Since the September 2001 terrorist attacks, U.S. special operations forces' (SOF) capabilities and expertise have been in great demand. No element of the U.S. military has undergone a more transformative experience over the nearly eight years since. The current commander of the Special Operations Command, Admiral Eric T. Olson, coined an apt phrase, "the new normal," to describe a present and future in which the demand for special operations forces to be employed for a variety of purposes around the world continues unabated.1
Four new attributes have characterized SOF operations since 9/11, with three consequences or implications for the future. These historic years deserve far more in-depth study to chronicle the operations and to extract the multiple lessons that should guide leaders and policymakers in the future employment of the force.
The attributes are: