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Military special operations facing 4% budget cut

Despite the cut, a top general told lawmakers that his troops can "still maintain the operations required overseas."

WASHINGTON — Even with the two-decade-old war winding down in Afghanistan, U.S. military special forces remain busy, with 4,000 special warfare operators currently deployed in 60 countries around the world.

U.S. Special Operations Command is seeking $12.6 billion in its fiscal year 2022 budget.

But some lawmakers worry that won't be enough.

"The FY '22 budget request for Special Operations Command didn't just fail to keep pace with inflation, but it cut the top line for the second year in a row," said Rep. Trent Kelly (R-Mississippi). "The FY '22 budget request represents a $495 million decrease from FY '21, a four percent cut."

Kelly wondered what the impact of that decrease could mean for the force.

"What are you not able to do because of these cuts and what are the associated risks?" he asked.

Gen. Richard Clarke, Commander U.S. Special Operations Command, said there wouldn't be many.

"For us, our operations remain steady," Clarke said. "So we can still maintain the operations required overseas and the readiness and training as was asked about, our training levels can maintain."

House Armed Services Subcommittee on Intelligence and Special Operations Chairman Ruben Gallego (D-Arizona) wanted to know about the status of the Special Operations Command's diversity and inclusion plan. That's meant to promote more women and people of color into leadership and rank-and-file positions of the special forces, which, until now, have been composed primarily of white men.

"What does diversity, inclusion and equity mean to you?" he asked Clarke.

The General replied: "Congressman, diversity for US SO-Com is to make sure, first, we reflect the best talent and the best people of this country."

Overall, women make up 18% of the special warfare community in the Navy.

But just last week, for the first time, a female sailor successfully completed the grueling 37-week training course to become a Naval Special Warfare combatant-craft crewman.

According to Department of Defense statistics, in Naval Special Warfare 95% of officers are white and 84% of enlisted sailors are white. 

For Army Special Forces, 87% of officers are white and 84% of enlisted soldiers are white.