JSOU Paper – The Culture They Keep

SOF culture

The Joint Special Operations University (JSOU) has published a paper entitled The Culture They Keep: The Role of Legal Professionals in Restoring Accountability and Legitimacy to SOF Culture. The paper examines how the legal professionals of the Judge Advocate General’s (JAG) Corps can support SOF in the promotion of a culture of adherence to high standards of ethical and professional conduct.

The author is Lieutenant Colonel Jason DeSon – an Air Force officer. He is the Staff Judge Advocate for U.S. Special Operations Command Africa (SOCAFRICA). DeSon provides a brief history of some of the high-profile incidents that have put the culture and ethics of the U.S. Special Operations Forces under the spotlight. He goes on to provide information on Congressional action on this issue and the responses by USSOCOM over the past few years.

The bulk of the paper provides recommendations on how to reinforce and promote a value system for SOF. DeSon outlines some proactive steps that SOF commanders (and legal professionals) can take to clarify the SOF culture problem as well as outlining a solution. The four steps are:

  • Identify the sources of the SOF culture problem
  • Promote the tools necessary to affect SOF culture change
  • Getting ahead of it – a new strategic approach
  • Getting to right – implementing the new approach

The author finishes the paper discussing the latest Navy and USSOCOM reports about SOF ethics and culture. He discusses how the two reports include the legal profession in the effort to restore ethical standards of conduct for the special operations community. If you have an interest in the culture of SOF then this paper is a good read. If you are a commander, leader, supervisor, or lawyer in the SOF community then it might merit your attention as well.


Image: From the front cover of the JSOU paper.


“USSOCOM Report on SOF Culture and Ethics”, SOF News, January 29, 2020.

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