U.S. SPECIAL FORCES IN TRANSITION
By Jim Garamone
12 Feb 14. Like the rest of the Defense Department, the special operations community is in transition, and officials are working on how best to shape the force for the future, a senior Pentagon official said here yesterday.
Michael D. Lumpkin spoke at the National Defense Industrial Association’s 25th annual Special Operations/Low-intensity Conflict Symposium. He is the assistant secretary of defense for special operation and low-intensity conflict, performing the duties of the undersecretary of defense for policy.
The end of the war in Iraq and the scaling down of the conflict in Afghanistan has opened a new chapter for the Defense Department, Lumpkin said. “We must adapt to a changing world in which global security threats are taking new forms and arising more swiftly and unpredictably than ever before,” he added.
Defense officials and industry partners must rethink the roles, missions and purpose of the entire military. “But this time of transition is especially important for the special operations community,” the retired Navy SEAL said.
Lumpkin said special operators will have an appreciably different and more active role for the future, noting that while the wars concentrated efforts in the U.S. Central Command area, the mission going forward will be more global. “The business of [special operations forces] will not be business as usual,” he said.
The period of post-9/11 combat operations is coming to an end, Lumpkin said. “Nearly every al-Qaida member involved in [the 9/11] attacks is either dead or in jail,” he told the conference audience. “The core al-Qaida leadership in Afghanistan or Pakistan has been decimated.”
But the terror group has metastasized to areas with security vacuums, he acknowledged. “The threat of terrorism and attacks is one we take very seriously,” he said. “Al-Qaida’s most capable affiliate al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula poses a major threat to the U.S. and its allies. We work closely with our Yemeni partners to disrupt and defeat their plots.”
Other affiliates such as the al-Nusra Front in Syria, al-Qaida in the Islamic Mahgreb and Al-Shabaab in Somalia are currently regional or local threats, but their violent attacks have great potential to harm or kill Americans, Lumpkin said. He pointed to the attack on an oil refinery in Algeria last year as an example of this threat.
“With regard to these and other terror attacks across the Middle East and North Africa, let me say this: We will never make the mistake of letting up in pursuit of terrorist groups that threaten our nation, wherever they may be,” the assistant secretary said.
The winding down of two long wars gives the United States the chance to act in its interests as a truly global power. “It is time to widen our scope and to deploy our forces and our energy in a manner more consistent with the deeper economic and geopolitical realities of our age,” he said.
This is the logic underlying the military’s rebalance toward the Pacific. The Asia-Pacific-Indian Ocean area is a rising region. The United States does about $1.4 trillion worth of two-way trade with Asia every year, and half of the world’s shipping by tonnage passes through the South China Sea. The region is home to more than half the world’s population. Seven of the 10 largest standing militaries in the world are in the region as is five of the world’s declared nuclear nations.
“It is in our clear economic and strategic interest to move our focus to the Pacific,” Lumpkin said. “This geographic shift hints at something even more fundamental: a fundamental shift in how we use and think of special operations forces in a post-9/11 era.”
The United States has been the bulwark of security in the region and is working to perpetuate the relative peace and stability, Lumpkin said. The United States accomplished this by building and maintaining a series of bilateral relationships and addressing potential sou