News 1998 Army Science and Technology Master Plan

Annex F
U.S. Special Operations Command Technology Overview

A. Introduction

The United States Special Operations Command (SOCOM) was formally stood up as a unified command on 16 April 1987. It is one of nine unified commands reporting to the Secretary of Defense (SECDEF) through the Chairman, Joint Chiefs of Staff (CJCS). The primary mission of SOCOM is to provide combat–ready Special Operations Forces (SOF) in peacetime and in war for the theater combatant commanders, American ambassadors and their country’s teams, and other government agencies. The Commander in Chief, United States Special Operations Command (USCINCSOC) carries out that primary responsibility by performing several supporting functions, which include developing and acquiring SOF–unique equipment, materiel, supplies, and services. Within SOCOM, the Special Operations Acquisition Executive (SOAE) is directly responsible for the Research, Development, and Acquisition (RD&A) of systems peculiar to Special Operations (SO). The SOAE manages this responsibility in two ways: (1) program execution within SOCOM for systems unique to SOF; or (2) working cooperatively with the services and Department of Defense (DoD) agencies such as the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA), with other government agencies such as the Department of Energy (DOE) and the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), and with industry as well as academia.

In 1986, Title 10, U.S. Code (USC), Section 167, was signed, which provided SOCOM the responsibility to develop and acquire SO–peculiar equipment, materiel, supplies, and services. In 1988, the SECDEF granted SOCOM the opportunity to establish a contracting activity. In 1989, the actingSECDEF assigned Major Force Program 11 (MFP 11) Program Objective Memorandum (POM) and budget authority to SOCOM; and, in 1992, SOCOM appointed the SOAE to execute the command’s acquisition objectives and strategies. However, because of the limited funding in MFP 11, congressional committees on appropriations directed that SOCOM work with all research activities to ensure that SO technology needs are considered in the development of their technology base programs. To this end, Congress reiterated that the unique missions of SOF require its capabilities be based on the leading edge of technology, and, therefore, expects these activities "to expend an appropriate amount of the technology base effort identifying and developing technologies that have Special Operations potential." While SOCOM has a Service–like responsibility for research, development, and acquisition, the command is a user rather than a developer of technology, and does not have a dedicated laboratory structure as do the military departments. SOCOM’s technology strategy is to monitor emerging technology relevant to SOF needs, participate in selected programs that relate to SOF technology development objectives, and execute selected high–priority projects to exploit emerging technology for near–term SOF application. A key thrust of this strategy is to proceed urgently with the prevailing objective to "increase the capability of assigned forces through the fielding of SO–peculiar materiel meeting user requirements in the shortest possible time, i.e., aggressive use of prototyping." Thisstrategy is summarized below in Figure F–1.

Figure F-1. SOCOM Technology Strategy

A key part of SOCOM’s Technology Program strategy is the flexibility it uses in tailoring its programs to both accelerate the delivery of capabilities to the field and to reduce programmatic delays. This tailoring concept, portrayed with the standard DoD development sequence, is shown in the following schematic (Figure F–2). SOCOM works in and around this core process, appropriately tailoring approaches for each unique situation. The result is a flexible process that can greatly accelerate the schedule and reduce the cost of development. The innovative use of tools, such as demonstrations and operational assessments in conjunction with direct jumps to fielding of prototypes and insertions into ongoing system productions, as well as the use of fewer decision levels in the acquisition process, provides great flexibility in the implementation of tailored technology development/transitionprograms.

Figure F-2. Tailoring Technology Development Strategy
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To prepare SOF properly and ensure relevancy in a volatile and changing global environment, the USCINCSOC in 1997 established SOF’s future vision in SOF VISION 2020. This vision outlines three parallel paths—professional development of its people, technological innovation, and proactive acquisition—to ensure that SOF continues to be the world’s premier special operations force, already there or first to deploy, in the uncertain world of the future.

With regard to technological innovation, SOCOM will look to emerging, leading edge technologies in such areas as sensing and identification, biotechnology, miniaturization, signature reduction, secure communications, sensor/C3 disruption, information protection, advanced weapons/munitions, stealth, human enhancements, microrobotics, computerized speech recognition, and interactive simulation, to increase the efficiency and effectiveness of its people and platforms. The command will continue to identify and pursue key technologies that have the potential to satisfy future SOF requirements, maintain its core competencies, and meet emerging SOF missions. SOCOM will continue to be a testbed for new technologies. SOF will expand its initiative of leveraging relevant technology projects within the DoD agencies, services, national laboratories, and industry, as well as develop closer working relationships with the key organizations that will drive technologies most relevant to SOFinterests.

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