Report: Special Ops Readiness May Decline

Wednesday, 12 Mar 2014 12:42 PM

By Lisa Barron

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Demand for U.S. special operations forces is larger than the supply, leading to a potential decline in the ability to fight terrorism, according to a new Pentagon budget overview.

The 2015 budget overview says there is "significant stress on the force" and demand for Delta Force troops, Green Berets, Navy SEALs, and other commandos is "outpacing capacity" and has "initiated a downward trend in SOF readiness" this year, The Washington Times reported.

Retired Rear Adm. George Worthington, who was once the Navy's top SEAL, said there is obvious wear and tear on troops, as well as equipment.

"This is Vietnam on steroids," he told the newspaper, referring to the war on terror. "If there is any fraying, it's on replaceable operational equipment. But more than that, it's the operational tempo on the guys. They're over there for eight or nine months, and then they come back, and then they've got to go back."

The total number of special ops forces had been expected to reach 72,000, but budget constraints have limited the number to 69,700, according to the Times.

At the same time, the military's top special ops leaders told a panel of the Senate Armed Services Committee on Tuesday that overseas threats to U.S. interests continue to grow.

Michael D. Lumpkin, assistant secretary of defense for special operations and low-intensity conflict, and Navy Adm. William H. McRaven, commander of U.S. Special Operations Command, told the emerging threats and capabilities subcommittee that al-Qaida retains sanctuaries in remote areas of Afghanistan, Pakistan, Yemen, and Somalia, with sects rising in Syria and North Africa, the Armed Forces Press Service said.

McRaven testified that he can't always accommodate the needs of global commanders, saying, "My job as the supporting commander is to provide them with forces. Now, there does come a time when I kind of run out of forces, and so I've got to work with the [geographic combatant commands] and the services to do the best we can."

Meanwhile, the Pentagon assessment says that special operations units plan to "reduce select capacity to preserve readiness," but it did not specify which missions will be scaled back.

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