- The Washington Times - Thursday, December 12, 2002

An internal study ordered by Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld calls for giving more power to U.S. special-operations forces to capture or kill al Qaeda operatives and other terrorists, Bush administration officials said yesterday.
The officials say the study, by the government-funded Institute for Defense Analyses (IDA), endorses a bigger budget and more troops for U.S. Special Operations Command in Tampa, Fla.
It also recommends making the command a lead player in the war on terrorists by letting it conceive and conduct its own covert hunt-and-destroy missions in some circumstances.
This endorses the thinking of Mr. Rumsfeld, who has advocated making U.S. Socom, as it is known, the global combatant command in a war that could last a decade or more.
Gen. Charles Holland, who heads Socom, endorses bigger spending, but has expressed reservations about making his domain the lead command. Officials say he has worried about trespassing on the authority of other combatant commanders, such as U.S. Central Command, who run operations in their geographic area.
"This IDA study is a further push for Socom to go in the direction Rumsfeld wants it to go," said one administration official. "That's why he ordered the study."
Mr. Rumsfeld last month had IDA conduct a quick, but extensive study of special operations from a "blank sheet," according to an internal Pentagon memo obtained by The Washington Times.
Gen. Holland has requested a big budget increase and more troops to meet Mr. Rumsfeld's desire to kill or capture terrorists around the world more quickly. Special Operations Command Green Berets, Delta Force and SEALs are playing a leading role in disrupting Osama bin Laden's al Qaeda network.
Officials said Mr. Rumsfeld conducted a meeting Saturday in his Pentagon office attended by Gen. Holland and other officials to receive the IDA report.
Two sources said the classified study essentially supported Gen. Holland's proposal for expansion. It also endorses continuing the command's special authority to buy the specialized equipment needed by covert warriors.
"It supports a significant increase in the budget over the next five years," said one military source. "It was a strong voice of support for what Socom has been advocating."
Officials refer to the study as the "Welch Commission," named after IDA President Larry Welch, a retired general and former Air Force chief of staff. The study was principally conducted by former chiefs of U.S. Special Operations Command, such as retired Gen. Peter Schoomaker and retired Gen. Carl Stiner.
Mr. Rumsfeld is in the final stages of approving a new five-year defense budget, starting with the fiscal 2004 plan that goes to the White House later this month.
Gen. Holland, officials say, wants to nearly double Socom's budget of $5 billion annually over five years and add thousands of warriors and support personnel.
One Pentagon official said that at this stage of budget deliberations, Socom may receive an increase of $2 billion in fiscal 2004, which begins Oct. 1.
Socom oversees 47,000 warriors and support troops stationed at Hurlbert Field, Fla., Fort Bragg, N.C., and other bases.
Reshaping Socom comes amid two major issues. For one, Mr. Rumsfeld has ordered Gen. Holland to devise a new war plan against terrorists. He wants units positioned to deploy on the spur of the moment once intelligence pinpoints terrorists at a specific location.
"He wants their focus on the war on terrorism," said an administration official. "They weren't responding fast enough."
Secondly, Mr. Rumsfeld, in a sign of how important commandos are in the war, has explored the possibility of making Special Operations the lead operational command in the war on terrorism.
If Socom became the global command, it would plan and execute specific missions. Right now, Socom is a "supporting command," in Pentagon parlance, which means it provides troops to "supported commands" who plan and carry out missions.
Historically, there has been a reluctance at times by conventional commanders to tap special-operations forces for what can be high-risk operations.
The Washington Times this week quoted Army Special Forces soldiers as saying many of their proposed missions against the Taliban and al Qaeda in Afghanistan were turned down by the in-country command at Bagram air base. The Green Berets said the command, Task Force 180, deemed the missions too risky versus their potential benefits.
In November, Marshall Billingslea, the top Pentagon policy-maker on special-operations issues, sent a memo to Mr. Rumsfeld telling him the IDA study was under way.
"I explained to [Gen. Welch] that the purpose of the effort was to start with a 'blank sheet' and re-design U.S. SoCom to fight the war on terrorism," Mr. Billingslea said in his memo. "Welch's panel will then take that assessment and compare it with USSoCom's restructuring effort, and with the FY 04-09 budget request."

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