Get Task & Purpose in your inbox
Special Operations Command review finds deployment and leadership issues but no 'systemic ethics problem'
The long-awaited Special Operations Command's ethics review has finally been released, which argues that there is no "systemic ethics problem" in the special operations community while acknowledging a range of underlying problems stemming from a high operations tempo and insufficient leadership.
Army Gen. Richard Clarke, head of SOCOM, ordered the ethics review following several incidents of special operators being accused of crimes, including two SEALs and two Marine Raiders being accused of killing a Green Beret in Mali; a SEAL platoon being kicked out of Iraq over allegations of drinking and sexual assault; members of a SEAL team using cocaine and other drugs; and Navy SEAL Chief Eddie Gallagher being accused of killing a wounded ISIS fighter. Gallagher was found not guilty of murder. He was convicted of posing for a picture with the fighter's corpse.
Task & Purpose asked Clarke on Tuesday if SOCOM was being honest with itself by declaring there is no systemic ethics problem at the root of these incidents.
"Yes, I think we're being honest with ourselves," Clarke said at a media roundtable. "The extreme vast majority of our force who is deployed, they are doing the right things each and every day on behalf of our nation. This force has literally done tens of thousands of raids and it has done them to the highest standard and you are picking out a small set of incidents that have occurred."
The biggest issue is that SOCOM has been the U.S. military's weapon of choice to fight terrorists and insurgents for the past two decades, and that created a "vicious cycle" in which special operators have become more focused more on deploying than developing leaders, the review found.
Constant deployments have caused rest periods to be "habitually broken" and cohesive teams to constantly be split up, all of which "challenges unit integrity and leader development, and erodes readiness," the review found.
When it comes to recruiting, the review found the special operations community overemphasizes physical training. The special treatment that special operations candidates receive during their selection and training also fosters "an unhealthy sense of entitlement," according to the review, which recommends that SOCOM look at whether it is selecting candidates with "the right degree of competence and character" for special operations qualifications courses.
The ethics review also found the special operations community does not devote enough time and resources to junior leadership development and professional military education. As a result, many officers and enlisted leaders, "Struggle to grasp the fundamentals of officer-enlisted leaderships, mentorship practices, accountability and discipline."
Overall, the special operations community puts too much emphasis on combat experience when measuring how well leaders perform, according to the review.
"Those who did deploy forward, specifically in some degree of combat, are held as almost an infallible standard bearer for the rest of the organization to emulate – seemingly regardless if it is a positive or negative standard," the review says. "Even if professionally competent, this competence is too frequently equated to the core tenets of leadership, discipline, and accountability. There appeared to be a lack of emphasis on professional development and personal maturity with regard to other core skills a SOF leader must have as they move forward in their careers – gaining increasing levels of authority and responsibility."
Clarke cited a personal example of how special operators' singular focus on combat experience can pause problems. When he was a Ranger Ranger battalion commander, a specialist got into trouble just before deployment. The Ranger was well respected and had deployed several times, so his entire chain of command said he should still go downrange.
"I allowed him to deploy and my gut said that he should not," Clarke said. "He deployed and he committed crimes. He was subsequently court-martialed. I did not exercise what I should have as a leader. We have to put leaders in charge to do that. I have to set conditions – and so do my subordinate commanders – to make sure that we have engaged leadership that's going to stop that; that's going to prevent that next incident from happening because they know what right is."
You can read the full report below:
Though the Army has yet to actually set an official recruiting goal for this year, leaders are confident they're going to bring in more soldiers than last year.
Maj. Gen. Frank Muth, head of Army Recruiting Command, told reporters on Wednesday that the Army was currently 2,226 contracts ahead of where it was in 2019.
"I will just tell you that this time last year we were in the red, and now we're in the green which is — the momentum's there and we see it continuing throughout the end of the year," Muth said, adding that the service hit recruiting numbers in February that haven't been hit during that month since 2014.
Editor's Note: The following is an op-ed. The opinions expressed are those of the author, and do not necessarily reflect the views of Task & Purpose.
We are women veterans who have served in the Army, Navy, and Marine Corps. Our service – as aviators, ship drivers, intelligence analysts, engineers, professors, and diplomats — spans decades. We have served in times of peace and war, separated from our families and loved ones. We are proud of our accomplishments, particularly as many were earned while immersed in a military culture that often ignores and demeans women's contributions. We are veterans.
Yet we recognize that as we grew as leaders over time, we often failed to challenge or even question this culture. It took decades for us to recognize that our individual successes came despite this culture and the damage it caused us and the women who follow in our footsteps. The easier course has always been to tolerate insulting, discriminatory, and harmful behavior toward women veterans and service members and to cling to the idea that 'a few bad apples' do not reflect the attitudes of the whole.
Recent allegations that Secretary of Veterans Affairs Robert Wilkie allegedly sought to intentionally discredit a female veteran who reported a sexual assault at a VA medical center allow no such pretense.
KABUL/WASHINGTON/PESHAWAR, Pakistan (Reuters) - The United States and the Taliban will sign an agreement on Feb. 29 at the end of a week long period of violence reduction in Afghanistan, U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and the Taliban said on Friday.
Active-duty service members, Reservists and National Guard members often serve side-by-side performing highly skilled and dangerous jobs, such as parachuting, explosives demolition and flight deck operations.
Reservists and Guard members are required to undergo the same training as specialized active-duty troops, and they face the same risks. Yet the extra incentive pay they receive for their work — called hazardous duty incentive pay — is merely a fraction of what their active-duty counterparts receive for performing the same job.
A bipartisan group of lawmakers, led by U.S. Rep. Andy Kim, D-3 of Moorestown, are partnering on legislation to correct the inequity. Known as the Guard and Reserve Hazard Duty Pay Equity Act, the bill seeks to standardize payment of hazardous duty incentive pay for all members of the armed services, including Reserve and National Guard components.
Another Marine was hit with jail time and a bad-conduct discharge in connection with a slew of arrests made last summer over suspicions that members of a California-based infantry battalion were transporting people who'd crossed into the U.S. illegally.