Paper – SOF and the Future of Global Competition

CNA Paper - SOF and Great Power Competition May 2019

A report about special operations forces examines the role that irregular warfare will play in great power competition – with a focus on information operations. A primary focal point of the Department of Defense going forward has been defined by the 2018 National Defense Strategy as competing effectively with state adversaries.

The nations of Russia, China, Iran and others are using unconventional methodologies to attain their goals and increase their national influence. This paper by the Center for Stability & Development of CNA Analysis & Solutions outlines U.S. government efforts to compete successfully around the world using information operations (IO) and intermediary partnerships. The paper is an outcome of a March 2019 event hosted by CNA that included government, military, and academic experts that addressed how special operations forces could support U.S. government efforts in global competition.

Key Themes in the Paper:

  • The US must embrace irregular warfare as inherent to modern great power competition
  • SOF’s strategic role in today’s irregular battlespace must be defined and implemented
  • SOF need a collaborative civilian partner for conducting information operations
  • Practitioners need to study and understand the tactical and strategic toolkits for irregular operations
  • The US must define the future of IW and the American narrative as key elements of its competition for global influence

The paper concludes that the U.S. must be able to compete with our adversaries in the field of influence operations and needs to be able to control “. . . the narrative surrounding that competition.” It further states that US SOF and their civilian partners are critical actors in this endeavor and provides some recommendations for the future.

SOF and the Future of Global Competition, CNA Analysis & Solutions, May 2019, PDF, 26 pages.


Photo: Photograph from paper cited above.

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