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One of the key pressures on the force has been the lack of predictable deployments.

Often, Adm. McRaven said, there are last-minute shifts in schedules or changes in mission requirements. At the same time, the intense focus on deployments to Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan and the surrounding region have made it difficult to expand the use of commandos in other hot spots.

In Afghanistan, special operations forces serve a number of roles. They not only mount an aggressive counterterrorism campaign across the country, but they also form teams to train or mentor Afghan forces.

As an example, Adm. McRaven said that in the past 12 months, the task force he commanded conducted about 2,000 operations, roughly 88 percent of them at night.

The heavy demands in Afghanistan and Iraq make it difficult to meet the needs of other commanders in hot spots around the world. And part of that is because special operations forces rely on regular forces - often the Army - to provide support, logistics, intelligence and surveillance, including unmanned drones.

Adm. McRaven said Special Operations Command is working on several programs to ease the strain on the force and provide the training they need.

He said commanders will set maximum deployment rates for each element of the force, provide greater predictability and set up more opportunities to train closer to home when they are not overseas.

The military, he said, also has increased pay for language skills and is using contracts for aircraft that can be used for training.