Leaders of special operations forces discussed reforms including diversity and inclusion efforts, programs for families, and efforts to reduce the high operational tempo caused by frequent deployments at a hearing on the fiscal year 2022 budget request.
Joseph McMenamin, performing the duties of the assistant secretary of defense for special operations/low intensity conflict, and Army Gen. Richard D. Clarke, commander of U.S. Special Operations Command, testified yesterday before the House Subcommittee on Intelligence and Special Operations.
"Enhancing the readiness and resilience of our SOF personnel and their families remains a top priority," and programs related to that effort are reflected in the FY 22 budget request, McMenamin said.
The moral and ethical health of the SOF community is another concern, he said. Special operations/low intensity conflict is working closely with U.S. Socom on implementation of its comprehensive review of SOF culture and ethics.
"We are also committed to enhancing diversity within the SOF community. As we compete against increasingly capable adversaries, a more diverse force empowers us to draw upon broader perspectives, different lived experiences, and new ideas," McMenamin said.
Clarke said diversity for the SOF community means ensuring personnel reflect the best talent and the best people of America.
"The people of this country have unique talents and skill sets, and we want to ensure that all of them are given the opportunity to serve when able to meet the standards that are required within our force," he said.
"We want to ensure that any barriers to come into Socom, whether they are actual or perceived, are put down to allow the best talent to come in," Clarke said.
"Individuals who understand others' cultures and are problem solvers are exactly what we need in our force," he added.
Easing the high rates of overseas deployments is also a priority, Clarke mentioned.
In the past, SOF forces have been deployed frequently with very little home station dwell times. Clarke said there's a push to decrease deployment times by ensuring that missions are more balanced with non-SOF forces, meaning that if conventional forces are able to do certain missions, then that would free up SOF forces. Allies and partners also have capable SOF forces that could be assigned certain missions.
McMenamin said SOF continues to invest in capabilities to meet the challenges of strategic competition with China and Russia while strengthening vital alliances and partnerships.
The SOF community has borne over half of all combat casualties of the total force over the last two years, he said.
Despite the COVID-19 pandemic, the SOF community has maintained a high level of operational readiness, McMenamin said.