Vanguard Magazine

Aug/Sep 2013

Preserving capacity, General Tom Lawson, Chief of the Defence Staff, Keys to Canadian SAR

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S Special Forces Partners in The Special Forces operations: global network During a presentation to the Conference of Defence Associations in February, Admiral William McRaven, Commander of the United States Special Operations Command, described the strategic effect that can be gained by the tactical deployment of Special Operations Forces (SOF). With some 66,000 personnel, USSOCOM is clearly a leader, but it cannot operate alone. Increasingly, it is turning to an emerging global SOF network, brought together in part by operations in Afghanistan, to share expertise, best practices and intelligence. Brigadier-General Denis Thompson, Commander of Canadian Special Operations Forces Command, is developing a future looking document, "CANSOF 2025," that while preserving his no-fail crisis response capability, shifts the emphasis of Canadian SOF to strategic engagement. He spoke with editor Chris Thatcher about the global SOF network and Canada's growing role. 24 AUGUST/SEPTEMBER 2013 Q With such different national levels of capacity and experience, how do you make this global network work? Everyone recognizes that no one nation can address all the threats that are out there. So you have to build a network on the blue side. I talk about three things: there has to be a network of the commanders, a communications network to tie them together, and there has to be some common education or school, training norms if you will. I suppose there is a fourth with respect to equipment. The commanders' bit is self-evident. If there is a crisis in country X and I don't know who my counterpart is, it's hard to cold-call him and get something done. You have to create those relationships with your counterparts around the world. Each of the U.S. geographic combatant commands such as Southern Command, Central Command, Northern Command, etc, has a theatre special operations command, or TSOC, who, like me, tends to be a one or two star general. I connect with the TSOC commanders so that if I am conducting an event in a certain area, there is a guy I can call, our staffs are connected and things move. Then you need a mechanism to talk. Inside NATO there is a secret network called BICES (Battlefield Information Collection and Exploitation Systems) that has a tiny VTC terminal – it's secure Skype – and I can "skype" with any of my counterparts who are part of that network; that includes 26 countries, not just NATO. We can pass files at the secret level back and forth. Finally, we need to make sure we are speaking from the same doctrinal text, that we have the same terminology. So within the SOF community we try to ensure we all understand each other's tactics, techniques and procedures

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