On Wednesday, Acting Defense Secretary Christopher Miller ordered the top civilian overseeing the military’s special operations command to report directly to him. This long-overdue effectively brings the U.S. Special Operations Command (SOCOM) on par with military departments per authority from the 2017 National Defense Authorization Act.

Miller made this announcement when visiting Fort Bragg, NC, the home of the Army’s Special Operations. It was his first official visit as the acting secretary since taking over the office on November 9 after President Trump fired Secretary Mark Esper. 

This announcement is the first step toward making the assistant secretary of defense for special operations and low-intensity conflict [ASD (SO/LIC)], a service secretary-like position responsible for the oversight and advocacy of the military’s special operations forces, said Miller.

“This reform will immediately improve agility to the department and the command and will enable us to streamline the information flow, enhance decision-making, and more adaptively and adeptly support our commanders and their superb soldiers, sailors, airmen, and Marines,” Miller added. 

Miller said he hopes that in the future Congress will elevate the ASD (SO/LIC) position to an undersecretary of defense level. He specified that he lacks the authority to do so. Before his announcement, the ASD (SO/LIC) reported to the defense secretary through the undersecretary of defense for policy, the de facto number three civilian in the Pentagon.

Ezra Cohen-Watnick is currently the ASD (SO/LIC) role on an acting basis. Miller had briefly served in that position on a temporary basis earlier this year, as well.

“I also want to highlight that this particular change has been analyzed, debated and refined over the course of the past 30 years,
Miller said.

Miller’s announcement on Wednesday finally aligns the Pentagon with what Congress had ordered in the FY2017 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) during the Obama administration. Congress’s intent was for the ASD (SO/LIC) position to be a service secretary-like job and report directly to the defense secretary “for issues impacting the readiness and organization of special operations forces, special operations-peculiar resources and equipment, and civilian personnel management.”