News reports about the May 1, 2011, U.S. military operation in Pakistan that killed Osama bin Laden state that the operation was carried out by a team of 20 to 25 Navy special operations forces, known as SEALs, specifically an elite unit known as Seal Team 6.
The Navy for several years has carried out a variety of irregular warfare (IW) and counterterrorism (CT) activities, and has taken some steps in recent years to strengthen its ability to conduct such activities. Among the most readily visible of the Navy’s current IW operations are those being carried out by Navy sailors serving ashore in Afghanistan and Iraq. Many of the Navy’s contributions to IW operations around the world are made by Navy individual augmentees (IAs)—individual Navy sailors assigned to various DOD operations.
The Navy Expeditionary Combat Command (NECC) was established informally in October 2005 and formally on January 13, 2006. The creation of NECC consolidated and facilitated the expansion of a number of Navy organizations that have a role in IW operations.
The Navy’s riverine force is intended to supplement the riverine capabilities of the Navy’s SEALs (the Navy’s Sea-Air-Land special operations forces) and relieve Marines who had been conducting maritime security operations in ports and waterways in Iraq. The three current riverine squadrons were established in 2006-2007. The Navy’s proposed FY2011 budget requested funding for the establishment of a new reserve component riverine training squadron that is to complement the three existing active component riverine squadrons. The fourth riverine squadron is intended to increase the riverine capacity to conduct brown water training and partnership activities in order to meet combatant commander (COCOM) demands.
The Navy in July 2008 established the Navy Irregular Warfare Office, and in January 2010 published a vision statement for irregular warfare.
The Global Maritime Partnership is a U.S. Navy initiative to achieve an enhanced degree of cooperation between the U.S. Navy and foreign navies, coast guards, and maritime police forces, for the purpose of ensuring global maritime security against common threats. The Southern Partnership Station (SPS) and the Africa Partnership Station (APS) are Navy ships, such as amphibious ships or high-speed sealift ships, that have deployed to the Caribbean and to waters off Africa, respectively, to support U.S. Navy engagement with countries in those regions, particularly for purposes of building security partnerships with those countries and for increasing the capabilities of those countries for performing maritime-security operations.
The Navy’s IW and CT activities pose a number of potential oversight issues for Congress, including the definition of Navy IW activities, specific Navy IW budget priorities, and how much emphasis to place on IW and CT activities in future Navy budgets.
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