Washington DC: US Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld has ordered an outside review of US special operations forces to determine how well they are positioned for a growing role in the war on terrorism, a spokesman said Thursday.
Retired General Wayne Downing, a former head of the US Special Operations Command, has been selected to lead the review and is in the process of starting it up, said Lawrence DiRita, the chief Pentagon spokesman.
DiRita said Rumsfeld was seeking the outside appraisal not out of unhappiness with the special operations forces but to make sure investments in the elite commando forces were having the desired impact.
Their performance “has been outstanding,” DiRita told reporters. “The question is there is a lot more they might be able to do if we know what they will need to do it.”
He noted that a new national strategy for the war on terrorism assigns a growing role to the special operations forces in counterterrorism and irregular warfare.
A four-year strategy review that is near completion also raised questions about special operations that prompted Rumsfeld to order the Downing review, he said.
US special operations forces have been focused mainly on Iraq and Afghanistan, while terrorist organizations operate around the world, he said.
“So the question is: Is there more force structure that would be useful? Is there more capability that we would need, more language, those kinds of things?” DiRita said.
The Marine Corps, meanwhile, is expected to contribute forces to the US Special Operations Command in Tampa, Florida for the first time.
Special forces from the army, air force and navy were placed under the command when it was established in 1986.
But the marines, jealous of their autonomy, opted out of the joint command even though they have special units for reconnaissance and direct action.
“The secretary has been squeezing the marines for four years to get into special operations, and they are doing that,” DiRita said.
“They will be coming soon with some specific recommendations on how they will be organizing that,” he said.
National Review Online reported Thursday that the marines have been developing a special operations detachment that will be assigned to the Special Operations Command.
A prototype of the unit has been fighting in Iraq, conducting raids and other special operations missions, it said.