Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel was on the road last week speaking to military members about the future of the military under sequestration and what cuts could be expected. During the town-hall style meetings and candid conversations, Hagel thanked members for their service and laid out part of the evolving plan for the military moving forward after more than a decade of conflict on multiple fronts.
"I understand that I’m the first secretary of defense to visit MARSOC, and let me just say thank you," Hagel told Marines of the Marine Corps Forces Special Operations Command at Camp Lejeune on July 18. "I try to come out to better understand my job so that I can better support you."
According to the Defense Department, the goal of the meeting was to have a frank discussion about the impact of current and future budget cuts, as well as for the defense secretary to gain insight into how MARSOC will respond to those cuts.
"Special operations are going to continue to be a critical, critical component of our national security," Hagel said. "It’s going to be a main piece of our national defense strategy."
However, the special operations community is an expensive one to maintain, something that the commander of U.S. Special Operations Command, Navy Admiral William H. McRaven, pointed out to the Senate Armed Services Committee in March.
During his testimony, McRaven told members of the committee that he would provide the best force possible, but the cuts caused by sequestration will cause a critical degradation to the special operations force and once the damage is done, it can't easily be fixed.
"Before long, there is a … global effect … with the reduction in capability of the special operations forces,” he said. "I’ve cut some of my deployments by about 20 percent in some cases … 60 percent … for some of my less forward units and that effect will be magnified as we go forward in the future."
Currently, U.S. Special Operations Command is working on something called Special Operations Command 2020 which will revamp the way the command provides operational support to missions going forward. The plan "calls for a global network of special operations forces, allies and partners, with aligned structures, processes and authorities to enable its operations."
The idea is to head off a situation while it's still a small regional problem, before it becomes a major global issue.
Army Colonel Stuart Bradin, head of the operational planning team pointed out that everyone isn't getting everything they want in this new plan."The reality is we don’t have enough for everything." he said. "If you do the math, we are hitting about 60 percent of what they ask for. But based on the requirements, and what we are able to resource, the plan actually will allow us to do more than we are currently doing."