Special Operations Forces (SOF) offer the US Department of Defense (DoD) a force-multiplying and flexible solution as it pivots towards countering aggression below the threshold of full conflict from the likes of the People’s Republic of China (PRC) and the Russian Federation.
As a unifying special operations command in the Indo-Pacific, the US Special Operations Command Pacific (SOCPAC) has become a critical tool for the US DoD and its Indo-Pacific Command (INDOPACOM) as it seeks to sustain relationships with dozens of SOF entities throughout the region, and counter PRC and Russian Federation activities.
Addressing the AFCEA TechNet Indo-Pacific Conference in Honolulu, Hawaii on 1 March, the US INDOPACOM commander, Admiral Phil Davidson described how SOF comprised an important element of the Joint Force as it seeks to shape the region.
Describing ongoing efforts to overcome shortfalls in the face of this “Great Power Competition”, Davidson explained how China remains emboldened to take action to supplant the established rules-based international order”.
The pivot towards operations associated with the Great Power Competition was first officially discussed by SOCPAC and its regional partners at the Transregional Resistance Working Group (TRWG) in Monterey, California in February 2020.
The event, entitled The Role of SOF and Great Power Competition – Comparative Dialogue of Russia and China, featured the participation of SOF representatives from across the region, including Canada, Estonia, France, Georgia, Japan, Mongolia, New Zealand, South Korea, Sweden, Taiwan, Ukraine, the United Kingdom and the US.
SOCPAC, which is based out of Camp Smith on the Hawaiian island of O’ahu, is ideally suited to supporting the INDOPACOM’s main effort which is to “provide combat credible deterrence to protect free and open access to trade routes through the air, sea, land, space, and cyberspace”.
To effectively deter, we need to arm the Joint Force with the proper capabilities, capacities, authorities, and indeed the doctrine to support rapid force employment, accurate offensive power, and effective defenses,” Davidson explained at the AFCEA event.
Supported by SOF elements from the Army’s 1st Special Forces Group, based at Torii Garrison; the US Air Force’s (USAF’s) 353rd Special Operations Group, based at Yokota Air Base; and the US Navy’s Special Warfare Unit One, based in Guam; SOCPAC is tasked with strengthening ties with allies and partners throughout the region.
“Our constellation of allies and partners is the backbone of the free and open international order, providing a powerful force to counter malign activity and aggression. We are seeking every opportunity to increase the frequency and intensity of our combined operations, exercises, and training with our allies and partners,” Davidson explained.
“Even in the face of the COVID pandemic, we are increasing our interoperability and compatibility across the region to enhance our capabilities and improve our coordination for competition. This manifests itself in information sharing agreements, foreign military sales, expanded military cooperation, and international security dialogues – such as TechNet – designed to address our mutual security concerns alongside our closest allies and partners.”
COVID disrupts training
SOCPAC is also able to support INDOPACOM’s final focus area which comprises “exercises, experimentation, and innovation” according to Davidson.
“The most effective way to combat the security challenges and demonstrate our resolve in today’s dynamic operating environment is through a continuous campaign of joint experimentation and high-fidelity, multi-domain training,” he explained.
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