Special Operations: November 4, 2004

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The U.S. SOCOM (Special Operations Command) has been given authority to spend up to $25 million a year, without consulting Congress, to support warlords, mercenaries and foreign combat forces in general. Traditionally, only the CIA was allowed to do this sort of thing. However, the U.S. Army Special Forces was allowed to organize and maintain mercenary forces during the Vietnam war, and did so with great success (and often in cooperation with the CIA). However, since the formation of SOCOM in the 1986, the Department of Defense has increasingly seen its commando force as a superior (compared to the CIA) source of intelligence. Moreover, SOCOM takes orders from the Department of Defense, the CIA does not. So the Department of Defense has sought powers for SOCOM that are similar to those the CIA has. The CIA does not like this, but SOCOM has a good track record (including may joint operations with the CIA), and has accumulated sufficient clout and good will in Congress to get additional powers. The main argument for giving SOCOM money for mercenaries is because this sort of thing is very useful for hunting terrorists. You often have to hire muscle locally, and in a hurry. SOCOM is taking the lead in field operations against terrorists overseas. Now SOCOM can hire locally, and do it quickly, where before it had to call back to Washington and do some negotiating first. 

 


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