Monday, February 26, 2007

Another Empty Promise

A hat tip to Chapomatic, for linking to a great Michael Fumento piece in the 5 March issue of The Weekly Standard. Alert readers may recall that the Democrats have vowed--at various times--to "double" the size of our special forces, improving our ability to respond to the GWOT.

In his article, Fumento looks at the difficulties associated with keeping that promise. Expanding the ranks of SOF will, inevitably, mean compromising the quality demanded by our most elite military forces. For example, the Air Force's pararescue and combat controller traning programs have a washout rate of at least 60-70%. Of every 10 applicants who enter the pipeline, only three will ever earn the maroon beret of the PJs, or the scarlet beret awarded to combat controllers. The only way to increase the number of PJs or combat controllers is to lower the standards for those career fields. The same technique would be required for producing more Navy SEALs, Army Rangers and Green Berets, and members of Marine Corps Force Recon. At that point, as Mr. Fumento observes, special ops becomes less "special" and combat capabilities inevitably suffer.

Somewhere on Capitol Hill, there may actually be a Democratic Congressman, Senator or staffer who understands that SOF are trained--and employed--to be force "multipliers," delivering combat capabilities and effects far in excess of their actual numbers. But you don't achieve those effects by watering down standards, or cutting corners on personnel quality. Predictably, the Democrats have yet to articulate a plan for actually doubling the ranks of our special operations forces. And it's probably just as well. As in most matters relating to national security, the Democrats are great at soundbites and slogans, but much more fuzzy on planning and specifics. We should only hope that Democratic vows to "double" our SOF units are nothing more than an empty promise.

Here's a message for Pelosi, Murtha and the other Dems who want to play politics with SOF. I was never an operator, and my involvement with SOF (during a 20-year military career) was limited. Bit I know that our existing system for recruiting and training SOF works extremely well. Leave it alone. Set your sights on more attainable goals, like securing that Boeing 757 for Ms. Pelosi's trips to the west coast.


The Last Ephor said...

Would not an increase in the number of concurrent classes be a way to increase those numbers without reducing quality?

That is, if they are currently running 2 concurrent classes per year, up that to 3 or 4. The washout rate could remain the same but net/net you'd end up with more guys.

redhand said...

Have you guys read about the new approach the SEALs are taking? The Navy has set up a "prep" school for would be candidates.

I am sure that former SEALs out there are of divided opinion on this, but it is supposedly reducing the washout rate without reducing standards.

The Last Ephor said...

"Lots of good ideas that make sense (Duffy, Crosspatch and redhand). Unfortunately, execution is a little more difficult."

Thank you.

"Running more classes take more instructors, which takes operators out of their teams and into the schoolhouse. Nobody likes that."

Would it not be feasible to take operators who are at or near retirement age to put them into training spots? Either that or someone who's injured enough to be non-mission capable but able bodied enough to be an instructor.