By Adam Levine
If there was any question that the Obama administration sees the shadowy world of special operations as an instrumental element in their vision for the military's future, the drama around the State of the Union and the speech itself removed any such doubt. That point will be driven home further on Thursday when Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta reveals the first details of its budget decisions to deal with half a trillion dollar in cuts over the next 10 years.
It was the heroics of the Navy SEAL team's killing of Osama bin Laden that Obama used to open and close his State of the Union speech. But a few hours later, the world would learn that even as Obama headed to the floor of Congress to speak, a Special Operations team was just finishing up a raid to rescue two hostages, including an American, in Somalia.
These elite troops operate in daring and dangerous ways, and the administration sees them as an integral part of the military's future with a continued focus on counterterrorism.
Special operations and related new technologies that allow for less 'boots on the ground' - such as drones; intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance capabilities (referred to as ISR); and cyberwarfare and defense capabilities - will be spared and in some cases see budget increases as the administration prepares to cut back on ground troops and related capabilities.
From Larry Shaughnessy
All nine of the kidnappers were killed in the rescue operation last night in Somalia, a Pentagon spokesman said.
"There were nine criminal suspects who were killed. They were heavily armed and had explosives at the site," said Pentagon spokesman George Little. "They were not Al Shabab. They were suspected criminals,” Pentagon spokesman George Little said.
"They were kidnappers, we don't have any indication that they were connected to any terrorist group or idealogical group at that point. We don't have any firm indication that there was a connection to piracy although piracy is nothing more than a crime so I certainly can't rule out the fact that they might have had those kind of connections but nothing to indicate definately that they were,” said Pentagon spokesman Capt. John Kirby.
Read also: The connection to Osama bin Laden
The bin Laden connection
By Chris Lawrence:
Pentagon spokesman George Little said the rescue team was comprised of special operations troops from different branches of the military, but Little would not specify what services. A US official told CNN that among the rescuers were Navy SEALs from the same unit that killed Osama bin Laden in a raid in Pakistan last year. The official, who is not authorized to speak to the media and asked not to be named, did not say whether any of the same people were involved in both operations.
"This was very much a joint mission," said Pentagon Spokesman Capt. John Kirby.
By Larry Shaughnessy: An American special forces raid to rescue two hostages in Somalia was not complete when President Barack Obama said "good job" to Defense Secretary Leon Panetta Tuesday night during the State of the Union address, Pentagon spokesman George Little said Wednesday. The American and Danish hostages were safe at that point, but the American assault team was not yet safely out of Somalia, he said.
Panetta went over for a routine meeting in the afternoon at the White House and ended up staying until the State of the Union. Panetta monitored the operation from the White House and spoke by phone with General Carter Ham, the Commander of US Africa Command, who was running of the operation.
By Senior National Security Producer Suzanne Kelly
Editor's note: This is part of a Security Clearance series, Case File. CNN Senior National Security Producer Suzanne Kelly profiles key members of the security and intelligence community.
Being the chairman of the House Intelligence Committee comes with its own unique set of challenges. For starters, every day begins with a mountain of briefings on subjects that all seem pressing when it comes to keeping the country safe: ongoing operations against al Qaeda, cyber espionage being waged against American companies, Russians revamping their nuclear fleet, and Iran's nuclear intentions.
As chairman of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, Rep. Mike Rogers helps oversee America's 17 Intelligence agencies. He is one of only four members of the House or Senate who hold such a high clearance level. The intelligence information he receives is restricted to just the chairmen and the ranking members of both the House and Senate Intelligence Committees. It's a responsibility that can, and often does, keep him up at night.
"The intelligence committee is very different in the sense that its probably more engaged in activities than any other committee," says Rogers, R-Michigan. "We have a constant stream of information."
By CNN Pentagon Correspondent Barbara Starr
The military investigation into the cause of an August helicopter crash in Afghanistan that killed 30 troops is finished and families are being briefed on the findings, according to two US military officials.
At the time, the US said it believed the helicopter was shot down by a Taliban insurgent on the ground. The officials, though they have not seen the final report, tell CNN that scenario is still expected to be the finding of the investigation.
The officials also said it was their understanding investigators found no wrongdoing in deciding to send a team of Navy Seals to the site in eastern Afghanistan to reinforce troops already on the ground.
By CNN Senior National Security Producer Charley Keyes
America's top commando said Thursday that special operations forces had conducted some 2,000 raids in Afghanistan over just the past year but that talking - not shooting - is the way forward.
"We are not going to be able to kill our way to victory in Afghanistan," Adm. William McRaven told a House Armed Services subcommittee. "We've always understood that."
The Department of Defense announced today the deaths of 30 servicemembers who were supporting Operation Enduring Freedom. They died Aug. 6 in Wardak province, Afghanistan, of wounds suffered when their CH-47 Chinook helicopter crashed.
(Full list after the jump)
By CNN Pentagon Correspondent Barbara Starr
The Pentagon will put the death toll of Navy SEALs in last weekend's downing of a helicopter in Afghanistan at 17, according to two Defense Department officials.
The original figure provided to the news media by Pentagon sources for the number of SEALs killed was 22.
Officials say further information that has come in also indicates that not all of the SEALs were assigned to a top-secret Naval unit as they originally said.