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Joint Special Operations University Press Publications



The Fourth Age of SOF: The Use and Utility of Special Operations Forces in a New Age by Will Irwin and Dr. Isaiah "Ike" Wilson III


The Fourth Age of SOF: The Use and Utility of Special Operations Forces in a New Age is a sweeping monograph that chronicles the history of modern Special Operations Forces (SOF) and insightfully describes their new challenges. The authors have compiled an excellent, concise history of SOF’s three earlier ages: 1941–1960, 1961–1979, and 1980–2020, setting the stage for projecting SOF’s Fourth-Age roles in the emerging era of strategic competition. The early years were not easy, but with determination and perseverance, the SOF community prevailed, and four decades of remarkable and unprecedented SOF achievements resulted. As they begin their Fourth Age, SOF will again be challenged.

Interagency Reference Guide (Fourth Edition)

undefinedSpecial Operations Forces Interagency Reference Guide, Fourth Edition, edited by Charles Ricks 

Mr. Charles Ricks, a Joint Special Operations University (JSOU) Senior Fellow, first compiled this guide over a decade ago and continues to provide updates and revisions so that it remains a valuable reference work for JSOU students, Special Operations Forces (SOF) staff officers, and partners within the interagency (IA) enterprise. This is now the fourth edition of this publication. This new edition recognizes the changing nature of the international security environment and the adaptive and evolutionary nature of the IA process. While counterterrorism and combating terrorism remain essential SOF activities, the IA concepts, principles, and processes discussed here apply similarly to the involvement of SOF across the entire competition continuum and to all SOF core activities. As noted by the fifth SOF Truth, “Most special operations require non-SOF support.” That reality continues to form the basis for this guide as it addresses SOF IA engagement across the entire international competition continuum.


Resistance Operating Concept (ROC)

undefinedResistance Operating Concept (ROC) by Otto C. Fiala with foreword by Major General Kirk Smith and Brigadier General Anders Löfberg

     (Note, this is a 10MB files so may take longer than expected to download).

The primary focus of the Resistance Operating Concept (ROC) is developing a nationally authorized, organized resistance capability prior to an invasion and full or partial occupation resulting in a loss of territory and sovereignty. Resistance, as a form of warfare, can be conceived as part of a layered, in-depth national defense. Toward this end, the ROC first seeks to delineate the concept of national resilience in a pre-crisis environment. Second, the ROC seeks to develop resistance requirements, and support planning and operations in the event that an adversary compromises or violates the sovereignty and independence of an allied or partner nation. The ROC attempts to demonstrate both the significance of national resilience and the criticality of maintaining legitimacy during the conduct of resistance operations during the struggle to restore and resume national sovereignty. This publication will serve as a cornerstone of knowledge for strategists, policymakers, researchers, academics, and practitioners involved in furthering resistance capabilities.


undefinedVillage Stability Operations and the Evolution of SOF Command and Control in Afghanistan: Implications for the Future of Irregular Warfare by William Knarr and Mark Nutsch

In this monograph Bill Knarr and Mark Nutsch recount how the Special Operations Forces (SOF) command and control evolved with all of the Village Stability Operations (VSO) dimensions culminating ultimately in the creation of the Special Operations Joint Task Force. With the 2018  National Defense Strategy calling for expanding the competition space below the level of armed conflict, VSO provides a timely and relevant  example of how SOF can contribute to this vision. Just like terrorism, great power competition will play out in countries with weak sociopolitical systems. The inherently political character and joint, interagency, international/multinational, and corporate nature of VSO can be replicated  in many parts of the world for sustainable strategic effect. This monograph develops the concepts for SOF on how to contribute more  effectively and efficiently to the counterterrorism fight, but readers would do well to think about VSO principles and command and control in the context of great power competition.


Decision-Making Considerations in Support to Resistance by Will Irwin with Foreword by Lieutenant General Kenneth E. Tovo

The intent of this monograph is to reveal to Special Operations Forces (SOF) leaders and planners the variety of considerations facing decision makers, the approaches used in strategic- and operational-level decision making, and how they can better inform and influence that process with regard to special warfare. This monograph is a companion volume to two earlier works: Support to Resistance: Strategic Purpose and Effectiveness, and How Civil Resistance Works (And Why It Matters To SOF). This third volume describes some of the factors that decision makers have faced when considering support to resistance (STR) as a foreign policy option. This monograph should shed some light on how national security officials in the past have arrived at certain conclusions or why, in some cases, presidents have directed actions that were especially risky or controversial.


