The head of U.S. Special Operations Command (USSOCOM), General Raymond “Tony” Thomas III, testified before the Senate Armed Services Committee on May 4, 2017, and informed lawmakers and the public that the country’s elite special operations forces could not solve all of the world’s problems.
“We are not a panacea,” said the Army General, former 75th Ranger Regiment officer, and former Associate Director for Military Affairs at the CIA. Thomas went on to say that “We are not the ultimate solution to every problem, and you will not hear that coming from us… That has been misconstrued in some of the media circles.”
According to Thomas’ testimony, SOF units across the U.S. military number about 56,000 active duty personnel, and SOCOM accounts for about two percent of the Department of Defense’s manpower. There are currently more than 8,000 SOF personnel deployed in 80 different countries around the world. The total deployed includes almost 700 in Iraq and Syria, combatting terrorism as well as supporting local forces, and contingents in Afghanistan, Yemen, Libya, Somalia, and beyond, bringing the fight to al Qaeda and ISIS-affiliated groups in all of those countries.
The high operational tempo experienced by SOF units has continued unabated since September 11th, 2001, and has led to more casualties for the community than in any previous period of sustained combat. Most recently, Navy SEAL Senior Chief Kyle Milliken was killed in Somalia battling al-Shabab, and two Army Rangers lost their lives in Afghanistan in what was probably a friendly fire incident.