In a recent interview with the Cipher Brief, Retired Brigadier General Craig Nixon discussed ongoing problems in the Special Operations community and provided useful insight. During his 29 years of service, General Nixon served as the Director of Operations for both the Special Operations Command (SOCOM) and the Joint Special Operations Command (JSOC), which is responsible for the nation’s Tier 1 units, such as Delta Force and SEAL Team 6.

Asked about the recent wave of bad publicity in SOCOM and JSOC, General Nixon highlighted the unrelenting pace with which SOF units have been operating for almost two decades. “There are a number of things that are coming together to create the conditions for some of the things that we’re seeing come out,” he said. “One is just the cycle of continuous deployments over an extended period of time. There has also been an overexposure, if you will, of Special Operations in a lot of cases where we see Special Operations being used in roles where historically they have not been used.”

Deployments for some SOF units–particularly those tasked with Direct Action (DA) missions, such as the 75th Ranger Regiment, Delta Force, or SEAL Teams–are usually shorter in length to account for the intensity of the deployment. Instead of six months, for instance, such units would be deployed for three.

Concerning the plague of unprofessional incidents, including war crimes and fratricide within the ranks of America’s tip of the spear, General Nixon argued that more leadership and discipline is required to extricate the force from the bog. “My belief always is, I mean, you’re striving organizationally and individually to reach a level of self-discipline. But, you do that through an environment of discipline,” said the former director of operations for JSOC. “I think it is really the foundation of discipline that allows the Special Operators to perform at the standards that we are used to seeing and we expect them to operate in.”