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February 7, 2016

Are SOCOM’s Overseas ‘Persistent Presences’ Out of Line?

Navy Adm. William McRaven, commander of U.S. Special Operations Command, testifies during a 2012 Senate Armed Services Committee hearing (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

Navy Adm. William McRaven, commander of U.S. Special Operations Command, testifies during a 2012 Senate Armed Services Committee hearing. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

A newly released House report raises questions about whether U.S. Special Operations Command is exploiting a personnel trick to set up permanent presences overseas — rather than seeking the proper legal approval to do so.

The House Appropriations Committee has voiced its dismay in the past about whether the Services are abusing oxymoronic “long-term temporary duty assignments” that don’t comply with existing regulations.

These so-called TDYs are meant to be short deployments for government personnel to places beyond their home base.

This time, the panel singled out Special Operations.

“The Committee is concerned that the Special Operations Command’s (SOCOM) growing use of continuous rotational TDYs is being used to establish permanent persistent presences in countries overseas,” the committee wrote in its report on the annual defense spending bill, released Monday. “The Committee understands that with limited exception, SOCOM currently lacks the legal authority to establish and maintain a permanent persistent presence globally and therefore questions whether the use of continuous rotational TDYs is being used in lieu of seeking the necessary legal authorities.”

Beyond that, appropriators are worried about whether the gimmick is running afoul of other rules, such as the Joint Federal Travel Regulations.

“The Committee also questions whether this practice violates the JFTR, limitations on billets in combatant command positions, requirements for dwell time, and Department and interagency policies and procedures regarding the establishment of permanent assignments overseas,” the report states.

The full Appropriations Committee is slated to vote on the $491 billion fiscal 2015 defense spending bill this week.

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