During the 2019 Special Operations Forces Industry Conference (SOFIC) in Tampa, Florida, General Richard Clark, the commander of the U.S. Special Operations Command (USSOCOM), offered an insight on the priorities and goals of America’s special operations forces (SOF).

“Today, SOCOM is focused squarely on the implementation of the national defense strategy,” he said during an address. “This strategy acknowledges the re-emergence of great power competition in a global security environment with continuing threats from globally-networked violent extremist organizations, but also a rogue state.”

According to the national defense strategy document, China and Russia pose the biggest threat to American national security and interests. And without much fanfare, America’s SOF units have already re-focused their training to deal with potential contingencies as they pertain to the two rival nations.

General Clark became SOCOM’s commander last March after Army General Raymond Thomas retired. Now he faces the challenge of shifting the focus of America’s SOF from low-intensity conflicts and counterterrorism to state warfare. For decades many have questioned the strategic utility of SOF units. Indeed, in a conventional war, it is much harder for SOF units to make a strategic impact, whereas in conflicts like the ones in Afghanistan and Iraq, SOF units could display their strategic nature more easily by surgically dismantling the enemy’s leadership. Although the shift is necessary, it won’t be complete, as terrorist organizations will continue to pose a significant threat to U.S. national security.