  Countering Transregional Terrorism Edited by Peter McCabe

Countering terrorism is very hard. Countering it across global and regional geographic boundaries is even harder. Also, as increasingly powerful technologies become available to terrorists, the consequences of failing to surmount their adaptiveness and agility become much larger. It is vital to recognize that, despite some very impressive progress that the United States and the international community have made in combating terrorism since 9/11, we still struggle as a global community with the creation of durable, permanent solutions, and outcomes against it. This important publication urges consideration of how we might be able to find better pathways, better solutions, and better designs into the future. The future will not wait for us.


Training Surrogate Forces in International Humanitarian Law: Lessons from Peru, Colombia, El Salvador, and Iraq by Patrick Paterson


Patrick Paterson’s monograph, Training Surrogate Forces in International Humanitarian Law: Lessons from Peru, Colombia, El Salvador, and Iraq, leverages the author’s vast experience in Latin American history to examine how U.S. Special Operations Forces (USSOF) train surrogate forces. He argues that it is necessary to employ United States Special Operations Command’s (USSOCOM) indirect approach to grow and build partnership capacity through foreign internal defense (FID) and to find a balance with international humanitarian law (IHL). Paterson also examines the legal issues and restrictions on training and equipping foreign forces and the impact of these exchanges with our partners. His research methodology includes extensive interviews and incorporates a historical case study approach, examining FID efforts in Peru, Colombia, and El Salvador for lessons learned, and then compares and contrasts USSOF train and equip efforts in Iraq.


Unconventional Economics: Operational Economics in Unconventional Warfare by Major Riley J. Post and Colonel (Ret.) Jeffrey D. Peterson, Ph.D.


In this monograph, Major Riley Post and Dr. Jeffrey Peterson offer a compelling look into economic activities and influence in the context of unconventional warfare (UW). The value of this monograph lies in the creation of a framework that provides a structured approach for UW practitioners to employ as they assess and analyze economic factors that influence and support insurgency movements. This framework offers a way to simplify the varied and complex economic activities required to support equally complex resistance operations. This monograph provides examples of tactical, economic opportunities that support operational and strategic objectives. As a vignette, the authors evaluate the rise and potential vulnerabilities of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant. This monograph concludes with recommendations to enhance training for Special Operations Forces leaders and operators in the application of economic factors in UW.

SOF Role in Combating Transnational Organized Crime













SOF Role in Combating Transnational Organized Crime, edited by William Mendel and Dr. Peter McCabe

       In April 2015, military and civilian personnel from Canada, Mexico, and the United States came together at Colorado Springs, Colorado, for a symposium hosted by U.S. Special Operations Command-North and facilitated by Joint Special Operations University and Canadian Special Operations Forces Command. Their task was to examine the role of Special Operations Forces (SOF) in combating transnational organized crime (TOC). The panelists and plenary participants set to work considering a wide range of issues attending to the TOC threat. After the Symposium concluded, panelists and speakers synthesized the results of their research and panel discussions in articles for publication—those articles are found in the chapters of this report of proceedings. The implication for SOF is they must continue to train to meet the strategic challenges ahead. This will require forward-deployed units that are engaged with their counterparts in host countries because TOC is both a threat to, and a result of, weak, emerging democratic governments that benefit from engagement. Readiness to conduct all SOF core activities will remain a priority.

Special Report

Tactical Operations for Strategic Effect: The Challenge of Currency Conversion by Colin S. Gray

Dr. Gray examines the currency conversion between tactical behavior and its strategic consequences. All strategy is comprised of tactical actions and Special Operations Forces (SOF) are often tasked with tactical operations with the expectation they will have desired strategic effect. A SOF community seeking to explain its functions needs to be crystal clear in distinguishing between the fundamentally distinctive meanings. If there is confusion about these two concepts-and the author believes there is-then charting a sensible relationship between them is then impossible. The author explains as an example that, "there are no, indeed there cannot be, any 'strategic' troops, forces, or weapons, for the simple reason that all troops, forces, and weapons have strategic meaning, be it ever so slight, or even arguable." This monograph attempts to reinforce the understanding of strategy and tactics by using historical examples where the two have failed each other. In the end, there must be the necessary direction and leadership that provides solid strategic sense so that SOF may achieve the effects needed to advance U.S. policy.


