In this new era of perpetual sequestration, it seems that budget restraint conflicts with enhancing our national defense. Yet threats to our nation have not diminished in the face of our budget battles. Several years ago, former Secretary of Defense Robert Gates accurately asserted that many future conflicts are likely to run the spectrum just short of full-scale war. Our experience in the last decade, if not the last four decades, confirms this notion.

An article last year in the New York Times reported criticism within the defense establishment of then-Special Operations Commander Admiral William McRaven. The article alleges that Admiral McRaven sought to create a fiefdom within Special Operations Command (SOCOM), thwarting the military’s predominant conventional leadership. Given current threats, does it not seem obtuse to have stood in his way?

As Admiral McRaven recognized, the authority to deploy and command forces is currently left to regional combatant commanders who oversee operations in the various operational theaters. However, our force structure must acknowledge current realities in the operational environment. Regardless of who sits in the oval office, the U.S. will, for the foreseeable future, be much more constrained in its employment of military force to affect emerging security threats. Even now, Iraq and Syria are unraveling, Ebola is threatening Africa and belligerent aggression by Russia undermines stability in Ukraine. The Commander-in-Chief and his aides have few appropriate conventional military options available. As a result, there is a great need for an enduring capability that will allow us to maintain our persistent global presence and pursue irregular threats on a more modest budget.

Much like we have separate services to engage the enemy in different physical operational environments (land, sea and air), we need a service to meet the enemy to secure key terrain in irregular warfare—human terrain. This force ought to have a component of veritable military ambassadors working with allied foreign militaries, coordinating with local civilian governments to improve governance and protect vulnerable civilian populations and translating that into a message that appeals to foreign audiences.