- The Washington Times - Thursday, November 21, 2002

Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld has ordered aides to redesign U.S. Special Operations Command from a "blank sheet" to better fight the war against al Qaeda and other terrorist groups, an internal Pentagon memo says.
Mr. Rumsfeld initially has given the restructuring job to the Institute for Defense Analyses (IDA), which has assembled a panel of retired special-operations commanders and others to come up with a new plan. Pentagon aides will take IDA's report and do a final restructuring.
Special operations' 47,000 covert warriors and support personnel play leading roles in the war on terrorism, tackling the gritty work of hunting down and killing Osama bin Laden's operatives.
Administration sources said the decision to have people outside Special Operations Command (SoCom) redo its budget and command structure is a sign Mr. Rumsfeld's aides are unhappy with the plan produced by Air Force Gen. Charles Holland, SoCom's four-star commander.
Marshall Billingslea, the Pentagon's senior civilian for special-operations warfare, wrote Mr. Rumsfeld on Nov. 12, saying retired Air Force Gen. Larry Welch, president of IDA, had begun the study.
"I explained to him that the purpose of the effort was to start with a 'blank sheet of paper,' and redesign USSoCom to fight the war on terrorism," Mr. Billingslea said in the memo, a copy of which was obtained by The Washington Times. "He will work up a list of outside experts, such as former SoCom Combatant commanders, who will serve on his panel."
Mr. Rumsfeld's order follows a classified directive from the secretary to Special Operations Command in June to come up with a new war plan for capturing and killing terrorists. This new request involves designing a budget and command structure at SoCom headquarters in Tampa, Fla., to carry out that war plan.
Gen. Holland has briefed the Pentagon several times this fall on how commandos, under a new war plan, will be able to respond more quickly to sightings of terrorists around the world.
In late summer, Gen. Holland requested a huge budget increase to carry out the plan. Two administration sources said he requested a $24 billion to $28 billion increase over the next five years, essentially doubling SoCom's $5 billion annual budget.
Sources say Mr. Rumsfeld's aides are not satisfied with Gen. Holland's proposed budget, saying it lacks "new thinking." One source said the Pentagon has "slowly whittled down" the budget request.
The defense secretary has turned to IDA and Gen. Holland's predecessors to come up with a new budget plan. IDA is a federally funded research center at the disposal of the defense secretary, Joint Chiefs of Staff and defense agencies.
"Welch's panel will then take [its assessment] and compare it with USSoCom's restructuring effort and with the [fiscal year] 04-09 budget request," Mr. Billingslea said in his memo to Mr. Rumsfeld.
Gen. Holland was at the Pentagon last week for consultations. On Nov. 14, he met with Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz and Stephen Cambone, Mr. Rumsfeld's top budget and weapon systems adviser. On Friday, he met with Mr. Rumsfeld.
Right now, SoCom is a "supporting" combatant command, providing troops and weapons to other commands, such as U.S. Central Command, which assumes control and plans their missions.
Mr. Rumsfeld is striving to have SoCom become the "supported command" in the global war on terrorism. In addition to maintaining and training special- operations troops, such as Army Delta Force and Navy SEALs, the command also would plan and direct specific missions.
Special-operations officials say that to do this, SoCom needs more troops, money and equipment, and a battle staff in Tampa to run operations.
As a supporting command, SoCom does not have a traditional war-planning staff, as does U.S. Central Command, which runs the war in Afghanistan.
SoCom's headquarters of 1,500 personnel is a directorate involved mainly in logistics, training and weapons acquisition.
Sources said IDA panel members include two former SoCom commanders, Gen. Peter J. Schoomaker and Gen. Carl Stiner. IDA's report is due next week.
Their product then will be reviewed and augmented by the staff of Mr. Billingslea, who is the principal deputy assistant secretary of defense for special operations and low-intensity conflict (SOLIC). Staffers for Mr. Cambone also will contribute before a final product is presented to Mr. Rumsfeld.
"Special-operations forces is at a crossroads," said a senior administration official who is a promoter of special-operations forces and disagrees with the decision to rely on IDA to restructure SoCom.
Congress created Special Operations Command in 1987 in response to the failed 1980 Desert One operation in Iran. The mission exposed shortfalls in training and equipping covert warriors, and told policy-makers in Washington that the covert side of warfare had been neglected too long.
Congress has given SoCom special authority to develop and buy its specialized equipment and weapons, an option other commands lack.
Mr. Rumsfeld's aides have discussed revoking that power under the argument that it would free up SoCom to concentrate on fighting terrorism.
To take away acquisition power "is to gut SoCom. It will cease to exist," said a special-operations official.
This official said special-operations forces have conducted more than a dozen Desert One-level missions without failure in the war in Afghanistan. He said the missions involved traveling long distances, using a variety of equipment and a significant number of troops just like Desert One, which was supposed to rescue American hostages but ended in fiery aircraft crashes in the Iranian desert.


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