U.S. Special Operations Forces (SOF) have played a key role in the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, as well as in the broader U.S. effort to destroy al Qaeda and its violent extremist allies. In fact, over the past eight years SOF have experienced their most extensive and transformative use of the modern era. Still, these strategic national assets are not yet fully optimized for success.
This policy brief describes the unintentional difficulties and misunderstandings that flow from the current list of SOFOF activities; disaggregates and re-categorizes them into a new construct that differentiates missions from activities; and redefines the two general approaches to the conduct of special operations. These proposals have importance beyond a mere academic exercise. Taken together, they attempt to develop a more unified SOFOF community, with all Special Operations Forces working in support of six shared missions to greater strategic effect.