For Army Lt. Gen. Joe Votel, the “nightmare scenario” is chemical, biological, radiologic or nuclear weapons “falling into the hands of Sunni extremists or extremist organizations out there who do have an ideology that would permit them to use that.”
Votel, commander of Joint Special Operations Command, was speaking at a panel of special operations component commanders during the 2014 Special Operations Forces Industry Conference 2014 being held at the Tampa Convention Center.
Votel, addressing what JSOC needs from the defense industry, listed “research and development into areas that will help us with detection and neutralization” of those weapons. His wish list included things ranging from technology that will reduce collateral damage to the ability to see through clouds for better targeting.
Though industry has already provided “some good technologies... we do see violent extremists organizations and others continue to exert a desire to acquire these types of weapons. So our ability to detect and neutralize them effectively will be a key piece for our country.”
Asking industry for technology that will allow stand-off detection and neutralization of those weapons is vital, Votel said, because “we will only have very limited opportunity to get that one right when the situation is presented to us. So we will need to pay some attention to that.”
During the question and answer session, Votel was asked how the Syrian revolution, where as many as 8,000 foreign fighters have poured into the war-torn nation that has seen chemical weapons use, will affect security in the United States.
“I would kind of avoid specific operational details on that,” he said. “But I think it’s a good example. The proliferation that has taken place in the last number of years, not only in Syria, but in a variety of other locations where there are large stockpiles of chemicals or other munitions out there that would pose a significant threat, I think we always have to be concerned about those.”
Unstable situations like that in Syria add to the concerns, Votel said.
“I think we have to be concerned about them falling into the hands of people who would have less difficulty employing those and for me that’s why I think this is hugely important,” he said, “I do think we have to be very, very concerned.”
Another worry, said Votel, is how unstable places like Syria are being used as a training ground for violent extremists. That, he said, also increases the risk to the nation.
“I think that not just there, but other locations as well,” he said. “It potentially introduces people to that. It certainly addresses the ideological aspects to that, so I think that’s something we always have to be concerned about.”
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At 1:30 p.m., with Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn in an “insurgent village,” captured by “violent extremists,” special operations forces from 16 nations descended upon the Tampa Convention Center in helicopters, boats and ground mobility vehicles, wiping out the “bad guys” to “rescue” Buckhorn, a frequent prisoner of pirates and other evil doers.
To the staccato sound of machine guns, M-4s and AK-47s firing blanks, accompanied by the occasional bang of a pyrotechnic explosions, the international special forces training exercise showcased commando skills to crowds of people lined up along the water and on the roofs of nearby buildings.
After being hustled out of the bad guy village, Buckhorn came triumphantly roaring back, firing a 50. caliber machine gun mounted on one of the rigid-hull inflatable boats.
“It was fun,” Buckhorn said after emerging from the boat, along with U.S. Special Operations Command head Adm. William McRaven, who helped tie up the boat to the dock. “I love doing this. I love supporting Socom and the men and women that serve there,”
For Tampa, the home of MacDill Air Force Base, SOFIC is “huge,” said Buckhorn.
“Not only does it showcase the fact that we have the headquarters of Special Operations Command and Central Command, but I think it reinforces to the decision makers in Washington D.C. what an important base this is, why it is located here and why it should never be at risk.”
This evening, Army Chief of Staff, Gen. Ray Odierno, delivers a speech at the conference gala dinner.
Stay with TBO.com for updates.