A looming challenge for U.S. Army Secretary Christine Wormuth and Gen. Randy George, the nominee to become the next Army Chief of Staff, is opposition among those in the service’s special forces community to a possible 10 to 20 percent personnel cut to help fund Army modernization.
The proposal is under consideration for the Army’s fiscal 2025 budget request, and congressional defense authorizers have already moved to head off the possible cuts that may target specific billets.
Section 597 of the House Armed Services Committee’s fiscal 2024 defense bill would require the assistant secretary of defense for special operations and low-intensity conflict–Christopher Maier–and the head of U.S. Special Operations Command–Army Gen. Bryan Fenton–“to conduct a coordinated review of force structure and personnel requirements for special operations forces under the jurisdiction of the secretaries of the military departments to carry out special operations activities.”
“The Secretary of Defense would be unable to make any reduction in force structure, personnel requirements, or staffing levels to a special operations force until after the secretary submits the required report,” according to Section 597.
Section 1059 of the Senate Armed Services Committee’s version of the fiscal 2024 defense authorization bill would also require Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin to submit a report to Congress by March 1 next year on the optimal force structure for special operations forces (SOF).
While the service may end up making end strength cuts across the board, in part because of recruiting difficulties in the regular Army, special operations advocates said that Army special operations forces (SOF), including the storied Green Beret Operational Detachment As (ODAs)–“A-teams,” should not absorb cuts.
“We have the European Deterrence Initiative that has worked pretty well, and then we created the Pacific Deterrence Initiative, but less than one percent of that money goes to irregular warfare activity,” said Stu Bradin, president of the Global SOF Foundation. “Why is that? A significant part of what’s happening in Ukraine is irregular warfare–what they call hybrid warfare, but we’re not taking any of that money and building out those partners in the region. None of it’s dedicated to that.”
“There’s nothing like a Lend-Lease program that’s been established in that region,” he said. “We’re gonna do like we did in Ukraine. We’re gonna wait until there’s a major conflict and then give them billions of dollars. Why don’t they take the European and Pacific Deterrence Initiatives and turn those more into a Lend-Lease program? We’re giving them [allies] the stuff anyway. It would be more intelligent to be more deliberate in our process. If they had it and trained on it, that’s a huge deterrent right there alone. Working with our partner nations, all these things are what SOF does better than anyone else.”
A Lend-Lease program like that established by the United States for Great Britain during World War II would help reduce defense corruption and graft in partner nations, such as Ukraine, Bradin said. The United Kingdom, which used U.S. loans to buy at steep discounts some U.S. war supplies after the Lend-Lease program ended on Sept. 2, 1945, repaid the last installment of the loan–$83.3 million–on Dec. 29, 2006.