Special Operations Command, United States

Special Operations Command, United States

Special operations forces (SOFs) are elite units of the United States military services that are used for purposes that include counterterrorism, asymmetric warfare, forward reconnaissance, and preparation for landing by airborne and conventional troops in a combat zone. Though some such units have existed since World War II, the formal organization of special operations did not emerge until much later, culminating in the establishment of the U.S. Special Operations Command (SOCOM) on April 16, 1987. Headquartered at MacDill Air Force Base in Florida, SOCOM brings together special operations units and closely related support groups, including psychological warfare contingents, under a single unified command.

SOCOM is one of the nine unified commands of the U.S. Department of Defense (DOD), and its commanderin-chief (USCINCSOC), a four-star general, is the only unified command leader with authority to make purchases in support of his troops. The SOCOM budget for fiscal year 2002 was $4.9 billion, well over 1 percent of DoD appropriations. In September 2002, after Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld called for increased SOF involvement in the war on terror, USCINCSOC General Charles Holland presented him with a five-year budget that would double funding for SOCOM.

Components of SOCOM include the U.S. Army Special Operations Command, Joint Special Operations Command, and John F. Kennedy Special Warfare Center and School, all located at Fort Bragg, North Carolina; the Air Force Special Operations Command and Special Operations School at Hurlburt Field, Florida; and the Naval Special Warfare Command and Special Warfare Center at Coronado, California. Among the many elite units that make up SOCOM are the U.S. Army Rangers, Special Forces ("Green Berets"), and Delta Force; the Navy SEALs (sea, air, land); and various Air Force special operations groups.



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Clancy, Tom, and John Gresham. Special Forces: A Guided Tour of U.S. Army Special Forces. New York: Berkley Books, 2001.

Clancy, Tom, Tony Koltz, and Carl Stiner. Shadow Warriors: Inside the Special Forces. New York: G.P. Putnam's Sons, 2002.


Wall, Robert. "Conflict Could Test Special Ops Improvements." Aviation Week & Space Technology 155, no. 14 (October 1, 2001): 30–31.


Special Operations.com. < http://www.specialoperations.com/ > (April 2, 2003).

U.S. Air Force Special Operations Command. < http://www.afsoc.af.mil/ > (April 2, 2003).

U.S. Army Special Operations Command. < http://www.soc.mil/ > (April 2, 2003).

U.S. Army Special Operations Command. < http://www.bragg.army.mil/18abn/usa_special_operations_command.htm > (April 2, 2003).


Asymmetric Warfare
Delta Force
DoD (United States Department of Defense)
Guerilla Warfare
SEAL Teams
United States, Counter-terrorism Policy

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