Hurricane Sandy isn’t only shutting down the federal government in Washington, D.C. and wreaking havoc across the Eastern Seaboard, but it also forced the postponement of an eagerly anticipated Special Operations conference set for Oct. 30-31 in Alexandria, Va.
The non-partisan Defense Strategies Institute had planned for the conference to feature of host of VIPs from USSOCOM, the Office of the Secretary of Defense, Theater Special Operations Commands, and diplomats. While organizers have said that the event will be rescheduled for November or December, the list of participants would have provided a nice bookend to the comments made at last week’s AUSA conference, where senior Army leadership stressed the need for general purpose forces to work more closely with special operators on a host of missions.
Some of the highlights of the conference promised to be speeches and Q&A’s by Vice Adm. Robert Harward, Deputy Commander of U.S. Central Command (CENTCOM); Lt. Gen. Charles Cleveland, Commanding General of the U.S. Army Special Operations Command (USASOC); Michael Sheehan, Assistant Secretary of Defense for Special Operations and Low Intensity Conflict; Byron Harper the deputy J5 of Special Operations Command Europe; Maj. Gen. Timothy McOwan, the head of the Australian Defence Staff in Washington, and the Australian Defence Attaché Former Commander, Australian Special Operations Command. Given the civil-military lessons that the Pentagon is trying to gather from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and set into practice for future conflicts, the group also invited Beth Cole Director, Office of Civil Military Cooperation USAID, to speak at “USAID and SOF Partnerships to Achieve Development Mission Goals.”
The conference comes on the heels of the Army’s August release of a published doctrine document for special operations, which Cleveland called a “departure and an advance” during comments at AUSA on Oct. 22. Cleveland called the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan “battle labs” for Army doctrine, which will point the way for increasing partnership between special operators and general purpose forces, while also leading to innovations in psychological warfare and information operations.