In trying to increase its effectiveness and interoperability, NATO has created yet another mini Special Operations Command.
In late October, Hungary, Croatia, Slovakia, Slovenia, and Austria (a NATO partner) signed a memorandum of understanding for the creation of the Regional Special Operations Component Command (R-SOCC).
Hungary, as the framework nation (i.e., the nation which launched the initiative and is contributing the most resources), will furnish 50 percent of the operators and support personnel. Moreover, the R-SOCC commanding officer will be from Hungary and he will be responsible for the overall coordination of the regional command.
The initiative began in February. The Command is expected to reach Initial Operational Capability (IOC) by January 2021, and Final Operational Capability (FOC) by December 2024.
Each individual SOF element of the R-SOCC will still be based in its respective country. But they will be able to deploy as one task force if the need arises. The regional Commands will also usable within a European Union, United Nations, or NATO framework. Their main mission if deployed would be countering hybrid warfare threats and counterterrorism.
During the signing ceremony, NATO’s Deputy Secretary-General Mircea Geoana stated that “as Special Operational Forces constitute a highly versatile tool in modern conflict, this signing ceremony takes an important step towards strengthening Special Forces in the region and increasing cooperation and interoperability within the Alliance.”
This is the second such SOF regional command in NATO. In June 2018, Belgium, Denmark, and the Netherlands launched the Composite Special Operations Component Command (C-SOCC). Both, and future, Commands will be included in the NATO Response Force, a SOF quick-reaction-force.
According to NATO, the creation of the Command “will strengthen partnerships, deter aggression, prevent conflict and help the Alliance respond to future crises with greater agility.”
The main impetus behind the creation of these regional commands and the general development of NATO’s SOF capabilities has been the realization that the Alliance was lacking coordination in the field.
This lack of interoperability flew under the radar for some years mainly because NATO SOF hadn’t had the opportunity to operate together. It wasn’t until Bosnia that the issue came to the forefront. There, NATO SOF, led by the American Tier 1 counterterrorism units Delta Force and SEAL Team 6 and by the British Special Air Service (SAS) and Special Boat Service (SBS), went after war criminals. By the time the next major challenge came in Afghanistan interoperability had increased by leaps and bounds — yet that doesn’t mean that rough spots didn’t exist.