U.S. Special Operations Forces (SOF): Background and Issues for Congress [February 6, 2013] [open pdf - 337KB]
"Special Operations Forces (SOF) play a significant role in U.S. military operations, and the Administration has given U.S. SOF greater responsibility for planning and conducting worldwide counterterrorism operations. U.S. Special Operations Command (USSOCOM) has about 63,000 active duty, National Guard, and reserve personnel from all four services and Department of Defense (DOD) civilians assigned to its headquarters, its four components, and one sub-unified command. The 2010 Quadrennial Defense Review (QDR) directs increases in SOF force structure, particularly in terms of increasing enabling units and rotary and fixed-wing SOF aviation assets and units. […] On January 5, 2012, the Administration unveiled its new strategic guidance refocusing U.S. strategic efforts to the Pacific and the Middle East and, at the same time, proposing significant cuts to ground forces. This new strategic direction has the potential to significantly affect U.S. SOF. USSOCOM leadership continues to pursue additional authorities that would enable it to control the movement of SOF units deployed to a theater of operations as well as give additional authorities to Theater Special Operations Commands (TSOCs), which are allocated to each geographic combatant command. Another possible issue for congressional consideration is the balance between direct and indirect special operations activities in world-wide counterterrorism operations. This report will be updated."
CRS Report for Congress, RS21048