Update: SOFREP has learned that the 1st Special Forces Command will retain some CRF-like Direct Action capability, though significantly smaller than the current one. The rationale behind the decision to downsize, however, remains the same: CRFs are too expensive for their utility.

In a historic decision for the Special Forces community, the Crisis Response Force (CRF) companies are going to be disbanded and their operators and equipment redistributed to the force.

CRF companies are an elite cadre of Green Berets who specialize in Direct Action (DA), Counterterrorism (CT), and Hostage Rescue (HR) missions. Each Special Forces Group (1st, 3rd, 5th, 7th, and 10th) has a CRF company, and they are considered to be the strategic reserves of each combatant command in case of an emergency around the world. CRF used to be called Commander’s-in-extremis (CIF) companies.

SOFREP has learned that the United States Army Special Operations Command (USASOC) in conjunction with the 1st Special Forces Command (1st SFC) have decided to disband the CRFs because they are said to be underutilized and because of a lack of operators.

The decision, however, aligns with the ongoing pivot from Counterterrorism (CT) and Direct Action (DA) operations to Unconventional Warfare (UW) and Foreign Internal Defense (FID) as the Department of Defense (DoD) is edging away from counterinsurgencies and gearing toward a near-peer conflict with adversaries such as Russia and China.

CRF operators in Iraq.

A move that foreshadowed the decision to disband the CRFs took place earlier this year. In January, the American embassy in Baghdad came under siege by Iraqi protesters and Iranian-back militias before and after the targeted killing of the Iranian Major General Qassem Soleimani. However, Central Command (CENTCOM), the combatant command that is responsible for that Area of Operations, and Special Operations Command Central (SOCCENT), a sub-unified command responsible for Special Operations in the same AOR, decided to deploy a Marine element instead of A Company, 1st Battalion, 5th Special Forces Group (A/1/5), the CRF unit responsible for the Middle East. The message was clear – we don’t need you.

A senior CRF operator told SOFREP that “the CRF hasn’t been gainfully employed since the end of 2011, and other than that, the National Mission Force [Joint Special Operations Command] can get there just as fast. That’s why all of the other ones are on the chopping block.”

And there’s the rub. When you have Tier 1 Special Mission Units, such as Delta Force and SEAL Team 6, whose primary role is to respond to CT and HR scenarios across the world, CRFs feel somewhat redundant and a luxury. And manning and maintaining CRFs is far from cheap.