Special Operations Command (SOCOM): Overview

New U.S. Special Operations Command commander takes over
The new commander of U.S. Special Operations Command, Army Gen. Richard D. Clarke, speaks after taking command from U.S. Army Gen. Raymond A. Thomas III, Tampa, Florida, March 29, 2019. (Lisa Ferdinando/Defense Department)


Provide fully capable Special Operations Forces to defend the United States and its interests. Synchronize planning of global operations against terrorist networks.


Nearly 70,000 active-duty, Reserve and National Guard soldiers, sailors, airmen, Marines and Defense Department civilians

Components and Subcommands under SOCOM:

U.S. Army Special Operations Command (USASOC)

Naval Special Warfare Command (NAVSPECWARCOM)

Air Force Special Operations Command (AFSOC)

Marine Corps Forces Special Operations Command (MARSOC)

Joint Special Operations Command (JSOC)


The DoD activated U.S. Special Operations Command (USSOCOM) on April 16, 1987, at MacDill Air Force Base, Florida. Congress mandated a new four-star command be activated to prepare special operations forces (SOF) to carry out assigned missions and -- if directed by the president or defense secretary -- to plan for and conduct special operations.

Before the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, USSOCOM's primary focus was on its supporting command mission of organizing, training and equipping SOF and providing those forces to support the geographic combatant commanders and U.S. ambassadors and their country teams. The president further expanded USSOCOM's responsibilities in the 2004 Unified Command Plan, which assigned USSOCOM responsibility for synchronizing DoD plans against global terrorist networks and, as directed, conducting global operations.

USSOCOM receives, reviews, coordinates and prioritizes all DoD plans that support the global campaign against terrorism and then makes recommendations to the joint staff regarding force and resource allocations to meet global requirements.

SOCOM responsibilities:

  • Develop special operations strategy, doctrine and tactics
  • Prepare and submit budget proposals for SOF
  • Exercise authority, direction and control over special operations expenditures
  • Train assigned forces
  • Conduct specialized courses of instruction
  • Validate requirements
  • Establish requirement priorities
  • Ensure interoperability of equipment and forces
  • Formulate and submit intelligence support requirements
  • Monitor special operations officers' promotions, assignments, retention, training and professional military education
  • Ensure SOF combat readiness
  • Monitor SOF preparedness to carry out assigned missions
  • Develop and acquire special operations-peculiar equipment, materiel, supplies and services

USSOCOM is not dependent on the Army, Navy, Marine Corps or Air Force for its budget or to develop and buy new equipment, supplies or services. USSOCOM has its own acquisition authorities, so it can develop and buy special operations-specific equipment, supplies or services.

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