Special Operations Forces (SOF) have played a critical role in US counterterrorism operations. But now, as policymakers’ focus shifts from counterterrorism to great power competition, the implications for SOF are unclear.

In this episode, our guests argue that SOF is uniquely suited to address irregular warfare challenges in the era of great power competition. However, limited understanding of these threats among policymakers in Washington, DC, budget constraints, and outdated authorities hinder SOF’s ability to evolve. According to our guests, civilian leadership and oversight can help overcome these challenges.

Senator Joni Ernst is a native of Red Oak, Iowa, and has dedicated her life to her state and country, having served in the military for over twenty-three years, and now serving in the United States Senate. In Washington, Joni serves on four Senate committees of major importance to Iowans: Armed Services; Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry; Environment and Public Works; and Small Business and Entrepreneurship.

Owen West is a former assistant secretary of defense for special operations and low-intensity conflict. Previously, Mr. West has worked for Goldman Sachs as an energy trader and as a United States Marine Corps officer with two combat deployments to Iraq. He is the author of three books on military affairs, one of which won the Boyd literary award for best military novel.

The Irregular Warfare Podcast is a collaboration between the Modern War Institute and Princeton University’s Empirical Studies of Conflict Project. You can listen to the full episode below, and you can find it and subscribe on Apple Podcasts, Stitcher, Spotify, TuneIn, or your favorite podcast app. And be sure to follow the podcast on Twitter!

Image credit: KP Tripathi