The U.S. Special Operations Command was created in the wake of the the failed hostage rescue attempt in Iran in 1980, commonly known as "Desert One." Analysis after the fact revealed that the services were unable to effectively interact to fight low intesity conflicts.
Here's how Paulette Risher describes SOCOM in the 1st Quarter 2006 issue of JFQ:
"Established by Congress in 1987, USSOCOM was envisioned as a unified command with service-like responsibilities to oversee all Special Operations Forces. Designated responsibilities outlined in Title 10 of the United States Code included resource allocation and budget management, ostensibly to bolster special operations capabilities in such areas as joint doctrine and training, personnel management, and mission planning. The law also mandated that, should the President or Secretary of Defense direct, the commander of USSOCOM would exercise command of a selected special operations mission. Thus, although most of the commands effort would support the other combatant commands, under certain circumstances it could become a supported command."
The GWOT has given SOCOM myriad opportunities to be the supported command. Special operators traditionally complained that regular forces were too "heavy handed" when dealing with the locals in a counter insurgency environment, but in the supported command role over the years has the distinction between special operations and the regular forces eroded? And further, has what made each service's special ops capability unique gone away in the face of counter insurgency warfare? Is mission tasking simply plug and play with little concern regarding the difference between, say, SEALs and Green Berets? Is there a difference? Does it matter anymore?
(Note: The DT staff is flying back from San Francisco, so we'll be post light for the balance of today. We'll hit it hard once we get through security and find an overhead bin for our carry-ons and finish fighting rush hour on the Beltway, etc., etc.)