Special Operations Research Program

CNA's Special Operations Program: Analysis and Solutions in Support of Special Operations Leaders.

CNA's Special Operations Program brings CNA's "full spectrum" research and analysis capabilities to bear on the most complex and challenging issues facing special operations forces (SOF) today and in the future. Special Operations Program analysts work at CNA headquarters and, through CNA's Field Program, provide on-site analytic support at special operations commands and to forward-deployed SOF.

The mission of CNA's Special Operations Program is:

  • To support leaders charged with manning, training, and equipping special operators—and those charged with planning, conducting, and assessing/evaluating special operations—with objective analysis grounded in a deep understanding of SOF culture, values, and operations
  • To support special operators as they learn, train, exercise, deploy, reintegrate, and strive to excel in support of U.S. national security interests

Specific Areas of Analysis

Operations, Plans, and Assessments: CNA field representatives have provided on-site analytic support to planning, operations, and assessments conducted by Navy SEALs (both ashore and underway), Marine Raiders, and Joint and coalition SOF in Afghanistan. Our analysts have studied in depth the tactics that our adversaries use and how to counter them, how to improve the targeting processes used by SOF in Afghanistan, and the use of Female Engagement Teams in support of Special Operations Task Forces. Our cadre of regional specialists provides local language and cultural knowledge in support of SOF intelligence and planning activities. Currently, our analysts are providing real-world, on-site operations reconstruction and analysis to commands worldwide.

Exercise Support and Training: CNA analysts routinely support SOF exercises, providing objective and data-driven analyses of specific exercise objectives and other issues of interest in order to rigorously complement standard after action report processes. We have analyzed individual exercises and entire exercise programs to ensure objectives are being effectively met. Our experts on training have studied accession and entry-level programs, and specific training programs for Village Stability Operations in Afghanistan, information operations, and sensitive site exploitation. 

Manpower and Organizational Studies: CNA manpower experts have studied the career paths of Marine Raiders, reserve requirements of the Marines Corps' Special Operations Command, promotion rates, military occupational specialty (MOS) population dynamics, and metrics for assessing the performance and resiliency of special operators. Our organizational experts have analyzed SOF headquarters structures and locations, information management processes, and SOF organizational initiatives.

Technical and Systems Analysis: CNA technical experts have analyzed intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance (ISR) systems, special communications capabilities, explosive ordnance disposal, small craft requirements, survivability of SOF vehicles, and target marking technologies.

SOF-GPF Integration: CNA has done significant work on issues pertaining to the integration of SOF and General Purpose Forces (GPF), for missions ranging from counterterrorism to crisis response. Our analyses of this issue have spanned the gamut of training, logistics and other support, operations, authorities, and a host of other considerations.

SOF and Great Power Competition: CNA has conducted studies, convened events, designed and executed wargames, and participated in SOF conferences and forums to help the special operations enterprise identify, understand, and articulate the role of SOF in supporting the 2018 National Defense Strategy’s priority of competition—and preparation for potential conflict—with the likes of China and Russia.