Special Operations Forces to the Twenty-First Century: What Threat, What Response? (Coffin)
Subject Area Operations
TITLE: SPECIAL OPERATIONS FORCES TO THE TWENTY-FIRST CENTURY:
WHAT THREAT, WHAT RESPONSE?
BACKGROUND: One assumption underlying successful guerrilla or
revolutionary war is that to be successful, it must be supported
or sponsored by an outside power. For the last seventy years,
the Soviet Union has been the prime sponsor of unrest. With the
Soviet Union's economy in a shambles, and with it apparently in
retreat around the world, the Soviet Union may no longer be
capable or willing to sponsor revolutionary movements.
If the Soviets no longer can, are there any other candidates
capable or willing to fill that role? If so, who might they be
and what is to be the United States' response?
ISSUE: This paper conducts a brief overview of the history of
Special Forces, including the present force structure.
It examines the various levels within the spectrum of
conflict, and does a region-by-region analysis of political,
social and economic factors affecting the region; it assesses
the likelihood and nature of potential conflict to 2010. It also
estimates the likelihood of US involvement in such conflicts.
The paper then examines the capabilities of Special
Operations Forces and discusses current and potential problems
with existing force structure, including the most pressing:
Integration of the Reserve Special Forces fully into the US
Special Operations Command. The Reserve problems include, but are
not limited to: inadequate training time; multiple layers of
command/control; varying, uncertain sources of funding; problems
with existing law governing Reserve/Active Component relations.
It addresses the USMC, which currently has units advertised as
being "Special Operations Capable," but which are not in the US
Special Operations Command. It briefly discusses the Drug War.
CONCLUSION: The prospect of General Global War has decreased
dramatically. There are a few, but not many, candidates for the
sponsorship of movements; none on the scale of the Soviets for
the last seventy years. Therefore, conflict between now and 2010
is most likely to be at the lower end of the spectrum, of various
types, depending on the region and the "players." Special Forces
is the only force trained and equipped, with the linguistic and
cultural expertise, to operate across the entire spectrum of war,
from benign peace to total war, as their primary mission, not as
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1. REPORT DATE
1991 2. REPORT TYPE
3. DATES COVERED
00-00-1991 to 00-00-1991
4. TITLE AND SUBTITLE
Special Operations Forces to the Twenty-First Century: What Threat,
What Response? (Coffin)
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7. PERFORMING ORGANIZATION NAME(S) AND ADDRESS(ES)
Marine Corps War College,Marine Corps University,Marine Corps
Combat Development Command,Quantico,VA,22134-5067
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Standard Form 298 (Rev. 8-98)
Prescribed by ANSI Std Z39-18
an adjunct or additional mission. Reserve SOF funding should be
totally separate from Reserve and NG accounts. This is being
attempted, but some surprises may be lurking. Reserve SF units
should be validated and if they cannot maintain SF standards for
the total SF package of missions, they should be assigned other
Special Operations missions less demanding of their resources.
The USMC should have an element assigned to USSOCOM. The
strongest objection to this will probably come from the USMC.
SPECIAL OPERATIONS FORCES TO THE
TWENTY-FIRST CENTURY: WHAT THREAT,
Major Charles F. Coffin, USAR/AGR
Major Charles F. Coffin, USAR/AGR
USMC School of Advanced Warfighting
24 May 1991
I wish to acknowledge the following individuals for their
invaluable help and assistance in preparing this paper.
LTG MICHAEL F. SPIGELMIRE, Commanding General, USASOC, Ft.
Bragg, North Carolina, and BG DAVID J. BARATTO, Commanding
General/Commandant, Special Warfare Center and School, Ft. Bragg,
North Carolina, each of whom generously gave me an hour of their
valuable time to discuss Special Forces, its history, its present
and its future.
Mr. ROBERT MOUNTEL, Joint Force Integration Directorate,
SWCS, Ft. Bragg, North Carolina, for assisting my search, and
finding documents whose existence no one else acknowledged.
Major THOMAS BEDIENT, SF, USAR/AGR, USASOC Inspector
General's Office, for his insight and perceptions on current
Special Forces doctrine and organization, as well as keeping me
supplied with current "wiring diagrams."
The staff of the Command and Staff College library,
Breckinridge Hall, MCCDC, Quantico, VA, who were never too busy
to help me find information, who obtained books unobtainable
elsewhere, and who were always willing to renew overdue books
borrowed through inter-library loan.
Various others, who prefer to remain unnamed.
The faculty and staff of the USMC Command and Staff
College, School of Advanced Warfighting, Quantico, VA, for
cracking the whip over us.
The late Robert Heinlein, "who showed us all the way."
And finally, and most importantly, my wife Linda, my sons
Chip and Tris, and my daughter Kathleen, without whom nothing I
do is worthwhile, and with whom all things become possible.
All opinions expressed herein, unless otherwise noted, are
my own and my sole responsibility, as are any factual errors.
The Soviet Union, caught up in its own domestic and economic
unrest, will focus internally for the next five to ten years,
rather than externally. This change in focus will create the
inability or unwillingness to become involved in revolutionary or
guerrilla movements which do not have a direct benefit or effect
on the Soviet Union itself. The threat from the conventional
forces of the Soviet Union and the likelihood of an conventional
assault on western Europe will also decline.
This paper will attempt to trace the implications of that
change of focus, with particular emphasis on the impact on
Special Operations Forces, over the near term (the next 5 years),
the mid-term (from 5 to 10 years), and the long term (from 15 to
20 years). This paper is not meant to be predictive, but,
rather, speculative, with the intent of examining some the
possibilities inherent in a world that is changing rapidly in
almost every area of human endeavor.
BACKGROUND OF ASSUMPTION
One of the commonly accepted tenets of revolutionary or
guerrilla war is that, to be successful, it must be sponsored or
supported by an outside power. This sponsorship is necessary for
a number of reasons. Primarily, of course, a guerrilla or
revolutionary movement needs supplies, arms and munitions. But
just as importantly, a movement needs the legitimacy that outside
support provides. Without this recognition and support, the
movement can be considered just another band of outlaws.
This tenet is generally, though not universally, accepted.
Often cited as examples are the American Revolution, the Spanish
guerrillas resisting Napoleon's occupation, the various
resistance and guerrilla movements throughout the world during
World War II and others. The very few exceptions to this rule
seem to be either coups or rapid, popular uprisings. Few other
exceptions can be found.
For the last seventy years (with the exception of the WWII
years) the primary sponsor of revol