Defence and Security Studies no. 1/2007
Title: Making New Ambitions Work. the Transformation of Norwegian Special Operations Forces.
Author: Tom Robertsen
Norwegian Special Operations Forces are traditionally divided according to their service affiliation, i.e. to the Army or Navy respectively. Transforming these forces to be prepared for current and emerging threats has mainly been an issue of organizational redesign, arguably for the benefit of reduced costs, rather than an issue of future roles and missions.
This article offers an alternative perspective on transformation in which organizational design is viewed as a function of the way Special Operations Forces generally conduct missions.
Special operations missions and tasks can broadly be categorised into direct and indirect action capabilities. Direct action capabilities are those that bring force directly into contact with the enemy. According to national and NATO doctrine, these are special reconnaissance and direct action missions and tasks. Indirect action capabilities are those that bring force to the enemy indirectly through a surrogate force, whether this is a guerrilla/insurgent force or a security force, a task doctrinally referred to as military assistance.
With respect to the future transformation of Norwegian Special Operations Forces, this article claims that the current organizational structure, i.e., maintaining two separate units, should be maintained if indirect action capabilities are to be emphasized and developed as a primary capability, which is not the case today. If special operations capabilities continue to focus on direct action capabilities, current organizational design is not necessarily optimal, and a merger option is therefore relevant.
Commander Tom Robertsen currently works at the National Joint Headquarters Operations Division, Stavanger, Norway. His military background includes attending Naval War College, Norway (1996–1997), Staff College I, Norway (2003–2004), and the Naval Postgraduate School, California (2004–2006). He also holds a civilian degree (BSc) in electronic engineering.