WASHINGTON, Dec. 29, 2017 — There is a blurring line that separates conventional operating forces from special operations forces and the defense secretary expects general purpose forces will eventually shoulder missions once the province of their special forces brethren.
Defense Secretary James N. Mattis told Pentagon reporters today that the experiences of war since 9/11 have blurred the lines.
This change will not be enshrined in strategy, he said, but will come about as a result of policy and the growth of general purpose forces’ capabilities.
Growth of general purpose force capabilities
Mattis said he expects more general purpose forces to take on missions in Iraq and Syria. “In the Trans-Sahel [region of Africa], many of the force supporting the French effort are general purpose forces,” the secretary said.
If a mission comes up, the secretary said he’ll determine the parameters of it and pass that to the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. The chairman will then determine what forces take on that mission. They may be special operations forces or general purpose forces with unique capabilities.
U.S. military evolves Through war experiences
This is an evolution of the U.S. military spurred by the lessons of war, the secretary said.
Mattis said he does not want a force that is dominant in yesterday’s challenges, but irrelevant in today’s. The general purpose force, he added, is going to have to have the capabilities that were once associated only with special operations forces.
The secretary gave the example of remotely piloted vehicles. In 2001, he said, the only people who ran drones were special operations forces.
In 2007, an Army captain on one street was looking at a feed from a drone overhead with strike capabilities from the Navy and Army standing by, the secretary said. In the meantime, a “CIA guy was in his headquarters talking with one of his agents in an Army brigade,” Mattis said.
“That is not what an Army brigade did in Desert Storm or the Fulda Gap [in what was then West Germany]. The change happened because war initiated those changes. Those are now common capabilities.”
(Follow Jim Garamone on Twitter: @GaramoneDoDNews)
Locked and Loaded: Pentagon Grants Soldiers in DC Power to use Lethal Force
The National Guard have been authorized to use lethal force, if needed.
Army Secretary Ryan McCarthy has authorized the twenty thousand National Guard members providing security around the U.S. Capitol to carry lethal weapons as Washington, D.C., braces for Inauguration Day.
“On January 12, 2021, National Guardsmen were given authorization to be armed in support of the U.S. Capitol Police to protect the U.S. Capitol and individual members of Congress and their staff,” according to a statement from the D.C. National Guard, which is commanding Guard forces in the city, including units deployed from six other states, to provide security for President-elect Joe Biden’s inauguration next week,” the DC National Guard revealed in a statement “This was requested by federal authorities and authorized by the Secretary of the Army.”
The National Guard Bureau declined to specify what weapons troops would carry.
“National Guard members are postured to meet the requirements of the supported civil authorities, up to and including protective equipment and being armed if necessary,” said the statement. “The public’s safety is our top priority.”
Gen. Daniel R. Hokanson, chief of the National Guard Bureau, told media members on Monday that a force of up to 15,000 will deploy to D.C. with all their issued equipment, including their individual weapons. So if the need arises, “they are close by and they are readily accessible.”
The Pentagon initially authorized up to six thousand two hundred Guard members from Maryland, Virginia, New York, New Jersey, Delaware and Pennsylvania to deploy to D.C. on federal status to maintain security through Inauguration Day.
The history of National Guard members being a part of the presidential inauguration dates back to the first inauguration of President George Washington in 1789.
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