SMA hosted a speaker session with Mr. Robert Jones (USSOCOM), LTC Catherine Crombe (USSOCOM SOCCENT), and LTC Steven Ferenzi (USSOCOM SOCCENT) as part of its SMA General Speaker Series.
The US military and DoD is shifting from conducting primarily counter-terrorism operations over the last two decades, to now competing under the level of military conflict with other powerful states in the gray zone. US Special Operations Forces are contributing to integrated deterrence with adversarial states, such as Russia, Iran, and China. LTC Crombe emphasized that the core of integrated deterrence is shaping adversaries’ decision calculus through messaging the costs of unacceptable actions. Conducting effective messaging campaigns is a capability which our adversaries are excelling, and the US is struggling. Costs manifest in one of two ways: denial or punishment. LTC Ferenzi commented that potential gray zone operations the US military can partake in is not limited to traditional military capabilities but must include irregular warfare. Potential US military operations includes capabilities like counter threat finance.
When conducting irregular warfare to support integrated deterrence, there are three areas of denial and two areas of punishment that can be used. The areas of denial are: a) denying cognitive access to a population by strengthening its resistance to information operations, b) support population-based resistance to occupation, and c) deny rogue actors financial access to partner nations. The two main areas of punishment are holding adversary assets at risk through the credible threat of unconventional warfare, and subversion—either through physical actions or in the information environment. Mr. Jones commented that when an actor acts counter to US interests, their actions are usually viewed as something that needs to be immediately stopped. However, he pointed out that every anti-US action also provides potential opportunities to advance US global identity and interests. However, there is still not a clear process for handling gray zone competition in US military doctrine. This is an issue that is evident in the present and past US National Defense Strategy (NDS) documents.
*Correction: The average birthrate in the Al Hawl refugee camp is 94 per month, not 500, as mistakenly stated in the discussion.