Acting Defense Secretary Directs Changes in Special Ops Civilian Oversight

Acting Defense Secretary Christopher C. Miller on Nov. 18 directed a shakeup of the oversight of Special Operations Command, having the top civilian leader of special operations report directly to him as opposed to the previous bureaucratic chain of command.

The move, which specifically states the assistant secretary of defense for special operations and low intensity conflict will report to the Defense Secretary instead of to the under secretary of defense for policy, means SOCOM will now be on equal footing with the military services for the first time, Miller said during a speech at Fort Bragg, N.C.

“This reform will immediately improve agility to the department and to the command, and will enable us to streamline information flow, enhance decision making, and will more adaptly and adeptly support our commanders and their superb Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen, and Marines,” Miller said.

Currently, all positions in this chain of command—Defense Secretary, assistant secretary of defense for low intensity conflict, and under secretary of defense for policy—are being served by individuals in either an “acting” or “performing the duties of” capacity. Miller, who was appointed acting Defense Secretary on Nov. 9, performed the duties of the acting secretary of defense for low intensity conflict earlier this year.

In his speech, Miller said he “personally believes” the assistant secretary of defense for SOLIC should be elevated to an under secretary of defense position, but that is “beyond my purview” for now.

This change in SOCOM civilian oversight was originally directed in the fiscal 2017 National Defense Authorization Act. It had been “in development for several years after Congress directed changes. … Acting Secretary Miller was able to complete the hard work that had already been accomplished,” Pentagon spokeswoman Navy Cdr. Candice Tresch said in a statement.