The Army’s special operations forces are considering new technology roles and unit structures to complement their partnership with space and cyber personnel in the Defense Department, according to the top general of the Army’s Special Operations Command.
Some changes can be done internally, although others, like any new jobs, require the approval of the military.
Lt. Gen. Jonathan Braga raised the bar during an Association of the American Army event Wednesday when asked about the lessons the Army SOF community is learning from the war between Russia and Ukraine and other recent conflicts.
Army Times also spoke with Braga by phone after the event, where he laid out a new informal military triad featuring SOF, space capabilities and cyber elements.
“How we’re organized has been optimized for counterterrorism, and we recognize that a lot of that has to change to be ready for larger combat operations. “I can’t imagine a future of warfare without more drone technology and AI applications.
Currently, the service’s officially recognized special operations forces lack a clear career path for operators capable of developing and using small drones, 3D printing, AI and coding or similar capabilities.
Braga wants to change that, and said the options on the table include curricular reforms at USASOC schools and changes in the power structure.
“We’re even experimenting with force design…what is the future SOF action unit?” he guessed. “Two people and 20 drones? One man and 100 drones?
A 12-strong Operational Detachment-Alpha, the service’s default unit for special forces, is also available for review. Braga explained that the structure was created in 1952, when the three domains of war are land, sea and air.
“Today, that organization, that task force must operate on land, at sea and in the air, in cyber and space, and in the information environment, and do all the things that they used to do,” the USSOC commander said. “So you can ask those same people to do all those same things?…I think we should really look at them.”
Could a new special forces MOS be on the way?
After the panel, Braga offered insight on where USSOC’s discussions to create technology talent management stand. He thinks there are plenty of people in the SOF community who can fill technology-oriented roles — they just need special skills and development.
“We have some amazing individuals who are building drones from scratch… designing drones, creating backyards, 3D printing, teaching themselves Python. These people already exist,” he argued. “What we don’t have right now is the right career path and the pipeline for them to maintain that skill and strengthen that. [technology in special operations] It can still be a successful business [for them]He said.
The general pointed out that the command has grown to provide a warrant officer career that is tech-savvy on the modern battlefield — “drone operator, drone integrator, drone builder, robotics, artificial intelligence, artificial intelligence, coding, tactical cyber” and more.
But because creating a new MOS requires significant research and Army-level approval, an “immediate goal” is to find other ways to identify and retain tech-savvy Soldiers, such as additional skill tags, Brega said.
The USASOC chief is unsure, however, that such a future career would have to be in an 18-series MOS code with other Special Forces soldiers, requiring prospective members to pass a selection and rigorous qualification course. Army-wide efforts to integrate technology and small drone technology have the potential to “adapt and absorb” any ARSOF specific role.
“I could imagine a future where what I wanted and wanted and wished for was an 18-series that required me to go further in the contact and maybe do something more physically demanding in terms of surgery,” Braga explained. “I could imagine someone who wouldn’t have to do this…[they] It can be a drone integrator, drone manufacturer, drone operator. [fight] at a distance”
And although the analysis process to establish a new career field may take time, Braga is confident that his command has the capacity and flexibility to provide the operators with the skills and technologies they need in the interim.
USASOC oversees three centers of excellence that produce operators, plus “we own a full warrant officer pipeline, we have a lot of flexibility,” Braga explained.
“This is where we’re going… because I think we need to get out.”
Davis Winkey is a senior reporter who covers the military, specializing in accountability reporting, personnel issues and military justice. In the year Joined Military Times in 2020. Davis studied history at Vanderbilt University and UNC-Chapel Hill and wrote a master’s thesis on how the Cold War-era Department of Defense influenced Hollywood WWII movies.