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Naval Special Warfare in an Uncertain Global Security Environment

NSW commander describes a global security environment that calls for special operations forces

We live in a rapidly changing world full of uncertain security situations. Adversaries are capitalizing on a flattened global system that enables both state and non-state actors to exert destabilizing power and influence in a variety of non-traditional ways. Amidst these disruptions, governments are finding it harder and harder to maintain legitimacy with disaffected populations and are challenged to adequately address the underlying grievances and root causes that are driving instability. It is in these seams where governments are most vulnerable, and where adversaries are exploiting their asymmetric advantage to gain an unconventional foothold and advance their objectives.

Naval Special Warfare’s top priorities are People, Mission, and Resources – each critical to meeting the operational requirements of Combatant Commanders today and to prepare to meet the evolving and uncertain challenges of tomorrow.

U.S. special operations forces (SOF) are uniquely suited to deliver significant impact in these very environments, aligned along three principal lines of effort: persistent engagement, enabling partners, and discreet action. SOF is quietly engaged in strategically important locations and integrated with a network of global and regional partners. These relationships form a cornerstone to build shared capability and capacity to meet common security threats. Long-term solutions or effective mitigation of security challenges lie in whole-of-government (or governments) solutions. SOF can play a supporting or supported role to conventional forces in a military operation, and has served as a key partner in coordination of interagency efforts covered by governmental departments and agencies. SOF plays an important but not always decisive role in producing outcomes. SOF has the ability to conduct both discrete and discreet action against our most immediate threats. While working toward long-term security and stability objectives, SOF continues to be ready to mount effective crisis response and maintains a robust engagement program. These lines of effort are fundamental to meeting the broadening variety of security problems, and remain essential to building lasting stability and security needed to safeguard U.S. interests.

Naval Special Warfare’s Role in SOF’s Global Network

Naval Special Warfare (NSW) is the Navy component of U.S. Special Operations Command (USSOCOM), and the SOF component of the U.S. Navy. NSW is a full-spectrum special operations force with primacy in the maritime domain.

NSW freefall

Naval Special Warfare personnel conduct parachute training, one skill that enables them to insert into a variety of operational environments. Naval Special Warfare photo

The mission of Naval Special Warfare Command is to man, train, equip, deploy, and sustain NSW forces for operations and activities worldwide, in support of Theater Special Operations Commands (TSOCs) and the Combatant Commanders. NSW carries out that mission with a team of highly skilled and experienced professionals, totaling approximately 10,000 personnel – 3,600 active-duty SEALs and Special Boat Operators, 4,500 functional specialists sourced from the fleet, 1,200 civilians, and 750 Navy Reserve personnel.

The last 14 years of war have forged our force, through a cascade of challenging combat deployments and equally demanding training regimens. NSW has been a key SOF component in two landlocked wars and multiple areas of operation mired in conflict and turmoil.

Naval Special Warfare’s top priorities are People, Mission, and Resources – each critical to meeting the operational requirements of Combatant Commanders today and to prepare to meet the evolving and uncertain challenges of tomorrow.

NSW’s Flagship Weapons System

The No. 1 SOF truth is “Humans are more important than Hardware”; in Naval Special Warfare, our People are the capital resource and flagship weapons system. We develop, deploy, and sustain human systems that train and operate in highly dynamic, complex, and ambiguous environments.

The last 14 years of war have forged our force, through a cascade of challenging combat deployments and equally demanding training regimens. NSW has been a key SOF component in two landlocked wars and multiple areas of operation mired in conflict and turmoil. NSW has been a part of radically evolving counterinsurgency (COIN), combating terrorism (CT), and countering violent extremist organization (CVEO) approaches. At the same time, NSW has kept its fins in the water and in an equally radical manner, advanced the craft of maritime special operations. Perhaps NSW’s most radical advance is in the recognition and establishment of community-wide programs and practices that provide the essential care and support to ensure that our flagship weapons systems are mentally, emotionally, spiritually, and physically prepared to carry out critical, sensitive, and sometimes high-risk missions for the long term. Further, this support is extended to NSW Families to ensure resiliency on the home front. Every system, especially human systems, requires preventive maintenance and support.

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