Summary

CONTEXT

In 1986, Congress established the U.S. Special Operations Command (SOCOM) as a new unified command to oversee training, doctrine, and equipping of all Special Operations Forces (SOF). Headquartered at MacDill Air Force Base, Florida, SOCOM is commanded by a four-star flag or general officer. SOCOM has four service component commands: U.S. Army Special Operations Command; Naval Special Warfare Command; Air Force Special Operations Command; and Marine Special Operations Command; and one subunified command, the Joint Special Operations Command. SOCOM’s mission is twofold: 1) to plan, direct, and execute special operations in the conduct of the War on Terrorism in order to disrupt, defeat, and destroy terrorist networks that threaten the United States, its citizens, and interests worldwide and, 2) to organize, train, and equip SOF provided to geographic combatant commanders, American ambassadors, and their country teams. Today, SOF units include a total of approximately 55,000 active and reserve personnel across all the services, or about 2 percent of all U.S. active and reserve forces. SOF are specially organized, trained, and, equipped military forces that conduct operations to achieve military, political, economic, or informational objectives by generally unconventional means in hostile, denied, or politically sensitive areas.

The unique nature of SOF roles, missions, and tactics is always built on a single common denominator—the small unit. Within these small units, the capabilities and limitations rest on the individual skill sets of the team members and the interdependent functioning of the group. Whether functioning as an interdependent task force or semi-autonomously at a remote location, SOF units perform best with clearly defined objectives, prepared by intense training accompanied by detailed planning and rehearsals. SOF small units are uniquely adaptive and flexible, enabling them to quickly and successfully improvise and adjust to highly fluid situations and escalation of risk. At any given moment, SOF are likely to be engaged in some stage of the planning or execution of special operations in many countries around the world, spanning a wide range of environments and missions. SOF therefore must be capable of operating in environments ranging from tropical jungle to arctic, maritime to desert, subterranean to mountainous, and rural to urban. Within this vast range, additional factors may influence technical and operational requirements, including weather, topography, bathymetry, geology, flora, fauna, and human population density. All of these factors must be weighed in terms of the challenges they pose to supporting communications and operational security. In short, SOF must maintain the capability to operate globally, in any environment, against any threats that can be countered by its unique capabilities. Although SOF have broad and flexible capabilities to conduct missions that are also performed by conventional forces, SOF are distinguished from conventional forces in that they offer the best choice in situations requiring regional orientation, cultural and political sensitivity—e.g., military-to-military contacts—and for especially sensitive missions, including those likely to require covert and/or clandestine operations and operations involving access to denied areas.1

1

William S. Cohen, Secretary of Defense, “Annual Report to Congress,” 1998, Adapted from Chapter 4,



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Summary CONTEXT In 1986, Congress established the U.S. Special Operations Command (SOCOM) as a new unified command to oversee training, doctrine, and equipping of all Special Operations Forces (SOF). Headquartered at MacDill Air Force Base, Florida, SOCOM is commanded by a four-star flag or general officer. SOCOM has four service component commands: U.S. Army Special Operations Command; Naval Special Warfare Command; Air Force Special Operations Command; and Marine Special Operations Command; and one subunified command, the Joint Special Operations Command. SOCOM’s mission is twofold: 1) to plan, direct, and execute special operations in the conduct of the War on Terrorism in order to disrupt, defeat, and destroy terrorist networks that threaten the United States, its citizens, and interests worldwide and, 2) to organize, train, and equip SOF provided to geographic combatant commanders, American ambassadors, and their country teams. Today, SOF units include a total of approximately 55,000 active and reserve personnel across all the services, or about 2 percent of all U.S. active and reserve forces. SOF are specially organized, trained, and, equipped military forces that conduct operations to achieve military, political, economic, or informational objectives by generally unconventional means in hostile, denied, or politically sensitive areas. The unique nature of SOF roles, missions, and tactics is always built on a single common denominator—the small unit. Within these small units, the capabilities and limitations rest on the individual skill sets of the team members and the interdependent functioning of the group. Whether functioning as an interdependent task force or semi-autonomously at a remote location, SOF units perform best with clearly defined objectives, prepared by intense training accompanied by detailed planning and rehearsals. SOF small units are uniquely adaptive and flexible, enabling them to quickly and successfully improvise and adjust to highly fluid situations and escalation of risk. At any given moment, SOF are likely to be engaged in some stage of the planning or execution of special operations in many countries around the world, spanning a wide range of environments and missions. SOF therefore must be capable of operating in environments ranging from tropical jungle to arctic, maritime to desert, subterranean to mountainous, and rural to urban. Within this vast range, additional factors may influence technical and operational requirements, including weather, topography, bathymetry, geology, flora, fauna, and human population density. All of these factors must be weighed in terms of the challenges they pose to supporting communications and operational security. In short, SOF must maintain the capability to operate globally, in any environment, against any threats that can be countered by its unique capabilities. Although SOF have broad and flexible capabilities to conduct missions that are also performed by conventional forces, SOF are distinguished from conventional forces in that they offer the best choice in situations requiring regional orientation, cultural and political sensitivity—e.g., military-to-military contacts—and for especially sensitive missions, including those likely to require covert and/or clandestine operations and operations involving access to denied areas.1 1 William S. Cohen, Secretary of Defense, “Annual Report to Congress,” 1998, Adapted from Chapter 4, 1

