SMA hosted a speaker session with Mr. Robert Jones (USSOCOM SOCCENT), LTC Catherine Crombe (USSOCOM SOCCENT), 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. Conducting effective messaging campaigns is a capability which our adversaries are excelling, and the US is struggling. To achieve this objective, the US can either deter or punish an adversarial or rogue actor. LTC Ferenzi commented that potential gray zone operations the US military can partake in is not limited to traditional military capabilities. Potential US military operations includes capabilities like counter threat finance.
When conducting integrated deterrence, there are three areas of deterrence and two areas of punishment that can be used. The areas of deterrence are: a) denying cognitive access to a population by strengthening its resistance to information operations, b) support populations historical resistance to adversaries, and c) deny rogue actors access to all or part of their financing. The two main areas of punishment are global actions through sanctions or policy, and subversion—either through physical actions or information. 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.