The definition and purpose of special operations continue to be a moving target as the United States pulls away from the War on Terror and begins to prepare and train for a “great power” conflict.

The special operations community has been a key player and in the spotlight in our wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Its mission hasn’t changed much over the past 20 years.

Special operations units have paid huge costs. Their reputation has been paid for with long stints away from home and major sacrifices made by those continuing to forward deploy.

With the shift to great power competition, the federal government and department of defense are re-evaluating spending and budgets. Based on a article, the Air Force Special Operations Command (AFSOC) is currently trying to prepare and plan for a minimized budget and change in operational requirements.

Lt. Gen. James Slife, the head of AFSOC, acknowledged the tightening budget and shift away from AFSOC’s stereotypical mission, on which AFSOC has excelled over the past two decades.

Last November, in a discussion with the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS), Slife acknowledged this by saying, “One thing that’s clear to us is that the future doesn’t look a lot like the present to us [sic].”

In preparation for a diminishing budget and a changing combat arena, Slife said, “The only conclusion one can come to is we have to stop doing some stuff. We have to divest in order to invest.”

The equipment and training required to wage war against other superpowers are going to look very different than what is being used right now to fight our extremist enemies.