HELSINKI — Special operations has historically been a fragmented, underfunded, noncore resource within Norway’s military organization.
But the massacre of 77 people and wounding of 209 in a bombing and murder spree by Anders Behring Breivik on July 22, 2011, sparked a political decision to reform the military’s and law enforcement’s special operations capacities.
Government has now approved development of special forces capabilities under a more centralized command structure to improve homeland security protection against threats to national sovereignty and to Norway’s extensive mineral assets worldwide.
The lack of a coordinated special forces response to the massacre resulted in a special commission of inquiry and a government commitment to reorganize the Army’s and Navy’s special forces units.
“The 482-page inquiry report revealed a systematic failure on the part of law enforcement and intelligence agencies, and a lack of availability of military special forces assets. The first military Bell 412 helicopter did not get off the ground until almost four hours after the bombs exploded in Oslo,” said Liberal Party leader Trine Skei Grande, who sits on the Storting’s (parliament) Justice And Constitutional Committee.
An armed forces advisory team, headed by defense chief Gen. Harald Sunde, laid the foundation for National Readiness Command (NRC), which establishes a single organization to coordinate rapid response tactics and actions.
The NRC’s organization creates an intelligence, planning and mission execution umbrella linking to all key command structures within the military intelligence, homeland security, government and national intelligence chain.
The Oslo-headquartered NRC will ensure a 24/7 standby capability allowing civil powers to call on Rapid Response Special Ops (RRSO) units drawn from the Naval Command’s Navy Seals and a combined Seals and Army Rangers unit.
The new RRSO capability is expected to be in place by August.
The Navy Seals and the Army Rangers’ units will develop common training and equipment platforms.
Missions will include enemy reconnaissance, protecting or the retaking of key offshore installations, anti-piracy tasks and hostage rescue.
The annual budget for special operations units will rise by 10 percent from 2013 to 2018, with a figure of US $257 million expected by 2016. By contrast, the defense budget is expected to grow by around 7 percent a year.
About 20 percent of the spending over the 2014 to 2018 time frame will be used to build new accommodations and training facilities for the Navy Seals and ArmyRangers special operations units.
“What this does is put all special forces units under a common management and command system,” Defense Minister Anne-Grete Strøm-Erichsen said.
A third special ops base will be developed at the Navy’s Arctic station in Ramsund.
“The reform will enable all special forces units to be employed both on land or at sea. This is a fundamental requirement, given the expanding nature of our offshore oil and gas industry and infrastructure at home and abroad,” Sunde said.