Washington D.C. — House leaders introduced the final conference report for the Fiscal Year 2017 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) Nov. 30 authorizing up to $100 million to special operations forces to combat terrorism.
The inclusion follows reports that President Barack Obama is expanding the authority of Special Operations Command (SOCOM) to hunt terrorist cells around the world – according to reports. The expansion is significant because it would allow SOCOM to operate independently of the respective geographic combatant commanders in whose areas of responsibility they serve.
Rep. Mac Thornberry (R-TX), chairmen of the House Armed Services Committee, filed the $619 billion authorization and its accompanying report. The House is scheduled to approve the measure on Friday, while the Senate is expected to consider it next week.
The bill would authorize the Secretary of Defense to use the funds to support foreign forces, irregular forces, groups, or individuals supporting or facilitating U.S. SOF. It does not provide authority to conduct covert operations.
Notably, the authorization also contains no geographic limitations, similar to the new JSOC entity created by the president.
If the secretary uses money in support of foreign or other forces, he must notify the defense committees in writing no later than 48 hours after any operation is launched, the legislation said. The provision also includes a regular reporting requirement for actions taken each year under the authority.
What this means exactly regarding policy is unknown. However, the next Secretary of Defense Policy will be at the helm of massive tectonic changes to Special Operations and counter terror. This might be a breath of fresh air as change is seemingly taking place in Washington, D.C. However, as SOCOM operates independently of theatre commands some concerns arise. SOCOM Counter Terror forces are around the globe to what extent will they coordinate with Interagency and high commands, such as AFRICOM? One potential shortcoming could be the lack of coordination for sensitive low-visibility missions, such as necessary medevac or exfiltration options, could an SOCOM element be overrun?
Featured image courtesy DoD