Partners or Competitors? The Evolution of the Department of Defense/Central Intelligence Agency Relationship since Desert Storm and its Prospects for the Future by David P. Oakley

To understand the historical and contemporary context of the CIA/DOD relationship, Major David Oakley draws on secondary sources for his academic research supplemented by primary sources of personal interview with two former Chairmen of the United States Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, interviews with previous and current DOD and CIA leadership, government documents, and written first-person accounts. These primary sources add a new dimension and uniqueness to his research. Although the CIA and DOD relationship expanded significantly following the 9/11 terrorist attacks, its foundation was set 10 years earler in the aftermath of Desert Storm and in the Cold War's twilight glow. During this period, congressional policy pronouncements and organizational changes within institutions increased the communication and liaison partnerships between the CIA and DOD, establishing the foundation for greater interoperability after 1992. These changes established conditions that enabled the blossoming of the relationship since 2001.

Interagency Counterterrorism Reference Manual

Special Operations Forces Interagency Counterterrorism Reference Manual, Third Edition by Charles Ricks

Introduced by the Vice Commander of USSOCOM, this Third Edition builds upon the success of the earlier versions and continues to incorporate the evolving policy guidance and strategic vision that guide ongoing interagency counterterrorism efforts. It provides an outline of organizations, missions, programs and relationships that comprise the interagency process. This manual provides insight and information regarding various counterterrorism organizations in the U.S. Government national security apparatus. Also included is an explanation of the expanded concepts of civilian power and their implications for Diplomacy and Development that emerged from the publication of the First Quadrennial Diplomacy and Development Review in 2010. Expanded sections on countering terrorist finance operations, interagency responses to cyber threats, and strategic communication reflect general acknowledgement of the importance of these capabilities. As before, updated collections of definitions, organizations, programs, and acronyms are included to provide the special operations warrior with an improved, practical, quick-reference guide to the interagency community.

Interagency Counterterrorism Reference Manual


As the director of the United States Special Operations Command (USSOCOM) Interagency Task Force (IATF), Mr. Frankie Shoyer introduces this Second Edition. This edition enhances the earlier document by adding President Obama’s National Security Strategy, expanding information in other areas such as in the Country Team and discussing the concept of the SOF professional operating as the 3-D warrior (defense, diplomacy, and development). This concept recognizes the importance of SOF as part of the sinew that binds together critical elements of national power and animates them under the most demanding conditions. As USSOCOM conducts a robust engagement campaign working with U.S. Government interagency components, the manual serves as an essential component of USSOCOM/JSOU’s successful education curriculum that is focused on the interagency process. JSOU’s Interagency Education Program and this manual make important contributions to the knowledge base and professional development of the SOF and interagency communities.


Convergence: Special Operations Forces and Civilian Law Enforcement by John B. Alexander

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.




Policing and Law Enforcement in COIN--the Thick Blue Line by Joseph D. Celeski

Joe Celeski's current work on the role of policing in confronting security threats highlights the need to shift resources and emphasis towards policing, law enforcement, and internal security. Law enforcement and internal security are key pillars in a comprehensive national security strategy and are often under-emphasized. As the campaign against terrorist networks shifts out of a combat phase, the competition between governments and terrorist groups for the public's support, a key element in irregular warfare, will occur in noncombat zones. 


Disrupting Threat Finances: Using Financial Information to Disrupt Terrorist Organizations by Wesley J. L. Anderson

Major Anderson provides an excellent overview of terrorist financ­ing and expands upon how it fits into the broader construct of threat financing. He articulates the significant challenges any government faces in trying to interrupt the terrorist networks use of the global financial system. The sheer immensity of this system provides ample opportunity for terrorists to operate undetected or unhindered. He also highlights that the very international nature of the global eco­nomic system presents enormous challenges in trying to coordinate amongst the almost 200 sovereign states that comprise the current world order.