The Army is reshaping the way many soldiers are trained and deployed, with some conventional units to be placed under Special Operations commanders and others assigned to world regions viewed as emerging security risks, particularly in Africa.
The pending changes reflect broader U.S. plans to institutionalize many of the successful tactics adopted ad hoc in Afghanistan and Iraq. And as the Army shrinks by 80,000 troops over the next five years, its top officer, Gen. Ray Odierno, is also seeking ways to ensure that the land force is prepared for a broader set of missions — and in hot spots around the globe where few soldiers have deployed in the past.
With cuts ordered in the Pentagon budget — and cognizant of public exhaustion with large overseas deployments — the military will focus on working with partner nations to increase their capabilities to deal with security threats within their borders. The goal would be to limit the footprint of most new overseas deployments. Those scenarios would reflect a shift from conventional forces to Special Operations forces, and Odierno’s plans would increase the support of Army general-purpose units to those types of missions.
Creating new sets of formal relationships between Army general-purpose units and the Special Operations Command would be a significant change in Army culture. For more than a generation, the large, conventional Army and the small, secretive commando community viewed each other from a distance, and with distrust. Armor and infantry units trained and operated separately from counterterrorism and counterinsurgency teams.
The attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, changed that. The demands of combining high-end conventional combat and counterinsurgency missions for complementary and overlapping missions in Afghanistan and Iraq pushed conventional and Special Operations forces together.