- The Washington Times - Monday, January 6, 2003

Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld has approved giving U.S. Special Operations Command unprecedented authority to plan and fight the global war on al Qaeda and other terrorist networks, administration officials say.
The Pentagon will give the command $7 billion to buy equipment and aircraft, and to accommodate 4,000 more personnel, two senior officials said. Some of the troops will be used to create battle staffs at Special Operations headquarters in Tampa, Fla., and at smaller Theater Special Operations Command, or T-SOCs, for regional theaters.
These staffs will plan and execute specific missions by Army Delta Force, Navy SEALs and other commandos to kill or capture terrorists around the world. Currently, Special Operations Command (SoCom) lacks a battle-planning staff. Its focus has been to train and fund 47,000 personnel, who come under the authority of combatant commanders, such as U.S. Central Command or U.S. Pacific Command, when they go into action.
SoCom will have the authority to plan and carry out independent missions, most likely covert operations. Mr. Rumsfeld wants plans in place to attack al Qaeda operatives quickly, and is relying on SoCom, and its commander, Air Force Gen. Charles Holland, to do the job.
One official said that the war on terrorism will enter a new phase in 2003. The exact methods and outcome are not yet known.
"SoCom is being given the ability to do new things," said a senior administration official. "Exactly what they will end up doing is still to be determined."
Some of the new troops will bolster the 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment, or "Night Stalkers." Its low-flying Black Hawk helicopters carry commandos to and from battle.
Mr. Rumsfeld also authorized the transfer of certain intelligence assets to Joint Special Operations Command at Fort Bragg, N.C., home of Delta and SEALs who specialize in hunting terrorists. The assets are designed to locate terrorist targets so Delta-SEAL teams can attack them.
Since inception in 1987, SoCom has been what the Pentagon calls a "supporting" command. It provides warriors and equipment to combatant commanders, which then plans and directs their missions.
Under a new pecking order, SoCom becomes a "supported" command in the global war in certain circumstances.
One administration source said that the new arrangement will let Gen. Holland execute specific missions in the war on terror. For example, if intelligence identifies al Qaeda operatives in Yemen or Somalia, SoCom has the authority to devise a mission to get them.
"He will be the dominant commander for certain kinds of missions," the official said.
But in a regional operation, such as war against Iraq or operations in Afghanistan, special-operations troops will remain under the authority of the regional combatant command, in this case, the U.S. Central Command.
The officials say Mr. Rumsfeld's decision came after weeks of consultation with Gen. Holland.
Each combatant command has its own special-operations command. Those staffs also will get battle planners who will work directly with SoCom on certain covert operations.
Gen. Holland, who was described this summer by Pentagon officials as reluctant to intrude on the territory of regional commanders, is now said to be "enthusiastic" about his expanded authority.
Since September 11, Mr. Rumsfeld has searched for a way to have one command assume responsibility for the global war on terrorism and, in particular, against Osama bin Laden's al Qaeda organization.
In June, he sent a classified order to Gen. Holland and Gen. Richard B. Myers, Joint Chiefs of Staff chairman.
In it, he ordered Gen. Holland to devise a counterterrorism war plan that would emphasize fast, covert operations.
He wanted Gen. Holland to set up a mechanism for quickly deploying SEALS and Delta commandos to attack terrorists within hours of their being spotted.
The plan also calls for making diplomatic arrangements so covert operators can enter countries quickly to carry out missions, and then make prompt exits.
Gen. Holland has presented several versions of a new war plan to the Pentagon. He is now getting the authority and assets to carry it out.
In November, Mr. Rumsfeld asked the Institute for Defense Analyses to conduct a comprehensive review of SoCom missions and organization. An IDA panel, which included some of Gen. Holland's predecessors at SoCom, recommended expanded power and budgets.
The study was to "redesign US SoCom to fight the war on terrorism," said an internal memo from Marshall Billingslea, the Pentagon's senior civilian policy-maker for special-operations and low-intensity conflict.
Gen. Holland oversees 47,000 covert warriors and support personnel.
Through a 1987 law, the command buys its own equipment and weapons, instead of going through the Navy, Air Force or Army. During the height of the war in Afghanistan, for example, SoCom quickly bought a fleet of trucks and shipped them to Green Berets and other troops operating there.
To handle new demands of the anti-terror war, Gen. Holland requested to nearly double his $5 billion annual budget and boost personnel.
Pentagon officials say that in addition to the $7 billion in new money, SoCom's annual budget will be increased in fiscal 2004 from $4.9 billion to $6 billion.

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