As Afghanistan winds down (and not fast enough) I look for our OCONUS engagements to return to pre 9/11 models with foreign internal defense (FID) being the dominate engagement method for all of DoD, in particular SOF. It is encouraging that SOF has excellent doctrine on FID, although I really wish people would read it.
It was surprising to learn that within the past year USASOC had briefly considered changing the UW definition yet again to include SOF FID somehow. I would have been curious to see how that would have turned out, but fortunately common sense prevailed and Special Warfare was deemed to be the more apt term to describe USASOC activities. Nevermind that the new UW definition barely has the ink dry and that USASOC just spent a year gaming and staff studying the new definition, finding it valid while determining roles and missions for the other SOF components as well as the General Purpose Forces (GPF). This concern about FID and the difference in how SOF conducts same vice GPF has been an issue with SOCOM since the GPF was directed to become more “SOF like” by the 2006 Quadrennial Defense Review. Part of the GPF solution to this tasking was by expanding their FID capability, which in turn evolved to Security Force Assistance (SFA).
For SOCOM, terms such as “combat FID” and “SOF FID” have been bandied about as a way to protect SOF equities in FID, all of which are unneeded and run counter to the FID manual. Just like with any core task, mission analysis on the FID requirement will determine which force to use based on desired effects. If the FID is in a high priority country as determined by 7500, where additional Preparation of the Environment tasks are needed, such as pilot team assessments into under governed areas, then SOF is the force of choice. If the FID is in a low or non priority country, and military to military training is needed, then the GPF would be best suited for the mission. It bears repeating that I think that US FID doctrine is some of the best we have written. I really wish more people would read it.