Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Senators Quiz Vice Admiral McRaven For Top Special Operations Slot

By Karen Parrish, American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, June 28, 2011 - Navy Vice Adm. William H. McRaven appeared before the Senate Armed Services Committee today as the senators met to consider his promotion to the rank of admiral and appointment as commander of U.S. Special Operations Command.

McRaven currently commands Joint Special Operations Command. His previous assignments include service commanding Special Operations Command Europe, Naval Special Warfare Group 1 and SEAL Team 3.

"I have been very fortunate to have spent the past 34 years in special operations, and I can tell you from my personal experience that ... we have the best-trained, the best-equipped, and most experienced special operations force in the history of the U.S., and possibly the world," McRaven said.

If confirmed, McRaven said, he will train, organize, equip and deploy special operations troops, as directed by the secretary of defense, across the spectrum of conflict.

"We will, at all times, be prepared to answer the nation's call with experienced forces whose intellect, maturity and courage allows them to operate in politically and militarily complex environments," he said.

McRaven called Socom's joint troops, "... men and women who relish challenges, and who willingly go where the threat to America is at its greatest."

As good as the force is, McRaven said, he knows one of his primary challenges if he is confirmed as commander will be to ensure special operations forces and their families are well taken care of, physically and emotionally.

"In his 2011 posture hearing, [current Socom commander] Admiral Eric Olson noted that as a result of 10 years of continuous combat, the force is frayed at the edges," McRaven said. "Admiral Olson and his wife, Marilyn, were exceptionally engaged in the welfare of the [special operations forces] soldiers and their families, particularly our wounded warriors."

If he is confirmed, McRaven said, he and his wife, Georgeann, "will follow their lead and put forth every effort to ensure the well-being of the individuals under my command and the families that support them."

In a written response to advance questions before today's hearing, McRaven gave his views on Socom's operational tempo, troop morale, and the command's cooperation with the military services and other governmental agencies.

The "new normal" for special operations forces is a "persistently engaged, forward-based force to prevent and deter conflict and, when needed, act to disrupt and defeat threats," McRaven wrote.

The long-term engagement that new normal represents, he added, "translates into increased demand for [special operations forces]. The pace of the last 10 years is indicative of what we expect for the next 10 years."

Special operations forces by doctrine rely on the military services for critical support in missions longer than 15 days, McRaven wrote, adding that like conventional units, they "struggle to obtain enough ... [explosive ordnance disposal], [intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance], communications personnel, medical and security personnel support."

While special operators have deployed frequently over the past decade, McRaven wrote, "In most cases, [special operations forces] are doing what they expected and wanted, and they feel good about their impressive contributions."

However, increasing deployment predictability and avoiding last-minute demand for forces will be important to maintaining troops' job satisfaction, he wrote.

The recent operation resulting in Osama bin Laden's death highlights Socom's success in providing skilled forces and working effectively with other agencies, McRaven wrote.

Maintaining high standards [and] challenging training environments and encouraging ingenuity develops unique and valuable operators," he wrote. "Finally, continuing to break down barriers between the various agencies and departments allows for increased cooperation and synchronization, allowing the U.S. government to successfully accomplish the mission."

After the committee reports on today's hearing, McRaven's nomination will move to the full Senate for a confirmation vote.

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