- U.S. Army Special Forces, the 75th Ranger Regiment, the 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment (Airborne), psychological operations units and civil affairs units;
- U.S. Navy Sea-Air-Land forces (SEALs), special boat units and SEAL delivery units; and
- U.S. Air Force special operations squadrons (fixed and rotary wing), special tactics squadrons, a foreign internal defense squadron, and a combat weather squadron. Although the acronym SOF is used to describe this community of world-class organizations, no one joins "SOF" per se. Instead, they join one of the units above, each of which is unique in its history, culture and contribution to the joint SOF team -- and our nation is better served as a result of this diversity.
The legislation that created USSOCOM also specified certain SOF activities and assigned the command specific authorities and responsibilities. These tasks, similar to those assigned to the Services, include:
- Manage a separate program and budget (Major Force Program 11) for SOF-unique requirements;
- Conduct research, development and acquisition of SOF peculiar items;
- Develop joint SOF doctrine, tactics, techniques and procedures;
- Conduct joint SOF specialized courses of instruction;
- Train all assigned forces and ensure joint interoperability;
- Monitor the readiness of all assigned and forward deployed joint SOF; and
- Monitor the professional development of SOF personnel of all services. The first two tasks give USSOCOM great flexibility in training, equipping and employing its forces.
SOF support this "shape, respond, prepare now" strategy by providing an array of expanded options, strategic economy of force, "tailor to task" capabilities -- and are particularly adept at countering transnational and asymmetrical threats.
SOF allow decision makers the flexibility to tailor U.S. responses, lethal and nonlethal, to encompass this wide range of possibilities and reduce the risk of escalation associated with larger, more visible force deployments. Consequently, SOF may be the best choice for crises requiring immediate response or precise use of force.
- SOF may be most effective in conducting economy of force operations, generating strategic advantage disproportionate to the resources they represent. For example, combat-ready Army Special Forces (SF) teams are routinely deployed around the world in support of peacetime engagement to prevent conflict and conserve resources.
- By training host-nation forces to provide their own security, and using integrated civil affairs and psychological operations programs to strengthen government infrastructures, SF foster stability and help prevent local problems from developing into threats to international security. Should conflict arise, these "global scouts" can quickly transition to combat operations and spearhead decisive victory.
- During conflict, SOF conduct operational and strategic missions that directly or indirectly support the joint force commander's campaign plan. Fully integrated into the joint campaign plan, SOF can attack high-value, time-sensitive targets throughout the battlespace to assist in rapidly achieving land, sea, air and space dominance.
- SOF also conduct information operations, train indigenous forces, assist conventional force management of civilians on the battlefield, and provide advisory and liaison capabilities to rapidly integrate coalition partners and leverage their unique qualities to enhance the capabilities of the entire force.
- During post-conflict situations, SOF's training skills, coupled with civil affairs and psychological operations expertise, help speed the transition to normalcy, thereby allowing conventional forces to redeploy quickly. SOF use these same skills during peace operations, to defuse volatile situations, provide "ground truth" to commanders and assist in the development of post-hostilities controls.
- SOF is rapidly adaptable to a broad and constantly varying range of tasks and conditions. This organizational agility allows SOF to quickly concentrate synergistic effects from widely dispersed locations and assist joint force commanders in achieving decisive results without the need for time-consuming and risky massing of people and equipment. Even under the most austere conditions, SOF can conduct 24-hour, multidimensional operations to penetrate denied or sensitive areas and resolve terrorist activity, pre-empt the threat posed by weapons of mass destruction (WMD), or strike key targets with precision and discrimination.
- Although a potent military force, SOF can often accomplish their mission without resorting to the use of force. SOF training skills combined with language proficiency, cultural awareness, regional orientation and an understanding of the political context of their missions make SOF unique in the U.S. military — true "warrior-diplomats." Moreover, this broad array of versatile capabilities allow SOF to "tailor to task" and operate effectively in any situation or environment.
SOF's ability to help mold the international environment, rather than merely responding to it, is our most important day-to-day contribution to national security and represents our "steady state" for the future.
