String of Scandals Prompts U.S. Special Operations Command to Launch Unprecedented Soul-searching

Members of SEAL Team 18 perform a demonstration. (U.S. Navy photo)
Members of SEAL Team 18 perform a demonstration. (U.S. Navy photo)

They are among America’s most elite military fighters, but a string of recent high-profile scandals and abuse allegations — including drug-smuggling, detainee abuse and murder — has put the U.S. special operations forces under unprecedented scrutiny, prompting a command-wide soul-searching.

Top officers at the Pentagon and the Florida-based U.S. Special Operations Command (USSOCOM) have issued a series of command-wide mandates to review and reinforce ethical and conduct standards, according to internal communications and memorandums obtained by The Washington Times.

The missives issued by Gen. Raymond A. “Tony” Thomas, head of Special Operations Command, and Owen West, head of the Pentagon’s Special Operations and Low Intensity Conflict directorate, are initiating an intensive three-month review starting Jan. 1 to reinforce “core values and their role in [special operations forces] culture,” they state.

“The first step in any treatment program is admitting you have a problem. … That is not lost on the senior leadership,” a Special Operations Command official said in a recent interview.

“Special operators want to be known for the vast accomplishments and sacrifice of the team in defense of our nation, not the misdeeds of the rotten apples,” the official said.

The internal review also is being planned amid rising congressional concern about reports of abuse, criminality and falling standards of discipline in the ranks. The most recent defense authorization law approved by Congress specifically directed Defense Secretary James Mattis to review the ethical and professional standards within the special operations command.

A review of “allegations of serious misconduct across our formations over the last year” points to an urgent need for such a review, Gen. Thomas wrote in an internal email last week. The review found that the Special Operations Command “faces a deeper challenge of a disordered view of the Team and the Individual in our SOF culture,” he wrote.

“We will not allow inexcusable and reprehensible violations of that trust to erode decades of honorable service, teamwork and progress by the members of USSOCOM,” Gen. Thomas wrote in the email.

The five-point plan outlined in the internal memo represents the first guidance of its kind issued by senior leaders of Special Operations Command.

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SOURCE: Carlo Muñoz
The Washington Times