Intelligence: February 12, 2003


One thing that keeps in a lot of people in the U.S. Special Operations Command (SOCOM) busy is creating and updating contingency plans. Commando operations depend, for their success, on careful planning, preparation and rehearsal. When there's an emergency somewhere, the Special Forces, Delta Force or SEALs are expected to get in their fast and take care of things. To make this happen, the planners at SOCOM have to compile lists of likely future hot spots and then collect information commandos will need going in. This includes such mundane things as maps, the easiest ways to get in legally and illegally and who among the locals is willing to work with SOCOM operators. That's the easy part. Special Forces troops spend much of their time overseas working with foreign armed forces and part of that job involves collecting information and making contacts. The hard part is keeping all the planning data current. Maps go out of date, and local contacts and border guard routines can change even more quickly. Satellite and electronic reconnaissance helps somewhat, as this goes on all the time. But keeping in touch with local friendlies requires the human touch. If the local border guards should suddenly get a commander who cracks down on corruption, illegal entry suddenly becomes more difficult. If the local air force buys a much better surveillance radar, coming in by helicopter or parachute suddenly becomes more difficult. Shortcomings in this pre-planning process is the most common cause of commando operations failure. So, even when the world appears to be peaceful, the SOCOM planners are hustling to prevent a screw up in some unexpected future operations.


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