U.S. conventional military dominance encourages future adversaries and competitors ranging from established nations to nonstate groups, such as terrorists, insurgents and new and unpredictable extremists, to avoid direct military confrontation with the United States. Instead, they will use asymmetric means such as WMD, information warfare, terrorism, taking the fight to urban areas, or the application of technological or operational surprise to offset our conventional advantages and achieve their goals -- even posing a direct threat to the U.S. homeland. Moreover, an adversary already engaged in conventional warfare with the U.S. could still employ these means to gain temporary or localized battlespace parity or asymmetrical advantage.
- The asymmetric challenge with the gravest potential facing the U.S. today is the threat posed by the global proliferation of WMD and their means of delivery.
Meanwhile, the explosive growth of commercial information technologies has made it possible for terrorist organizations, crime syndicates and drug cartels to organize, plan and coordinate activities from multiple locations around the world. With ties to rogue states, corrupt public officials and business organizations, these transnational entities can target many important public infrastructures (financial institutions, air traffic control systems, energy grids, telecommunications networks), U.S. military forces and American citizens.
- One consequence of this increased connectivity will be the creation of "distributed" threats and conflicts that will make national boundaries irrelevant. Given this threat evolution, SOF will operate with increasing autonomy within the commander's intent -- relying on distributed C2 [command and control], technology templating, and information avenues of approach to locate and neutralize widely dispersed targets with both cyber and kinetic weapons.
The capabilities required to counter WMD, conduct information operations and deal with other transnational and asymmetric threats are extremely resource intensive and in some cases dependent upon the continued development of revolutionary technologies.
Equally important is the development and continued adaptation of definitive U.S. policy for addressing these and other emerging threats. These efforts will be critical to ensuring that SOF have the resources and increasingly sophisticated capabilities required to dominate any form of conflict.
"A sensitive site is a designated, geographically limited area with special military, diplomatic, economic, or information sensitivity for the United States," according to the Army Field Manual on Intelligence
"This includes factories with technical data on enemy explosive and bomb making facilities, weapon systems, war crimes sites, critical hostile government facilities, areas suspected of containing persons of high rank in a hostile government or organization, terrorist money laundering, and document storage areas for secret police forces."
"Sensitive site exploitation consists of a series of activities inside a sensitive site captured from an adversary." This may include detecting and identifying explosive traces or being able to quickly name bulk explosive in storage.
"These activities exploit personnel, documents, electronic data, and material captured at the site, while neutralizing any threat posed by the site or its contents. While the physical process of exploiting the sensitive site begins at the site itself, full exploitation may involve teams of experts located around the world." The Field Forensics range of E.L.I.T.E detection tools enables operators to conduct SSE quickly, efficiently and with minimum equipment.
For further background and description of some fairly recent sensitive site operations, see a seminar paper entitled The Strategic Implications of Site Sensitive Exploitation by Col. Thomas S. Vandal, National Defense University, 2003.
See also Managing Site Sensitive Exploitation. Major Pete Lofy, 2003.
There are two main types of check points, permanent (PCP) and spontaneous (SCP) within each definition you then have vehicle and personnel, both have their own characteristics. Special Operation forces will rarely be involved in PCP's
Check points are established to enable a Special Operations Team unit to control access to the their area of responsibility. By searching people and vehicles at checkpoints, explosives and weapons or other items that may used to undermine the unit's mission can be discovered and confiscated. Check points allow the area of operations to remain immune from outside influence and to keep the ratio of enemy to friendly forces unchanged. They also deny the enemy intelligence gathering opportunities. Spontaneous check points make a large contribution to the security of military personnel and units and to the local population within the area of operations. To be effective these spontaneous check points must be set up in such a way so that they cannot be "by passed".
Location - In many of the conflicts the location of vehicle checkpoints will often be between two or more ethnic, political or religious factions. In these cases, PCP's will have to be erected along the existing boundaries between the warring factions, whereas initially the task may be given spontaneously to SOF.
Examples of SCP and improvised road obstacles include:
- The Beirut toothpick - "nails driven through lumber and placed across the road or other vehicle accessible areas".
- Felled trees.
- Debris, rubble or large rocks.
- Highway construction barriers.
The Field Forensics E.L.I.T.E range of explosive detection tools are lightweight, will operate properly even in extreme conditions, require no power source and give extremely low false positives.