The USSOCOM 2011 Research Topics list is intended to guide research projects for PME students, JSOU faculty, research fellows, and others writing about special operations during this academic year. Research is one of the cornerstones of JSOU’s aca¬demic mission as we strive to produce publications to meet joint SOF operational and planning needs. Each year rep¬resentatives from USSOCOM, the Theater Special Operations Commands (TSOCs), SOF chairs from the war colleges, and JSOU senior fellows develop a list of salient issues confronting SOF in the near term. The list is vetted through the components and TSOCs to ensure that research will advance SOF missions and support SOF interests. The final recommendations for research topics are approved by the USSOCOM commander. These topics, concepts, and processes reflect the challenges of winning the current conflicts and meeting the needs for the conflicts most likely to face us in the foreseeable future.
The 5th Annual Sovereign Challenge Conference featured a wide variety of presenters who captured the complexity of the global security environment, the challenges posed to national sovereignty, and the necessity for a shared and coordinated international effort to ensure stability and to protect national prerogatives to act. Included among these are:
a. Importance of understanding culture and acting on that understanding
b. Role of education in generating understanding, independent thought, progress, and stability
c. Need for collective effort as seen in the internationalization of the battlefield and the development of whole-of-government approaches
d. Threats posed by extremism and the roles of cultural understanding, education, and collective effort in confronting extremism
e. Importance of judicial and law enforcement approaches and solutions
f. Requirement for harmonized strategic communication strategies that are credible and effective in achieving desired outcomes.
Like the well-known slogan, hydrate or die, Special Operations Forces (SOF) also must innovate or die. Innovation may be crucial to SOF personnel’s actual physical survival, but die is also a metaphor for organizational oblivion: conformity and assimilation. One of the fundamental qualities of SOF that derives from the nature of the personnel and their organization is creativity. Dr. Spulak advances a concept for enhancing the rapid innovation that enables SOF to stay ahead of our adversaries on the battlefield. He takes a look at how SOF might innovate in ways that are different from conventional forces and emphasizes that “innovation for SOF is a function of the attributes of SOF personnel and culture.” Whereas the conventional General Purpose Forces must seek innovation within large organizations--often merely applying more of existing capabilities--SOF personnel have greater license to innovate during ongoing operations.
This monograph examines the characteristics of terrorist-insurgent thinking and U.S. joint planning doctrine and practices and concludes that the existing U.S. planning framework is inadequate for the terrorist-insurgent threat. It also challenges the reader to expand his own planning paradigm to more fully encompass the implications of terrorist-insurgent thinking in the design and planning of U.S. operations. Why this mismatch occurs and how the terrorist-insurgent operates outside our cognitive frame of reference (for fighting in theaters of war, theaters of operations, areas of operations) are two important questions addressed. Equally important is the question, what are the implications of this for our own doctrine and practices? Focusing on two of the most significant characteristics of terrorist-insurgent thinking--changing level of operations and broader range of tactics--Dr. Paquette answers these questions and identifies the obstacles that stand in the way of the necessary adjustments to our conventional paradigms. Note: This paper is not available in hard copy.
The convergence of the operations conducted by SOF and civilian law enforcement agencies (LEAs)-especially Special Weapons and Tactics (SWAT) units-has generated special training requirements. This monograph examines the elements precipitating this circumstance, provides SOF with a better understanding of changing domestic threats and operational capabilities of LEAs, and draws insights from the similarities and challenges imposed by transnational gangs and terrorists both domestically and abroad. The author argues that SOF needs new skills and training to assume the law-enforcement-like missions they are being assigned. In addition, the monograph provides leaders of major LEAs a better understanding of special operations and potentially facilitates a basis for future cooperation and mutual support. The forward-looking monograph also argues that the public attitude toward conflict is changing and perhaps the legal underpinnings on use of force as well.
This monograph provides special oper¬ations readers with useful and important insights into how civic actions can achieve strategic objectives. The author uses Hezbollah as an illustration and reminder of this process by outlining the comprehensive activities of the Hezbollah Social Service Section as a precursor for success in Hezbollah’s political and military actions. The author estimates that about half of Hezbollah’s budget is dedicated to social services sectors such as health, veterans’ services, reconstruction and compensation, education, women’s groups, and even the Imam al-Mahdi Scouts (roughly analogous to the Boy Scouts). Such efforts are employed to capture the willing support of the people in order to further Hezbollah’s political aims. The concept is working, as Hezbollah has largely supplanted the Government of Lebanon in the southern part of that country while it continues to harass Israel and the West on the political-military front.
The Joint Special Operations University (JSOU) partnered with the Special Operations and Low Intensity Conflict (SO/LIC) Chapter of the National Defense Industrial Association (NDIA) in sponsoring the annual chapter essay contest. The first-place winner and runner-up are recognized each year at the NDIA SO/LIC Symposium in mid-February with monetary prizes and certificates. The competition is open to resident and nonresident students attend¬ing Professional Military Education (PME) institutions and has produced outstanding works on special operations issues. These essays provide current insights on what our PME students see as priority national security issues affecting special operations. Essay contestants can choose any topic related to special operations. Submissions include hard-hitting and relevant recommendations that many Special Operations Forces (SOF) commanders throughout United States Special Operations Command (USSOCOM) find very useful.
In exploring Counterinsurgency and the Indirect Approach, Dr. Thomas Henriksen assesses several cases where the United States has employed an Indirect Approach toward achieving strategic objectives, and he suggests where this concept has landed short of expectations. In the cases of Vietnam, Somalia, the Philippines, and other countries, he demonstrates that it is often difficult to fit the Indirect Approach doctrine into such a wide variety of strategic and operational environments.
Dr. Graham Turbiville's account of U.S. military engagement with Mexico provides a broad account of the interaction among the military elements of both countries from 1846 to the present day. He describes the evolution of the Mexican military toward a more capable and modern force. Especially informative for the special operations reader is the advent of numerous special operations units within the military and some civil elements. As noted, this has fostered reciprocal opportunities for SOF training and education.
Today U.S. national security is threatened by violent extremist groups operating from sanctuaries in hard to reach areas of Afghanistan, Pakistan, Yemen, Somalia, and similar areas in the Pacific Rim and Latin America. It seems probable that there will be a marked increase in our need to disrupt and destroy enemy forces in multiple sanctuaries around the globe as we proceed to march through the 21st century. Celeski's paper provides a vision of the future SOF wherein hunter-killer teams could have a significant role to play in finding, disrupting, and destroying the enemy.