ... Read full review

Selected pages

Contents

1ntroduction
1
A Precarious Value
6
The US Armys Special Forces
8
Underwater Demolition Teams and seals
20
Air Commandos and the US Air Force
28
SOF and the PostVietnam Era
33
Survival of a Precarious Value
44
Navy SEALs
48
Washington DC or the Ends of the Earth?
151
Who Are Special Operations Forces?
154
Special Operations Command Begins Work
162
The New Special Operations Bureaucrats
165
Malicious Implementation?
170
Implementation
173
Confusion and the Office of the Assistant Secretary of Defense
176
Secretary Marsh and the First Confirmed ASD SOLIC
179

Innovation in the Face of Uncertainty
52
Flip Corkin and the Air Commandos
55
Maintaining a Distinctive Organization
57
Protecting a Precarious Value
60
Reconnecting to the Fleet
65
Surviving the 1970s
68
The Tragedy of Desert One
69
First Steps
73
Air Force Special Operators and Desert One
75
The Struggle for Reform
79
Congressional Support Grows
86
Protecting a StillPrecarious Value
89
Urgent Fury
91
Legislating Change
107
Inside the Pentagon
112
Going Public
116
Heading toward Legislated Reform
127
Loss of a General
132
Too Little Too Late
134
Division on the Hill
140
NunnCohen Amendment to the 1986 Defense Reorganization Act
144
The New Bureaucrats
148
Setting Up Shop
149
Capitol Hill Comes to the Pentagon
181
Peacetime Engagement
184
A Special Operators WarOperation Just Cause
187
Operation Promote Liberty
201
Whos in Charge?
203
The Department of Defense
206
Controlling SOF Resources
208
The View from USSOCOM
214
Congress Says Enough
217
Desert Shield and Desert Storm
227
SOF Integration with Conventional Forces
230
Desert Storm
236
The End of the War and Operation Provide Comfort
244
Moving Forward
250
Special Operations Forces Today
255
Guaranteeing a Future
256
A Road Map
257
Service Concerns versus Operational Needs
258
The Risks to SOF Organizational Culture
261
Protecting a Precarious Value
263
Notes
271
Index
307
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About the author (2011)

Susan L. Marquis is a division director in the office of the Secretary of Defense in Program Analysis & Evaluation.

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