Pentagon & Congress

GAO: DOD must improve transparency of spec ops funding

While U.S. Special Operations Command has seen a dramatic increase in personnel and funding since the beginning of the war on terror, the Defense Department still is unable to accurately provide detailed funding numbers across the services, leaving decision makers in the dark on exactly how much money goes toward special operations, according to a new Government Accountability Office report.

The report, dated July 16, states that USSOCOM's total personnel has jumped from 42,800 in 2001 to 62,800 in 2014, a rise of about 47 percent since before the war in Afghanistan kicked off. In that same time, allotted funding climbed from $3.1 billion to $9.8 billion, GAO found. However, that number does not include money provided by individual services to their special operations groups, money that is estimated to be an additional $8 billion, according to the agency.

"According to SOCOM and military service officials, more complete information on total SOF funding would be useful for senior-level DOD and congressional decision makers, particularly as the military services face force reductions and decreasing budgets and as the size of SOF continues to constitute a greater portion of total force size," the GAO report states.

While the total number of personnel assigned to SOCOM has climbed, it is still a small fraction of the total military size. Special operators make up 2.9 percent of the entire Defense Department, up from 1.9 in 2001, according to the report.

In that same time, the total average weekly deployments for special operators has jumped from 2,900 in 2001 to 7,200 in 2014.

The report includes a detailed breakdown of each service's special operations community, including for the first time details on arguably the community's most famous group — Navy SEAL Development Group, or SEAL Team 6.

Seal Team 6 includes 1,342 military personnel, along with 445 civilians for a total of 1,787. This is the first time the number of personnel in this secretive group has been released, according to Foreign Policy.

Overall, the Navy has 10,166 personnel assigned to Naval Special Warfare Command, including 8,985 military personnel. This is up from about 6,000 in 2001.

Army Special Operations Command has the largest contingent of all the services, with 33,805 total, with almost all of them — 32,552 — in uniform. This includes 22,971 assigned to 1st Special Forces Command, 3,623 with the 75th Ranger Regiment and 3,533 assigned to Army Special Operations Aviation Command, which includes the 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment, or the "NIghtstalkers."

Air Force Special Operations Command is the second-largest group, with 17,967 total civilians and airmen. This is up from about 11,000 in 2001, and includes airmen who operate aircraft such as CV-22 Ospreys, AC-130 gunships, MC-130s, MC-1 and MQ-9 drones.

Marine Corps Forces Special Operations Command is the smallest group, with 3,195 total Marines and civilians. It is also the newest, having been activated in 2006 with about 1,000 personnel.

While GAO is pressing the Defense Department and Special Operations Command to find new ways to collect and share funding information, the Pentagon responded to GAO saying that current processes are sufficient.

"Although there are indirect service costs to support SOF such as base operations support and incentive pays, these costs are service responsibilities regardless of assignment of personnel to SOF or General Purpose Forces and do not generally influence the Department's decisions on SOF capabilities or end strength, the Pentagon wrote in a response to the GAO.

However, the department said it will review its current methodology.

GAO also pointed out that it has been 12 years since the Pentagon last reviewed the mission sets assigned to Special Operations Command, and that a new review could shift some of these missions to conventional forces. This move could ease the burden on special operators, according to GAO. DoD said it will conduct a review.

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