Recently, the United States Special Operations Command (USSOCOM) has been enmeshed in a series of scandals and bad publicity. In Iraq, a decorated Navy SEAL has been charged with war crimes and his platoon leader with covering him. In Mali, two Marine Special Operations Command (MARSOC) Raiders and two SEAL Team Six operators have been charged with the murder of a 3rd Special Forces Group Green Beret. In Florida, a 7th Special Forces Group Master Sergeant was caught smuggling cocaine into the country.
It is evident that something isn’t working properly within the ranks of America’s elite warriors. A small number of bad apples, of course, doesn’t mean that SOCOM or the Joint Special Operations Command (JSOC), in which SEAL Team Six falls under, are foul. But the actions of this minority is enough to question the training, professionalism, and ethic standards of America’s special operations forces (SOF). And now, Congress and the Department of Defence (DoD) will do just that.
According to a report filed by the Congressional Research Service (CRS), the DoD will conduct a comprehensive review of the professionalism and ethics programs for SOF units. The CRS, which is comprised of nonpartisan shared staff and assists congressional committees and Members of Congress with research, cites three legislative provisions in the FY2019 National Defense Authorization Act (P.L. 115-232) that indicate political concern with SOCOM’s standards and oversight.
More specifically, the DoD will investigate:
- The professionalism and ethics standards of the United States Special Operations Command and affiliated component commands.
- The ethics programs and professionalism programs of the military departments available for special operations forces.
- The ethics programs and professionalism programs of the United States Special Operations Command and affiliated component commands.
- The roles and responsibilities of the military departments and the United States Special Operations Command and affiliated component commands in administering, overseeing, managing, and ensuring compliance and participation of special operations forces in ethics programs and professionalism programs.
Additionally, the DoD investigators will identify potential gaps in the administration, oversight, and management of SOCOM’s ethics and professionalism programs. When it comes to defining SOCOM’s “ethics programs,” the DoD will have to ensure that SOF personnel are receiving “values-based training and education” that guarantees “high standards of conduct and incorporate guiding principles to help foster an ethical culture and inform decision-making where rules are not clear.”
The review will have to be completed by March 2019. Stay tuned for updates.