It is no secret that Special Operations Command (SOCOM) has a growing shortage of operators and is experiencing an ongoing struggle to meet training quotas.
In previous articles, I have talked about the manning shortfalls within the Special Operations community and the dwindling number of people that are capable and willing to make it through a Special Operations program.
Facts are facts. The pool of people for the military to recruit from is very small. We’re not at war. There’s no draft, and the military ideally likes to pick people ages 18-25 that are fit and healthy.
This reality has made manning a real challenge for SOCOM. This week, during the Special Operations Forces Industry Conference (SOFIC), these issues were addressed. It appears that times are changing and new screening, selection, and training procedures may soon be put in place to help strengthen numbers within SOCOM.
Each branch has its own unique plans, theories, and ideas on how to accomplish this task.
The Air Force, for example, intends to begin using an algorithm to select candidates for its programs. This algorithm is based on 30 years of collected data.
Lt. Gen. James Slife, the Commander of Air Force Special Operations Command said, “We’re moving ourselves increasingly away from an assessment and selection program that’s based on performance and more toward one based on attributes.”
Slife went on to say, “So it’s not really as much about how quickly you can do a ruck march with a 30-pound ruck and how many pull-ups and push-ups you can do, it’s really more about the attributes you possess.”
These algorithms will not only determine the individuals who are most likely to make it through training. They will also determine people that have the “right stuff” mentally, and those that are likely to stay with the force for a long time.
The Army is taking similar measures by using artificial intelligence. By doing this, Lt. Gen. Francis Beaudette, the Commanding General of Army Special Operations Command, claimed that they have been “able to identify those most likely to succeed.”
Artificial intelligence has enabled Army Special Operations to identify the best candidates to select from the conventional force. In addition, this process of selection kicks down the barrier of natural biases and assumptions and pulls people from all different backgrounds.
Maj. Gen. Daniel Yoo, head of Marine Corps Special Operations Command, is of the same opinion: “One area [we are] looking a lot for is somebody that can work in the information environment, but then also has the physical capabilities to do what we want to do in the special operations community.”
The Naval Special Warfare community acknowledged Yoo’s comments. It recognized that the tactics, training, and techniques perfected during the conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan are starting to evolve and change as the battlefield shifts and the enemies emerge.
Supporting these sentiments, Rear Adm. Collin Green, Commanding Officer of Naval Special Warfare said, “I think all of what we’re getting into the pipelines now are more digital natives. They’re more savvy, so how do we harness what they’ve learned growing up to apply to the creativity of warfare going forward?”
These new algorithms and programs may help SOCOM find more people that are capable of going the distance and meeting the demanding requirements of Special Operations.
The writing is on the wall for the Special Operations community. Technology is evolving quickly and the battlespace is becoming more digital and advanced.
SOCOM prides itself in being the tip of the spear and staying on the cutting edge — in being just as mentally tough and intelligent as physically fit. By utilizing new technology and recruitment practices, SOCOM is guaranteeing its own survival and success.