Major changes are coming for the Navy SEAL Teams both in terms of their missions and composition. 

In an interview with the Associated Press, Rear Admiral Hugh Howard III, commander of the Naval Special Warfare Command, said that the changes will improve the leadership and expand the SEALs’ special operations capabilities allowing them to adapt to threats from near-peer powers like China and Russia.

Number of Navy SEAL Platoons Will Be Reduced

Howard said that the SEALs’ focus on counter-terrorism missions will now evolve to meet global threats. Under the upcoming changes, the actual number of SEAL platoons will be reduced by as much as 30 percent. However, the size of the platoons will be increased to make the teams more lethal and better able to counter sophisticated maritime and undersea potential enemies. 

Combatting terrorism for the past two decades, Howard said, drained resources. This allowed China and Russia to make inroads across the globe. However, improvements in intelligence gathering and precision-striking capabilities have vastly improved. 

SEALs from SEAL Team Five conduct operations in small assault boats. (U.S. Navy)

“Many of these things are transferable, but now we need to put pressure on ourselves to operate against peer threats,” Howard added. Further, in accordance with new threats on the force, the teams will upgrade their cyber and electronic warfare and unmanned systems capabilities. This will improve their intelligence collection and deception operations.

“We are putting pressure on ourselves to evolve and understand our gaps in capability and what our true survivability is against these threats” posed by global competitors, he said in the AP interview.

New Screening Process for Navy SEALs

One of the other major changes will be a new, intensive screening process for higher-quality leaders for the Navy SEAL Teams. This follows reports in recent years of rampant drug use, sexual assault, and even murder. The scandals have rocked the SEAL and Special Operations community.

The situation reached such a point that Captain Jamie Sands, Commodore of Naval Special Warfare Group 2, told SEALs in attendance in a meeting carried out during a December 2016 stand-down that “I feel like I’m watching our foundation, our culture, erode in front of our eyes.”