Session Descriptions

OPENING REMARKS
The current strategic landscape comprises a complex set of problems presented by nation-state competitors and violent extremist organizations. Overmatch in strategic deterrence, conventional military force, as well as space and cyberspace capabilities are unequivocal necessities.

Today, we are going to discuss the priorities, activities, and investments contributing to the common defense with peerless special operations forces (SOF) talent, tactics, and technologies. Priorities must be carefully balanced as we continue to support and build a professional force while caring for our people, defending our nation forward, and modernizing for the future.

ACCELERATING AI CAPABILITIES IN STRATEGIC COMPETITION
To compete in the current environment, we need world-class talent enabled by cutting-edge data management, software, and artificial intelligence (AI). U.S. Special Operations Command (USSOCOM) is committed to serving as a vanguard for the integration of AI in mission command, intelligence analysis, and operations processes. The newly published strategies for data and digital network architecture align with the Department of Defense’s (DoD) vision and advance a path toward greater data processing, network interoperability, and security in contested environments. Digital transformation, involving multi-domain data search and discovery, as well as cross-domain data solutions are USSOCOM critical priorities. Incorporating these capabilities with AI at the tactical edge within a secure, reliable, and cloud-computing framework is essential for competing with our adversaries across multiple domains. These solutions must be absolutely secure, reliable, intuitive, adaptive, and meaningful.

USSOCOM is building a wide range of partnerships exploring the potential of data-driven technologies. USSOCOM has dramatically expanded the understanding of data collection as well as algorithm development and continues to lay the groundwork for future AI integration. Continued investments in AI technologies drive towards goals of better/faster intelligence analysis and reduced overhead for several priorities: improved intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance (ISR) processing, exploitation, and dissemination; accelerated identification of and responses to online disinformation; improved reporting and decision-making at the tactical level; enhanced predictive maintenance and logistics; and optimized human performance and health.

 

SOF WAY FORWARD – CULTURE, TALENT, AND ORGANIZATIONAL AGILITY
This symposium theme is “SOF and Strategic Competition – Access, Placement, Influence.” This panel discussion will specifically share thoughts on how SOF needs to address culture, talent, and organizational agility. To some extent, this need can mean ensuring SOF has engaged and present leadership, changing who comprises the force, adapting to reemerging mission sets, deepening our local knowledge, and gaining greater technical skills. This path will require SOF to focus on culture, people, and organizational agility to meet the complex challenges facing our nation.

EXPLORING SOF’S PEO PATHWAY – ADAPTIVE ACQUISITION FRAMEWORK
Join us for a panel discussion with USSOCOM acquisition leadership to explore unique aspects of implementing each pathway as SOF adopts the Adaptive Acquisition Framework (AAF). The new pathways have changed the culture of acquisition by simplifying policy, tailoring acquisition approaches, and empowering program managers.

In 2020, the Department of Defense rolled out acquisition reforms at a pace that has not been seen in 30 years. Now that the AAF is complete, we will take a closer look at what it means for the future of SOF Acquisition.

The AAF eliminates the one-size-fits-all, check-list method and utilizes a series of six pathways, each designed for the unique characteristics of the capability being acquired. This new tool provides SOF acquirers the ability to deliver a warfighting capability at the speed of relevance.

A NEW ERA OF COGNITIVE CONFLICT – THE CENTRAL AND STRATEGIC ROLE OF INFORMATION OPERATIONS
The complexity of the competitive environment has evolved. Kinetic operations will likely become episodic, with the primary focus on gaining influence, asserting leverage, and maintaining a competitive advantage to increase stability/security and to achieve U.S. strategic objectives. The United States and our allies will face significant challenges from state and non-state actors as we vie for influence. The digitization of adversarial influence is an emerging problem where increases in velocity and volume provide adversarial opportunities in the information environment. This panel will explore the central and strategic role information warfare (IW) and information operations (IO) will play moving forward to secure national security objectives. 

SOF CAPABILITIES IN A COMPETITIVE ENVIRONMENT
Underlying changes in dynamics produced by revisionist, revanchist, rogue, and malign state actors and counterterrorism are drastically changing the role of SOF in the competitive arena. How is this change going to impact SOF needs in the future? What is our most immediate need and where must we focus our future investments? Are there any current policies that technology is out pacing and how do we fix this gap? We cannot do this alone, so how do we make it easier to partner with other nations?

 

TOPIC SECURING OUR SUPPLY CHAIN IN AN ERA OF RENEWED STRATEGIC COMPETITION
SOF has spent decades becoming a leading expert in combatting terrorism, but its targets have changed and increased in sophistication and technical prowess. SOF is tasked with achieving comparable excellence in a wider and more demanding mission set. Society, technology, and warfare are changing in a way that is revolutionary and not evolutionary. If special operations forces are to operate in denied and contested areas with new technologies, what new strategies and capabilities will be needed to sustain that force and ensure the security of the hardware and software tools they use? As SOF accelerates innovation, this panel will explore the current and future technologies and policies that will ensure a secure supply chain for the capabilities that SOF must utilize to ensure detection and deterrence. 

 

A LOOK BACK ON THE LAST 20 YEARS AS SOF SETS A VISION FORWARD     
“History doesn’t repeat itself, but it often rhymes.” This oft repeated quote attributed to Mark Twain could have been written about the inflection point at which SOF finds itself today. SOF has helped define the course of global events over the past 20 years. But, the environment is shifting. Where recent operations were conducted in relatively permissive environments, the next era of global competition may “rhyme” with past eras of strategic competition. As a result, perhaps never in the SOF enterprise can history be such a valuable teacher for the future. In this panel, we will reflect on our rich history—both recognizing significant achievements and paying tribute to the immense sacrifices made—to see what lessons history can teach to prepare SOF for its next successful chapter.