As the Department of Defense prepares for future conflicts and contingencies, its elite units are following suit. In an interview with Special Forces Outlook magazine, Rear Adm. Collin Green, commander of Naval Special Warfare Command (NSWC), outlined the future of the SEAL Teams and how they are preparing to combat future threats.
The top Navy SEAL delineates that a strategic shift is taking place not only in NSW but also in Special Operations Command (SOCOM). Gradually, America’s SOF units are placing more emphasis on state-level adversaries and threats. This shift is reasonable and anticipated given the National Defense Strategy categorizes China and Russia as the greatest threats to American national security. Branches, commands, and units are in a constant fight to prove their worth and thus, get additional funds. If the Pentagon anticipates and prepares for conflict in Eastern Europe or the Pacific, it makes sense for SOCOM to shift its training and planning from destroying terrorist organizations to conducting special operations against conventional militaries.
“We must think more creatively, beyond the physical domain, and redefine the ‘X,’” said Admiral Green. “Targets will be multi-domain and include cognitive and virtual objectives. We must act with urgency as we continue the VEO (violent extremist organizations) fight while challenging great-power competitors and countering rogue regimes like Iran and North Korea. That is what the nation expects from Naval Special Warfare.”
NSW is trying to achieve the above by implementing a deep structural reform in how its units are organized. Before the Global War on Terror began, SEAL Teams had a regional focus like the Army’s Special Forces Groups still have. For instance, SEAL Team One had a regional focus on Southeast Asia and SEAL Team Two had a regional focus on Europe. But the excessive demands of the Iraq and Afghanistan conflicts mandated the deployment of SEAL platoons to areas outside their usual areas of operations.
Perceiving the rigidness of the previous structure, NSW is restructuring its units from “geographically fixed formations into agile, strategic capability formations.” According to Admiral Green, this would allow for better and more efficient command and control. In essence, the future of NSW will be in task forces that would be tailored depending on the situation. For example, they could contain two SEAL platoons or more as the situation dictates. Captains (O-6) would lead these task forces, thereby giving some authority clout in case it’s needed.
Clarifying a previous statement he made about NSW becoming a force that Americans expect, Admiral Green said the command’s “ability to understand the operational landscape, adapt quickly and evolve capacity, capabilities and concepts based on operational requirements is one of our great strengths, and these characteristics, I think, are what our nation most expects from us.”
NSW has over 1,000 operators deployed across 35 countries. This number wouldn’t only include Navy SEALs but also Special Warfare Combatant-craft Crewmen and Navy Explosive Ordinance Disposal (EOD) operators, though Navy EOD don’t fall under NSW but some of them are attached to SEAL platoons.