Armed Forces News

Each of the Defense Department’s four armed services and U.S. Special Operations Command (USSOCOM) retain distinct cultural characteristics that define what they are, how they fulfill mission requirements, and how they compete with one another, according to a white paper published by the RAND Corporation.

Researchers at the Santa Monica, Calif.-based think tank also addressed how each service and USSOCOM would respond to future “policy shifts,” particularly as they would relate to Asia and the Pacific.


They came to three conclusions:

* “Service personalities are alive and well,” even as they adapt to changes.

* Thirty-three years after the Pentagon underwent significant changes triggered by the Goldwater-Nichols reorganization act, the services “remain powerful organizational actors in national defense.”

* Goldwater-Nichols changed the “character of competition in the national security arena,” elevating the roles of the Marine Corps and USSOCOM in the process.

The report articulated key distinctions among the services thusly:

* The Army focuses upon “positioning itself as a master of leadership and command.” When the Army makes its case for programs and policies it favors, the service does so from a posture of confronting “unacceptable risk to the nation.” Soldiers will perform their main job — conventional ground combat — as long as end strength and force structure are sustained. As long as these elements are addressed, the Army believes it will be ready to “participate in all contingencies.”

* The Navy eschews any influences that would shift its role toward joint operations with sister services. Its focus continues to be “forward presence, sea control, power projection through force structure changes,” and acceptance by the Pentagon of the unique characteristics of naval missions.

* The Air Force tends to identify and promote its top performers. In doing so, the service keeps a constant eye on maintaining air, space, and cyber superiority through “technology, innovation, and strategic analysis.”

* The Marine Corps focuses upon “protecting its elite brand,” both in the public eye and on Capitol Hill. The Marines aim to maintain their “operational autonomy,” culture, and the “forcible entry mission.”

* U.S. Special Operations Command also wants to project an aura of autonomy, along with “operational integrity,” by garnering support from Congress. Its leadership also wants to limit overuse, with a focus instead on “a critical mission set that ensures its relevance.”