The Evolution of Special Operations Main Image


The year 2012 marked the 50th anniversary of the commissioning of the U.S. Navy SEALs. And now Special Operations forces are playing vital roles in the successful execution of Department of Defense priorities and strategies across the world. Members of the United States Special Operations Command, of all services, operate in more than 70 countries across the globe.

Adm. William H. McRaven, a strong supporter and graduate of the Naval Postgraduate School, would be quick to point out that his vision for the future of Special Operations is not about headlines and Hollywood movies, it’s about peace-keeping, conflict resolution, and capacity building. These are the missions that a majority of his forces are executing on nearly every continent on Earth.

McRaven emphasizes the core objectives of developing his future force, with concepts like extending the global Special Operations network by engaging with international peers, sharing lessons learned and enhancing domestic security capabilities and postures.

He emphasizes the role of advanced critical thinking skills, noting that his forces must be effective problem solvers, capable of making the right decisions at the right time. He encourages innovation, educating his forces through the empowerment of thought and ideas to create a culture of innovation.

There is a purposeful similarity between educational programs of the Naval Postgraduate School, and the strategic goals a visionary leader like Bill McRaven defines for his organization. Since 1993, when he became the first graduate of the Special Operations/Low Intensity Conflict curriculum that he himself helped to create, nearly 900 graduates have come through this program, now known as Defense Analysis.

At every leadership level of his organization, from team and platoon leaders to himself and even his predecessor at USSOCOM, exist graduates of the Naval Postgraduate School. And those leaders are largely all products of an evolved educational program that he helped define in an eerie foreshadowing of what his forces would need to be successful.

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In Review The Pen and the Spear Image

Commander of the U.S. Special Operations Command, Adm. William McRaven sat down with NPS’ quarterly In Review magazine to detail his vision for the future of SOF, and the role of advanced education in it. view issue

Special Operations Forces students in the defense analysis program immediately apply their studies through the NPS/USSOCOM internship program. view story

Dr. Gordon McCormick, founding chair and professor of the NPS Department of Defense Analysis, is honored with the prestigious USSOCOM Medal. view story