Fort Leavenworth, Kansas is the home of the Special Operations Campaign Artistry Program (SOCAP). This small but select program prepares officers to design and plan long-duration, low-visibility, SOF-centric contributions to strategic plans. Special operations is a complex endeavor at the tactical level requiring technical and tactical expertise. The missions performed, whether surgical strike (direct action, HVT capture/kill, etc.) or special warfare (unconventional warfare, combat foreign internal defense, counterinsurgency, etc.), are difficult to accomplish and require highly trained individuals who are part of extremely capable units at the tactical level. However, there is also a requirement for SOF capabilities to be seamlessly integrated into campaign plans and leveraged to achieve campaign goals at the operational and strategic level.

The U.S. Army has established a number of advanced schools to develop planning capabilities at the operational level. One of these courses is SOCAP, an 18-week course to prepare the students to work at one of the theater special operations commands (TSOC). Each TSOC works for a unified joint command in charge of military operations in regions around the world. The TSOC that works the European theater, Special Operations Command Europe (SOCEUR), describes its mission as follows:

Special Operations Command Europe provides tremendous flexibility throughout a full range of military operations including combat, special operations, humanitarian assistance, non-combatant evacuations and joint-combined military operations. SOCEUR exercises operational control of European theater Army, Navy and Air Force Special Operations Forces (SOF) and is responsible for SOF readiness, targeting, exercises, plans, joint and combined training, NATO and partnership activities, and execution of counterterrorism, peacetime and contingency operations.” [1]

Many observers and critics of the U.S. military state that it does very well at the tactical level, winning almost every fight on the battlefield. However, it is at the operational and strategic level where the U.S. military establishment seems to have difficulty. The strategic environment is very complex, with a mix of different types of warfare ranging from asymmetric threats to protracted conflict. Some are describing this environment—the space between peace and war—as the “Gray Zone.”