WASHINGTON - Two years after the nation's commando forces were given broad
authority to attack terrorist networks, the elite units remain hampered by
uncertainty over coordination, says the admiral chosen to head the US Special
Navy Vice Adm. Eric Olson said that while
the command has the lead for "synchronizing" the Bush administration's global
war on terror, enforcement of that expanded jurisdiction has been difficult.
Vice Adm. Eric Olson testifies on
Capitol Hill in Washington, Tuesday, June 12, 2007, before the Senate
Armed Services Committee hearing on his nomination to be U. S. Special
Operations Command Commander. [AP]
The command's "ability to drive behavior within (the Defense Department) is
limited due to unclear definition of authorities," Olson said in a written
response to a question from the Senate Armed Services Committee.
The response was made public Tuesday as the committee met to consider Olson's
nomination to run the command, which is based at MacDill Air Force Base in
Olson's brief answer indicates President Bush's March 2005 decision to
broadly empower US commandos continues to be a source of friction within the
Most of the disagreement comes from other war-fighting commands responsible
for managing operations across wide but specific stretches of the globe. These
commands have been concerned the new license would encroach on how they manage
their own theaters.
Olson, 55, has been the command's deputy chief since August 2003. If
confirmed by the full Senate, he would receive a fourth star and replace Army
Gen. Bryan Brown, who has been the top special operations officer since
To resolve the dispute, Olson said he would work with the Defense
Department's senior leadership to clarify the issue "of influencing or
conducting operations inside and across" the areas run by other commands.
Olson will become the first Navy SEAL to achieve four-star rank and the first
Navy officer to lead Special Operations Command.
The command, formed in 1987, has long been the province of Army generals.
Prior to Olson, the only other non-Army officer to run special operations was
Air Force Gen. Charles Holland, who held the post before Brown.
There will be two Army three-star generals reporting directly to Olson at
MacDill: Francis Kearney has been picked to be Olson's deputy, and David
Fridovich will run the command's Center for Special Operations.
Under the Bush administration, special operations has grown dramatically
since the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks. The command now has an annual budget
of nearly $7 billion and close to 50,000 personnel.
A native of Tacoma, Wash., Olson graduated from the US Naval Academy in 1973.
A year later, he completed the rigorous SEAL training regimen and over the
following two decades served in a variety of military assignments, including
several tours overseas, according to his military biography.
In October 1993, Olson played a key role during a bloody urban battle in
Mogadishu, Somalia. After a pair of Army Black Hawk helicopters were shot down
by enemy fire, Olson helped organize and lead a relief team to the crash sites.
The nighttime mission became known as the "Mogadishu Mile," a reference to
the distance covered bringing the wounded and trapped American troops to safety.
Olson was awarded a Silver Star, the military's third highest award for combat
From 1994 to 1997, he commanded the Naval Special Warfare Development Group,
the formal name for the service's secret "SEAL Team Six" anti-terrorism unit.
In 1999, Olson was named head of the Naval Special Warfare Command in
Although Olson strives to maintain a low profile, his duties as deputy
commander have made him a well-known figure on Capitol Hill where he has made
frequent appearances before the military oversight committees.
Retired Adm. Vern Clark, chief of naval operations from 2000 to 2005, called
Olson a "quiet warrior."
"He's a humble person, but very much an action guy," Clark said.