On May 5, Forward Defense Director Clementine Starling and Atlantic Council Board Director General James E. Cartwright, USMC (Ret.), published commentary in Defense One about the value that special operations forces (SOF) have in today’s great power competition.

They argued that SOF should reinforce not only their direct-action capabilities, but also the indirect competencies—special reconnaissance, unconventional warfare, foreign internal defense, civil affairs operations, military information support operations, and security force assistance—that can be employed both before, during, and after different phases of conflict. Starling and Cartwright emphasized that enhancing the role special operations forces in strategic competition requires the national security enterprise to support a new image of special operators as valuable enablers and a not just a last-minute force for avoiding escalation.

Forward Defense, housed within the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security, generates ideas and connects stakeholders in the defense ecosystem to promote an enduring military advantage for the United States, its allies, and partners. Our work identifies the defense strategies, capabilities, and resources the United States needs to deter and, if necessary, prevail in future conflict.


Mar 7, 2024

Stealth, speed, and adaptability: The role of special operations forces in strategic competition

By Clementine G. Starling and Alyxandra Marine

Clementine G. Starling and Alyxandra Marine discuss how special operations forces enhance US readiness in an era of strategic competition.

Conflict Defense Policy

New Atlanticist

Apr 19, 2024

Great power competition is back. What does that mean for US special operations forces?

By Alyxandra Marine

With their wide array of capabilities, US special operations forces can play a central role in strategic competition.

China Conflict