from the FAS Project on Government Secrecy
Volume 2018, Issue No. 53
August 21, 2018

Secrecy News Blog:


The Department of Defense issued a directive this month based on new authority granted by Congress last year to engage in "low-visibility, irregular warfare" operations.

In the FY2018 defense authorization act (PL 115-91, sect. 1202) Congress specifically authorized the Secretary of Defense "to provide support to foreign forces, irregular forces, groups, or individuals engaged in supporting or facilitating ongoing irregular warfare operations by U.S. Special Operations Forces (SOF)."

The new authority was needed, Congress said, in order to fill a perceived gap in the US military's ability to fight in conflicts that are below the threshold of war.

"Adversarial nations are becoming more aggressive in challenging U.S. interests and partnerships and destabilizing regional order through the use of asymmetric means that often fall below the threshold of traditional armed conflict, often referred to as the 'grey zone'," according to the Senate Armed Services Committee report (115-125) on the 2018 defense bill (section 1201).

"The committee notes that the ability of U.S. SOF [special operations forces] to conduct low-visibility, irregular warfare operations in politically sensitive environments make them uniquely suited to counter the malign activities of our adversaries in this domain."

"However, the committee is concerned that the Secretary of Defense lacks sufficient authority to provide support for irregular warfare operations by U.S. SOF to counter this growing threat and therefore believes that granting this authority will provide the Secretary with the necessary options and flexibility to achieve U.S. military objectives," the Senate Armed Services Committee wrote last year.

The amount of money that was authorized for this purpose -- $10 million per year for three years -- is minuscule by conventional U.S. military standards, but it could still be meaningful in the context of irregular warfare.

To begin implementing the new authority, Deputy Secretary of Defense Patrick Shanahan this month issued Directive-type Memorandum 18-005 that defines the policies and procedures for employing the funding authorized by Congress. See "Authority for Support of Special Operations for Irregular Warfare (IW)," DTM-18-005, August 3, 2018.


The Congressional Research Service says that, as a constitutional matter, it will be up to Congress to determine whether and how to reorganize the management of US national security assets in space, and whether to establish a new "space force," as the Trump Administration has proposed.

"The constitutional framework appears to contemplate that the role of establishing, organizing, regulating, and providing resources for the Armed Forces belongs to Congress, while the President is in charge of commanding the forces Congress has established using the funds Congress has provided," CRS said in a new publication. See Toward the Creation of a U.S. "Space Force", CRS In Focus, August 16, 2018:

Other new and updated reports from the Congressional Research Service include the following.

Hazing in the Armed Forces, CRS In Focus, August 9, 2018:

Substance Abuse Prevention, Treatment, and Research Efforts in the Military, CRS In Focus, August 17, 2018:

Election Security: Issues in the 2018 Midterm Elections, CRS Insight, August 16, 2018:

Supreme Court Appointment Process: Consideration by the Senate Judiciary Committee, updated August 14, 2018:

IRS Will No Longer Require Disclosure of Certain Nonprofit Donor Information, CRS Legal Sidebar, August 14, 2018:

Can the President Pardon Contempt of Court? Probably Yes, CRS Legal Sidebar, August 10, 2018:

Overview of U.S.-South Korea Agricultural Trade, August 8, 2018:

Proposed U.S.-EU Trade Negotiations: Hitting Pause on a Trade War?, CRS Insight, August 9, 2018:

Carbon Capture and Sequestration (CCS) in the United States, updated August 9, 2018:

Proliferation Security Initiative (PSI), updated August 9, 2018:

Strange Occurrences Highlight Insider Threat to Aviation Security, CRS Insight, August 14, 2018:


Secrecy News is written by Steven Aftergood and published by the Federation of American Scientists.

The Secrecy News blog is at:

To SUBSCRIBE to Secrecy News, go to:


OR email your request to

Secrecy News is archived at:

SUPPORT the FAS Project on Government Secrecy with a donation here: