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Army special operators look to counter disinformation, cyberwarfare in new strategy

A soldier checks a compass while completing a land navigation course during Special Forces Assessment and Selection near Hoffman, N.C., May 7, 2019. Troops must be able to operate when technology no longer works, which means being better at battlefield maneuvers and land navigation, according to a new Army special operations strategy document.

KEN KASSENS/U.S. ARMY

By JOHN VANDIVER | STARS AND STRIPES Published: October 18, 2019

Army Green Berets and Rangers will “get brilliant at the basics” to prepare for future battlefields where adversaries like Russia and China could knock out the secured combat outposts relied upon in more recent conflicts, according to a new U.S. Army Special Operations Command Strategy.

“We will shift from a mindset of inhabiting secure forward operating bases to one of surviving and thriving in large-scale combat operations,” the strategy says.

The plan, which was rolled out by USASOC leaders earlier this week at the Association of the U.S. Army’s annual conference in Washington, also says trends like climate change, urbanization and rapid technological advances will test Special Forces soldiers in new ways.

“Drastic changes to global social patterns, the climate, and economies will drive political instability and resource competition,” the strategy states.

But the Army’s main focus is Russia and China and the concerns also go beyond their military modernization programs. Such adversaries avoid provoking a conventional military fight by “weaponizing information at scale” to “fracture our alliances and win without fighting.”

“Great power competition means we are in conflict right now,” the strategy states.

To deal with threats short of armed conflict, Army special operators want to get more out of combat training centers by using cyber and information warfare in all aspects of training.

In 2018, the Pentagon put out a new national defense strategy that placed greater focus on countering Russia and China. In the year since, the military has grappled with how to manage ongoing threats in the Middle East with the new focus.

The national defense strategy was “clear in its call to shake off strategic atrophy and restore America’s competitive edge,” Lt. Gen. Francis M. Beaudette said in a statement.

To that end, Army Special Forces must be able to operate when technology no longer works, which means getting better at battlefield maneuver and land navigation, the strategy states. In a fight against Russia or China, GPS and communications systems would likely come under attack.

At the same time, ARSOF said it will integrate rapidly changing technology such as “hardened communications” and information-gathering platforms, as well as weapons that can “reach out and kill the enemy undetected.”

“Our culture will be grounded in a shift on two fronts: brilliant at the basics and revolutionary. Everything we do will emphasize survivability, lethality, and agility,” the strategy says.

Some changes in training have already taken root. The course to qualify for the Green Berets was recently revamped and shortened so that soldiers can get to units faster and receive additional training tailored to their specific mission.

“We need to re-establish our forte, which is our ability to work with partner forces, developing their capabilities to provide an advantage for them and the United States against our adversaries — North Korea, Iran, and China and Russia,” the Army’s Maj. Gen. Kurt Sonntag told The Associated Press earlier this month.

vandiver.john@stripes.com
Twitter: @john_vandiver

Green Berets assigned to 3rd Special Forces Group (Airborne) conduct urban movement training on July 18, 2019, at Fort Bragg, N.C. Troops must be able to operate when technology no longer works, which means being better at battlefield maneuvers and land navigation, according to a new Army special operations strategy document.
PETER SEIDLER/U.S. ARMY

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