By Mike Mount
A request by the U.S. military's Special Operations Command to get new authority to train and equip security forces in countries considered to be terrorist hot spots was denied by Congress and the State Department, although military officials say the proposal was not an effort to circumvent the regular authorization chain.
The request was to use Special Operations Command money to create, train and equip domestic special operations troops in countries of concern where commanders believed training was needed, as well as to build barracks and other construction projects related to training over three years.
The $25 million proposal was outside a State Department program already in existence and could be executed faster because it had fewer layers of bureaucracy, according to a military official not authorized to speak publicly about the proposal.
The story first appeared in The New York Times, which characterized it as a rare rebuke of Adm. William H. McRaven, head of the Special Operations Command. McRaven has curried a good deal of favor in Washington because of his leadership in the successful raid that killed Osama bin Laden, as well as his leadership in shaping U.S. strategy against terrorism around the world.
The proposal would streamline an already bureaucratic system, a Pentagon official tells Security Clearance, but Congress and the State Department, which must authorize such proposals, rejected the request, instead asking McRaven and his team to redesign the plans under the framework of the State Department program known as the Global Security Contingency Fund. The program was designed in 2011 by Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and then-Secretary of Defense Robert Gates.
A U.S. defense official with knowledge of the proposal said the request was brought forward in an open and transparent way.
"The DoD has been encouraging commanders to create proposals that will assist countries in improving their counterterrorism forces and sending the proposals forward," according to the defense official.
A report attached to the Pentagon budget bill, which passed the House of Representatives last month, summarized the congressional objections.
"The committee is concerned that the proliferation of similar, overlapping and/or competing building partner capacity authorities creates unnecessary confusion and friction," according to the report.
State Department spokesman Mark Toner said Tuesday, "We believed, and Congress does as well, that almost all of the requirements identified by the Special Operations Command can be satisfied through this U.S. security assistance programs that have already been established."
A U.S. military official said McRaven's proposal has been modified in a short-term solution using the Global Security Contingency Fund and work with Congress to modify some of the existing regulations in the fund.
There was concern that the situation looked like the Special Operations Command was trying to work around the Department of State and congressional authority, but Special Operations Command spokesman Kenneth McGraw said the command, "submitted the proposal to the Department of Defense. The Department of Defense approved the proposal and sent it forward to the National Security staff. The proposal went forward as a DoD proposal, not a U.S. Special Operations Command proposal," he said.
Last month at a Special Operations seminar at its headquarters in Tampa, Florida, McRaven said about the proposal, "We're not recommending anything that goes around the State Department."