Intelligence: January 9, 2003


When SOCOM was created in 1987, the idea was to have all the special operations troops under one command so that training and developing special equipment would be more efficient. SOCOM would supply troops with special skills for the other services as needed. Now the Department of Defense is proposing to change all that and turn SOCOM into an "operational command." By adding 4,000 more troops and seven billion dollars, SOCOM would create battle staffs and headquarters so that SOCOM could carry out its own war on terrorism. SOCOM's annual budget would also increase from $4.6 billion a year to six billion dollars. This recognizes that SOCOM is best prepared to do the actual combat operations involved in the murky area of counter-terrorism. While the CIA and FBI would continue to handle intelligence and investigations, SOCOM personnel would be receiving information that resulted from these operations and have the authority to act. This means quickly capturing or killing terrorists. Another important player in all this is the State Department, which would have to work with foreign governments to get permission for SOCOM commandos to move in and do the deed. This could be touchy, as governments tend to be sensitive about foreign commandos operating on their turf. While it looks easy when 007 does it, even the British have many diplomats running interference for each MI-6 agent or SAS operator working overseas. To keep everyone happy, the British have learned that their commando operations overseas are best kept secret. The British are much better at keeping these operations quiet than Americans are, and this may prove to be a major problem for SOCOM in its new role. 


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