The Pentagon aims to ready its special-ops forces for a new warfare era by implementing job cuts and drug tests, driven by the reorientation of the US military towards great-power competition following two decades of counterterrorism.
In response to this shift, Pentagon leaders believe a transformation in how US special-operations forces are utilized is necessary, emphasizing the need for these forces to improve and become more streamlined.
Rear Adm. Keith Davids, the commanding officer of the Naval Special Warfare Command, stated, “My intent is to ensure every NSW teammate operates at their innate best while preserving the distinguished standards of excellence that define NSW.”
This comes as Naval Special Warfare Command, including Navy SEALs and Naval Special Warfare Combatant-Craft Crewmen, plans to commence drug testing after several drug-related incidents, aiming to safeguard the force’s health and readiness.
Additionally, the US Army Special Operations Command is set to introduce a program reducing its special-operations force size by approximately 10%, or roughly 3,000 soldiers.
This reduction mainly affects support troops, raising concerns among lawmakers regarding its potential impact on the critical roles these enablers play in special-operations missions.
The reduction in force size reflects a shift away from the high operational tempo of the past two decades, where the US special-operations community significantly expanded in response to the demands of the war on terror.
Despite smooth growth, concerns persist about the community’s ability to maintain the unique nature of its operators, known as a core “special-operations truth” that operators can’t be mass-produced.
The Pentagon’s focus on building a special-operations force aligned with the changing landscape of warfare is evident through the emphasis on drug testing and the drive for more supportive roles within parent branches.
However, critics argue that cutting support troops may restrict the availability of special-ops units and limit the diversity of missions they can undertake in the future.