Special Ops Commander Demands Pentagon Stop Exposing Operations

Gen. Joseph Votel: Publicity makes it harder for forces to do their jobs

Gen. Joseph Votel in Afghanistan in 2007 / AP
January 27, 2016

President Obama’s nominee to head U.S. Central Command recently penned a memo to Defense Secretary Ash Carter demanding that the Pentagon stop discussing the operations of elite American troops.

Foreign Policywhich obtained an excerpt of the memo, reported that Gen. Joseph Votel, currently the chief of U.S. Special Operations Command, wrote the December 8 memo to express concern about the Obama administration’s exposure of special operations forces’ activities.

"I am concerned with increased public exposure of SOF activities and operations, and I assess that it is time to get our forces back into the shadows," Votel wrote to Carter.

While it remains unclear to what public comments Votel was referring, the memo was sent just days after the White House revealed that it was sending approximately 200 special operations forces to Iraq to combat ISIS.

According to the defense official who provided the excerpt of the memo, Votel further wrote that publicizing the operations makes it more difficult for U.S. forces to conduct them. He also "requested the department support him with an approach to avoid public discussion of SOF activities," the defense official said.

At the start of December, Carter told lawmakers that the U.S. would deploy a "specialized expeditionary targeting force" to Iraq to fight ISIS. It followed an October announcement from the White House that a small number of special operations forces--less than 50--would be deployed to Syria to fight the terror group there.

An anonymous defense official questioned about the memo told Foreign Policy that Carter "shares Gen. Votel’s concerns about the public disclosure of SOF operations, especially any reporting that could expose our personnel to additional risk and undermine their chances for success."

He further stated, however, that the Pentagon is obligated to keep the public informed.

Published under: Ash Carter , Military