Susquehanna University Political Review


Megan Cantwell


This paper examines whether funding for special operations reflects the global threats that are faced by the United States. Organized special operations units first began to appear in the US military during WWII, but it was not until Vietnam that they were fully organized and integrated as part of the strategic plan, and the role of SOF expanded as the conflict continued. However, following Vietnam, the SOF programs that had developed were essentially gutted, due to the unpopular nature of SOF units among conventional military leaders. This research examines whether funding for SOF operations aligns with the threats faced by the United States, or if the political nature of the allocations process has more of an impact on the levels of funding for SOF programs. By examining shifts in threat since the development of the Special Operations command in 1987, and defining those shifting threats (as defined by strategy documents such as the National Security Strategy and Quadrennial Defense Review) as either a conventional or special operations threat, I studied 911th Edition whether funding for SOF programs aligned with the threat. After examining six shifts in threat between 1987 and 2020, it was found that funding for SOCOM tended to respond to shifting threats.