Budget cuts to alter Naval Special Warfare programs

The Navy SEALs have garnered plenty of attention over the past year, taking their media presence to an all-time high. While the killing of Osama Bin Laden and hostage rescues get most of the attention, Naval Special Warfare forces are also doing many important tasks, such as supporting U.S. embassies and training sovereign forces in other countries.

Addressing AFCEA West 2012 on Jan. 25 as the hostage rescue in Somalia was a breaking news story, the commander of the Naval Special Warfare Command described the challenge that comes when these actions are publicized.

“Our media situation is red hot,” said Rear Adm. Sean Pybus, commander of the Naval Special Warfare Command. “The things special operations have done in a year and the significant casualties we’ve had, along with our 50th anniversary this year and the new movie, we’re getting a lot more media attention.

After showing a preview of the movie Act of Valor, a sanctioned movie featuring active special operations personnel, Pybus said the rationale behind the Navy’s involvement in the film.

“Five years ago, we had trouble getting high-quality, diverse personnel into the door for training, so we decided perhaps a documentary or film might draw in troops,” Pybus said. “Five years later, we don’t need recruits, but the movie’s finished. I hope to be one and done with sanctioned movies.”

The film will be released in mid-February, he said.

While the movies and media articles highlight gunfire, stealth and technological prowess, Pybus noted that special operations forces often work quietly behind the scenes. He said that in the Philippines, the combination of behind-the-scenes work with people in villages helped set the stage for success after some insurgent forces were defeated.

“I have personally watched economies thrive once the people in the region could live without fear,” Pybus said. “That’s a good example of a job well done and quietly done.”

He also noted that many special operations personnel work closely with American embassies in many countries.

“We have Naval Special Warfare folks in about 12 embassies today. They are there six to 12 months, providing information to ambassadors. We have the gunslinger capability, but I prefer do things like helping to train sovereign special forces so they can prevent things before they become a threat to the United States. We prefer to do that. Once you go into a fight, in different ways it costs a lot of time, resources and it may cost lives.

Pybus expects budget cuts will impact special operations, but he feels the direct impact of cuts will be less than those incurred by other groups. However, he noted that special operations will feel the impact of cuts made elsewhere in the military.

“Special operations are a team sport. We’ll be impacted because we may not have the ships or other things at the same level of support we have today,” Pybus said.

About the Author

Terry Costlow is a contributing writer for Defense Systems.

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