Archive for March 18, 2010
The 4-star-chiefs of U.S. Central Command and U.S. Special Operations Command testified before the Senate Armed Services Committee this week. And while CENTCOM’s Gen. David Petraeus got most of the attention with his comments about Iraq, Afghanistan and Iran, Adm. Eric Olson — SOCOM’s commander — had some interesting things to say, especially about his budgetary wish list.
For starters, Olson says SOCOM plans to add to its specialized helicopter fleet. SOCOM — which includes Army Rangers and Special Forces, Navy SEALs and Special Boat Teams, as well as Air Force and Marine Corps special operations units — plans on adding eight MH-47 Chinooks by Fiscal 2015. The command is also looking to increase its fleet of 12 CV-22 tilt-rotor Osprey helicopters to 50 by 2016. Five of those hybrid rotary/fixed wing aircraft are being sought for Fiscal 2011.
SOCOM’s $6.3 billion base budget request for Fiscal 2011 includes an additional $3.5 billion for Overseas Contingency (war) operations – a total of $9.8 billion. The Florida-based command is also seeking to modernize its existing MH-47G helicopters and add new MH-60M helos with special operational capabilities like being able to refuel in the air, conduct advanced night operations and hug the ground during covert flight.
Plans to revamp the oldest airframes of its C-130 tactical airlift planes are a “current top priority” for SOCOM’s air component, Olson told senators. The Fiscal 2011 budget also proposes a 4.6 percent increase in SOCOM’s force, 2,700 in people in all. Currently SOCOM has 12,000 personnel deployed in 75 countries – with most of them in Iraq, Afghanistan and other countries in CENTCOM territory. Olson said he’s also seeking to increase SOCOM’ combat service and service support assets including: communications technicians, information support specialists, forensic analysts, intelligence experts and military working dog teams.
In his testimony, Petraeus told the Senate panel that plans were on track to reduce the U.S. troop presence in Iraq from about 100,000 to 50,000 by Sept. 1. Despite that shift, Olson says he expects the level of Special Operations Forces “will remain constant” in Iraq during the drawdown.
Both Petraeus and Olson say the rising presence of the terrorist group al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula is a growing threat to Yemen, believed to be the source of several attacks and attempted attacks on the U.S. and its people and property overseas. Olson said his command is maintaining “a relatively small” training operation with “certain Yemeni forces,” but he told the committee he couldn’t go into more detail in an open hearing.