USNORTHCOM and Special Operations Command North Discuss The Future Of SOF For Homeland Defense

U.S. Special Operations Command North (SOCNORTH) hosted a Special Operations Forces in Competition and Homeland Defense Workshop from May 11-13, 2021. 

The workshop brought Special Operations leaders and experts from the Department of Homeland Security, Department of State, Federal Bureau of Investigation, the U.S. Coast Guard and other security experts together to shape the future of Special Operations in support of Homeland Defense.

The conference included working groups to develop plans for countering trans-regional criminal organizations, weapons of mass destruction, and security challenges in the Arctic. 

“Special operations forces have focused on violent extremist organizations and countering weapons of mass destruction, but the strategic landscape around the globe has dramatically changed, especially in the last five to 10 years,” said U.S. Air Force Gen. Glen D. VanHerck, commander of the North American Aerospace Defense Command and U.S. Northern Command, during opening remarks at the workshop. “Special operations forces were built for competition, and while the focus has been on conflict over the last twenty years, we need to get SOF back to supporting homeland defense in competition, crisis, and in conflict.” 

SOCNORTH is the special operations component of USNORTHCOM, and is tasked with providing SOF options, understanding of irregular threats, and facilitating cooperative action with mission partners in defense of the Homeland. 

“The character of competition during the Cold War and what we’ve been accustomed to has changed, but the nature of what we do remains the same,” said U.S. Army Brig. Gen. Shawn Satterfield, commander of SOCNORTH. “We need to look at harnessing technology for greater effect for integrated deterrence and linking that into a larger, overarching strategy.” 

According to the NORAD and USNORTHCOM strategy, Global Integration, All-Domain Awareness, Information Dominance, and Decision Superiority are critical for the defending the U.S. and North America. These four priorities must be met to create credible deterrence in global competition. 

“I’m trying to build deterrence every single day, so we can create doubt in the mind of our competitors about ever thinking they can be successful in their objectives by striking the homeland,” VanHerck said. “SOF absolutely plays a role in creating deterrence.” 

Special operations forces possess unique capabilities and training that conventional military forces lack, and they also have special roles that could be used to deter global competition. 

Non-kinetic attacks on the homeland, like the recent hack of the Colonial Pipeline, have become more prevalent in the last few years. 

“Special operations forces have a role in figuring out how to counter non-kinetic attacks on our critical infrastructure, and being just as aggressive and active in those domains,” VanHerck added. 

“From NORAD and USNORTHCOM and its components, to combatant commands around the world, the U.S. and its allies must be globally integrated to counter threats to our livelihood. To be able to project power forward, you must have a secure homeland.” VanHerck added. 

NORAD is a U.S. and Canada bi-national organization charged with the missions of aerospace warning and aerospace control for North America, and USNORTHCOM conducts homeland defense, civil support, and security cooperation to defend and secure the United States and its interests. NORAD and USNORTHCOM work closely together, with VanHerck as the commander for both commands. 

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