Mr. Speaker, I'm proud to work with Representative Drake to mark the 20th anniversary of founding of the Special Operations Command.
Congress established SOCOM on April 16, 1987 in response to the failure of the Desert One mission to rescue American hostages in Iran. We learned two main lessons from Desert One. First, we needed a better joint command structure; our military was too divided and did not work well together, due to a lack of interoperable equipment and a lack of familiarity and joint training among the various branches. Second, we lacked forces trained for these kinds of missions. The establishment of SOCOM was meant to address these shortcomings.
SOCOM has been a fabulous success. We have roughly 53,000 special operations personnel operating in more than 50 countries around the world, taking direct action to counter terrorists and working with local populations to prevent terrorists from taking root.
I am especially proud of the three special operations force components housed in the 9th District of Washington: the Army 1st Special Forces Group (Airborne) and the Army 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment (SOAR)--4th Batallion at Fort Lewis and the Air Force 22nd Special Tactics Squadron at McChord Air Force Base. I've also been able to visit several other components of our special operations forces across the country and around the world, and they are doing a fantastic job.
Going forward, we need more special operations forces to fight the spread of the totalitarian ideology pushed by al-Qaeda and related groups. Consistent with the 2006 Quadrennial Defense Review, we will seek to grow SOCOM forces by 15 percent. We will not sacrifice quality for quantity, but we must have the capability to train more special operations forces to face complex national security challenges.
And, we must ensure proper emphasis on indirect action. Often when people think of special operations, they think of direct action against terrorists. But much of SOCOM's mission involves less dramatic but essential work. Special operations forces are currently working in well over a dozen countries to prevent al-Qaeda and other organizations from taking root. They train locals to defend themselves and help local populations improve their living situations so that they are less susceptible to terrorist recruitment.
Getting to know local populations, learning the languages, becoming helpful to them--these steps are vital to preventing insurgencies and terrorist groups from taking hold. We recently heard from a special operations veteran who told us that the most helpful counter-terrorism tool his force brought with them in North Africa was a dentist. The population needed this service so badly that our providing it led to them working with us to root out terrorists in the area. This kind of work to win the hearts ana minds of local populations is essential if we are to defeat the spread of al-Qaeda's message across the globe. That's why we in Congress must ensure that SOCOM is resourced and structured properly to sufficiently emphasize and effectively carry out this critical indirect work.
I want to thank the members from both parties on the terrorism subcommittee of the House Armed Services Committee for their work to make sure our special operations forces have the tools they need to protect our country. I want to especially thank Ranking Member Mac Thornberry and Representative Thelma Drake for their hard work on this important resolution.