We’ve had allot of discussion about roles and missions and where capabilities should reside. I dug this out of the SWJ Blog archive – Dave Kilcullen discussed New Paradigms for the 21st Century Warfare. One of the things he talked about was “the new Strategic Services” – later on he responded to a query I made and he referenced Tom Barnett’s SyS-Admin concept and USA LTC John Nagl’s case for an Advisory Corps (its one of the responses to the original blog). He also referenced the WWII era Office of Strategic Services as a possible way of thinking of the types of skill sets, personality traits, focus of scope of operations. What he was conceptualizing was different then SOF and different then GPF – and he was quick to point out that he was not putting forward some new radical idea, but adapting a concept that worked for what we needed at the time.

This was back in June, and six months later I’m still thinking about it. With all our discussion about how we get capabilities for PRTs, how we get the right folks for Advisory missions, how we do Inter-Agency, how we do business, how do we attract and retain the very types of talented folks we need – as such, the discussion that DR Kilcullen started I think is very relevant. SWC member Troufion and a couple of others started raising the issues about new a new service; some like myself thought it sounded like a risky idea because it would require new doctrine, new structure, new monies, and would compete with ground services that with some adaptation might be able to fill the need.

I’m not so sure anymore. For various reasons it may be a good idea to start a new service along the lines of the OSS – but on a scale proportional to the requirement and the capabilities they’d present. It might do to let such a group develop their own organization and doctrine, and requirements (one reason is that if an existing group develops these things it tends to build requirements and capabilities which reflect its own values as opposed to those which may be needed. We’re not talking about SOF doing DA, and we’re not talking about GPF doing FID, we’re not talking about CIA doing collection and analysis, we’re not talking about DoS doing diplomacy – we are talking about something different.

Quote from David Killen at the blog: (his own citations are in the end notes of the blog)

“4. Identify the new "strategic services": A leading role in the war on terrorism has fallen to Special Operations Forces (SOF) because of their direct action capabilities against targets in remote or denied areas. Meanwhile, Max Boot(12) has argued that we again need something like the Office of Strategic Services (OSS) of World War II, which included analysis, intelligence, anthropology, special operations, information, psychological operations, and technology capabilities.
Adjectives matter: Special Forces versus Strategic Services. SOF are special. They are defined by internal comparison to the rest of the military—SOF undertake tasks "beyond the capabilities" of general-purpose forces. By contrast, OSS was strategic. It was defined against an external environment and undertook tasks of strategic importance, rapidly acquiring and divesting capabilities as needed. SOF are almost entirely military; OSS was an interagency body with a sizeable civilian component, and almost all its military personnel were emergency war enlistees (talented civilians with strategically relevant skills, enlisted for the duration of the war).(13) SOF trace their origin to OSS; yet whereas today's SOF are elite military forces with highly specialized capabilities optimized for seven standard missions,(14) OSS was a mixed civil-military organization that took whatever mission the environment demanded, building capabilities as needed.
Identifying which capabilities are strategic services today would be a key step in prioritizing interagency efforts. Capabilities for dealing with nonelite, grassroots threats include cultural and ethnographic intelligence, social systems analysis, information operations (see below), early-entry or high-threat humanitarian and governance teams, field negotiation and mediation teams, biometric reconnaissance, and a variety of other strategically relevant capabilities. The relevance of these capabilities changes over time—some that are strategically relevant now would cease to be, while others would emerge. The key is the creation of an interagency capability to rapidly acquire and apply techniques and technologies in a fast-changing situation.”
We have some good models for this – the NCTC (National Counter Terrorism Center) is one, the JIATF (Joint Inter-Agency Task Force) is another. These organizations have unique capabilities and constraints – a center for example is not an agency or bureau, and does not have the types of authorities associated with those types of organizations, JIATFs are durational (although some of the counter drug JTF types are long standing). These organizations draw their personnel from the supporting agencies. Maybe what is needed is something that allows its own recruiting with its own budget to operate along the lines of the OSS.

I think we continue to have better understanding of how the threat operates within the world as they perceive it, and how they see us.

As DR. Kilcullen closes:

“The new threats, which invalidate received wisdom on so many issues, may indicate that we are on the brink of a new era of conflict. Finding new, breakthrough ideas to understand and defeat these threats may prove to be the most important challenge we face.”
I wonder if our current tool set is adaptable and flexible enough to do what is required? I wonder if we should or even if we can create capabilities within existing organizations with strong rational for remaining as they are, and strong culture that resists change – often for good intuitive reasons. Consider that possibly the best way to meet these challenges might be to create something new (in relative terms) to work with our other existing tools in accomplishing our strategic ends. If so, maybe its not as hard as we think it is – maybe a key quality of this organization is that it is people & grey matter focused – other then its human requirements (recruiting & retention), and the $$$ required to travel – its budget should remain small. This is tough, because the more I learn about the Inter Agency, the more I believe budget = power and authority – but maybe that is the point here. The people we would want in such an organization would have to be clever enough to get by on little, they’d need to be natural communicators, intuitive and audacious among other traits. They might not desire to be in some of our traditional agencies and services, but they might “fit” is a different kind of organization – and as such be attracted to it. They don’t need to be able to do the Darby Queen, or even run 2 miles in 18 minutes - however, would need to be willing and able to live without McDonalds and Wal-Mart. They could be men or women, ages 18 to however old they can be and still function at an alert level. They could (and perhaps should) contain a wide array of interests, and experiences (both professional and personal).

As always this seems the best place to discuss this – the SWC in itself could be a virtual model of such people and such an organization - and potentially a recruiting pool.

Best, Rob