Special Ops May Pass More Missions To Conventional Forces – Nominee Says

David Maxwell Comment:  “I have not found the transcript of the testimony but it can be viewed at this link: 


LTG Clarke’s 27 page response to the advance policy questions can be downloaded here: https://www.armed-services.senate.gov/imo/media/doc/Clarke_APQs_12-04-18.pdf ( would note that unconventional warfare, counter-unconventional warfare or political warfare are not mentioned in any of his responses but are implied in the responses to the SASC question on irregular warfare and “gray one operations.”


     Irregular Warfare-Nation states are becoming more aggressive in challenging U.S. interests through the use of asymmetric means that often fall below the threshold of conventional conflict,commonly referred to as irregular warfare and “gray zone operations.”
What is your understanding of the threat to U.S. interests posed by adversaries in this domain of warfare?

     The threat to U.S. interests posed by adversaries employing irregular techniques and hybrid warfare strategies includes near-peer competitor nations. The prospects of major power conflict combined with aggressive regional challengers are linked by the growing prevalence of conflict or competition below the level of armed conflict. The means of such conflict range from strong-arm diplomacy and economic coercion, to media manipulation and cyber attacks, to use of paramilitaries and proxy forces. Singularly, or in combination, these actions could serve to drain American resources and those of our allies and partners. Irregular Warfare conducted by our adversaries are often shrouded in deception or misinformation, making attribution difficult and thus possibly diluting the potential U.S. response.

What should be the guiding principles of the Department of Defense’s strategy to counter these threats?

     Our guiding principles to counter these threats should include recognizing first and foremost that warfare has and will always consist of both traditional and irregular elements that cannot be separated, and then build our strategies accordingly. Secretary Mattis has emphasized the Department’s focus on countering such coercive behavior while also preparing to deter and if necessary defeat conventional aggression. This effort includes significant focus on growing the ability to work with other U.S. government agencies and departments, allies and partners, nongovernmental organizations, and private entities to advance the Nation’s priorities and interests.

What role should special operations forces have in executing such a strategy?

     SOF are best utilized in areas which are politically sensitive, where a large U.S. presence is unacceptable, or in missions that involve imparting high-end skills to critical partner forces.In short, SOF can offer asymmetric options to compete with adversaries’ asymmetric strategies and achieve outcomes short of armed conflict.

     SOF must leverage its position at the tip of the spear. By embracing the principles of mission command to maintain peak agility, SOF can shape developments favorably in a rapidly changing strategic environment. SOF can adapt to disturbances to improve the position of the U.S.,seeking to both exploit emerging opportunities when presented and to cultivate future opportunities. SOF can provide insight and understanding from its forward position to better inform the Joint Force and interagency.

Section 1202 of the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2018 authorizes the provision of support (including training, funding, and equipment) to regular forces, irregular forces, and individuals supporting or facilitating irregular warfare operations by U.S. special operations forces to combat terrorism.What is your assessment of this authority?

     The enactment of Section 1202 filled a gap in the fiscal authorities available to our forces at a critical juncture for SOF vis-à-vis current NDS priorities. SOF will now be able to operationalize select regular and irregular forces whose unique access and capabilities we can then leverage to achieve critical effects in support of SECDEF directed GCC missions. 1202-resourced efforts will support other GCC operations and activities involving peer competitor nations. Recognizing the strategic implications for this authority, we will move forward deliberately, in coordination with interagency partners, while providing full transparency to Congress.

If confirmed, what criteria would you use to evaluate section 1202 proposals to ensure they comply with policy guidance, are complementary to other DOD and U.S. Government irregular warfare efforts, and achieve their intended purpose?

     If confirmed, I will ensure that 1202 program proposals are consistent with Congressional intent,and that they are well collaborated and coordinated with interagency partners. Proposals must reflect detailed counterintelligence planning to ensure integrity of the enabled force, and they must include a well-defined end state with measures of performance. Proposals will include risk assessment/mitigation strategies that identify friction points and implement control measures to avoid inadvertent escalation or unintended consequences. Lastly, they must include off-ramp /demobilization strategies to be implemented should the strategic objectives be achieved or deemed unachievable

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