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2 SENSING AND SUPPORTING COMMUNICATION CAPABILITIES FOR SOF The focus of this report is primarily on the key core SOF task of special reconnaissance: on determining SOF-specific sensing and supporting communications (S&SC) needs and mapping them to existing and emerging technologies. The committee chose the special reconnaissance mission for this preliminary report because it traditionally employs a wide variety of sensing technologies over extended time periods to accomplish the mission. Also, the committee believes this mission is likely to have some of the most demanding requirements for time sensitivity, low probability of intercept/detection, and optimization of technology size, weight, and power, and therefore provides an upper bound for S&SC technology performance among all SOF missions. SYNOPSIS OF PRELIMINARY OBSERVATIONS This section contains a synopsis of the committee’s preliminary observations that were deemed releasable to the public. Observation 1: While existing sensor systems can be tailored to support the SOF mission, the full spectrum of sensing capabilities remains to be exploited. Observation 2: It is critical that accurate, very local weather information (both measurements and forecasts) be available to SOF personnel in the field, as well as to those who provide planning and support functions. Observation 3: There is a lack of coordinated tasking (cross-cueing) between remote and close-in sensors. Observation 4: The potential of sensor networks needs to be further exploited. Observation 5: Unattended ground sensors and the man on the ground require improved communication techniques for infiltration and exfiltration of information. Observation 6: Triple-canopy jungle sensor data exfiltration models must be better understood. Observation 7: There is considerable need for communications models at all stages of a mission, for both exfiltration of data to command as well as local mission- focused communication. Observation 8: Close coupling of sensor signal and information processing and supporting communications is required. Observation 9: Multiple communications network architectures will be required to support SOF and their sensors. DISCUSSION There was a notable contrast between the “mission-scale” technology emphasis presented to the committee in briefings by vendors and suppliers and the “man-scale” emphasis presented in vignettes by SOF operators. In particular, many of the concerns expressed by operators centered on size, weight, and power considerations that affect man-packability, and mission characteristics such as low probability of detection. These technology signature issues, while less of a concern against adversaries with low or moderate technological capabilities, are of significant concern in the case of missions with an adversary that is a technological peer of the United States or is

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ABBREVIATED VERSION 3 equipped by one. Given the small size, independence, and missions of SOF teams at the “pointy end of the spear” and the possible inability to communicate for extended periods, it seems important to understand the technological capabilities that enhance a single warrior or small teams of warriors. Opportunities for advances related to sensing and supporting communications challenges in the jungle environment include new sensor capabilities, novel emplacement mechanisms, new sensor data exfiltration means, and innovative system architectures, including systems of relays.2 The committee is mindful that these technologies must function as part of a system that includes not only specific mission environments but also the particular, real-world needs of the SOF warrior. In addition, the committee anticipates that some of the restricted environments in which SOF operates—e.g., urban, jungle/triple canopy, mountainous, caves, and underground facilities—will impose more stringent demands on the types and performance of S&SC technologies than will more open environments—e.g., maritime, riverine, desert, arctic, and littoral/harbor. Further, it anticipates that technologies appropriate to the more restricted environments above will share many characteristics in common, as will those appropriate to the less-restricted environments. In conclusion, because a parallel NRC committee produced a separate in-depth report on radio frequency communication systems, the communications aspects of this effort were limited to communications in support of sensors.3 2 An example of a new capability is the concept of the “electronic dog’s nose.” For additional information, please see M.J. la Grone, C.J. Cumming, M.E. Fisher, M.J. Fox, S. Jacob, D. Reust, M.G., Rockley, and E. Towers, “Detection of land mines by amplified fluorescence quenching of polymer films: a man-portable chemical sniffer for detection of ultratrace concentrations of explosives emanating from land mines,” in Proc. SPIE, Vol. 4038, pp. 553- 562, Dubey, Harvey, Broach, and Dugan, eds.: (Detection and Remediation Technologies for Mines and Minelike Targets). 3 For additional information on the Committee on Universal Radio Frequency System for Special Operations Forces, please see the committee’s public web site at www8.nationalacademies.org/cp/projectview.aspx?key=48926.

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