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Special ops to feel budget pain, leaders say

Jan. 29, 2013 - 07:21PM   |   Last Updated: Jan. 29, 2013 - 07:21PM  |  
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The potential budget hit produced by sequestration and the possibility that Congress uses another continuing resolution to fund the Pentagon for the rest of 2013 may hit the U.S. Special Operations Command (SOCOM) hard, the command's leadership told an industry conference in Washington, D.C., on Tuesday.

SOCOM commander Adm. William McRaven warned the audience at the National Defense Industrial Association Special Operations conference that if Congress passes another continuing resolution to fund the Pentagon through the remainder of 2013, his Special Operations Command would likely lose about $1 billion in funding.

The continuing resolution "puts a greater constraint on us than I think sequestration will," McRaven said, adding that "we don't know what sequestration is going to look like, but there is an expectation that it is clearly going to be an additional bill on top of that."

Whatever the cut might be, however, he assured the crowd that his command's first priority will always be to protect SOCOM's ability to fight, saying, "we want to make sure first and foremost that we protect our war-fighting capability. And we will do that."

McRaven's concerns were echoed by Maj. Gen. Michael Repass, the commander of SOCOM's European command.

Repass warned that his command could stand to lose about 23 percent of its funding this year to conduct Building Partner Capacity (BPC) operations under a continuing resolution. This would translate into "somewhere on the order of 25 percent-plus less BPC activity this year" in his area of operations, he said, which includes special operations forces in Eastern Europe as well as with allies battling powerful drug cartels shipping heroin and cocaine from Africa.

While no one is predicting disaster for the special operations community, the current economic situation means that "we've come to the point where the open checkbook approach to SOF is past" added Garry Reid, principal deputy assistant secretary of defense, special operations/low intensity conflict.

While acknowledging the obvious resource challenges in the near term, Reid also said that plans to continue to grow SOCOM to 70,000 operators and enablers remains on track, and that the command is working to "reconcile and continue to ensure that we can sustain the readiness" in this expanded force, while being careful to ensure that special operations leaders don't become "overly dependent" on supplemental war funding, which will decrease over the next several years.

No matter how much money SOCOM has, McRaven said, his command will continue to remain forward postured, because in order to be effective, special operators "have to have that persistent presence" with partners around the globe.

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