At a time when U.S. special operations are devising plans for the mission of accepting women into the male domains of SEALs, Green Berets andArmy Rangers, the terrorist-fighting community is facing a looming readiness problem.
The new challenge is tucked inside President Obama’s 2017 defense budget. It states that U.S. Special Operations Command (SOCOM) and its 69,000 personnel are up against “training challenges” and is seeing “minor impacts to the forces’ ability to accomplish missions” that could grow worse.
Army Green Berets and Navy SEALs face some limits on training due to cutbacks in fleet and training range operations, according to a budget overview document sent to Congress last week.
As this happens, SOCOM is looking at a spring deadline to begin tryouts for integrating women into teams where 85 percent of men oppose the move, according to a Pentagon-sponsored survey by the Rand Corp. Nearly 90 percent say that blending the sexes will lead to lowered physical standards for missions in which high endurance and brute strength are vital. Some male warriors are so opposed that Rand scholars labeled them “extreme.”
Special operations forces are deploying at one of the most frequent rotations in history during the war on terror, begun Sept. 11, 2001. After conducting hundreds of manhunts in Iraq against al Qaeda, they are back in that country preparing for raids on the Islamic State terrorist army.
Special Operations Forces (SOF), who kicked off the invasion of Afghanistan a month after the 9/11 attacks, remain in that theater. They also are deploying to North Africa and other regions to conduct counterterrorism training and occasional raids.
“We are a force who has been heavily deployed over the last 14 years, and our military members, civilians and their families have paid a significant price, physically and emotionally, serving our country,” ArmyGen. Joseph Votel, SOCOM commander, told Congress last year.
Training for these precise covert missions is critical.
SOCOM’s budget is remaining steady at about $10 billion. But the money crunch comes from the four services that contribute funding for special operations personnel and training time.
The Pentagon’s budget next fiscal year is $523 billion, not counting overseas war costs. That is about the same spending level as fiscal 2016 and less than the $528 billion of five years ago.
“One of USSOCOM’s greatest concerns is the potential impact of fiscal reductions in military departments’ readiness, which directly affects SOF,” the Obama budget says. “The USSOCOM has already witnessed reductions to the military departments that negatively affect SOF in a variety of ways.”
In other words, if the Army and Navy cut training time or operations, it means less access for commandos.
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