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CRS: Navy Irregular Warfare and Counterterrorism Operations

Author: Ronald O'Rourke
April 6, 2012

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This Congressional Research Service report outlines the background and history of recent Navy irregular warfare and counterterrorism activities, a number of which may pose critical oversight issues for Congress.

The Navy for several years has carried out a variety of irregular warfare (IW) and counterterrorism (CT) activities. Among the most readily visible of the Navy's recent IW operations have been those carried out by Navy sailors serving ashore in Afghanistan and Iraq. Many of the Navy's contributions to IW operations around the world are made by Navy individual augmentees (IAs)—individual Navy sailors assigned to various DOD operations.

The May 1-2, 2011, U.S. military operation in Abbottabad, Pakistan, that killed Osama bin Laden
reportedly was carried out by a team of 23 Navy special operations forces, known as SEALs (an acronym standing for Sea, Air, and Land). The SEALs reportedly belonged to an elite unit known unofficially as Seal Team 6 and officially as the Naval Special Warfare Development Group (DEVGRU).

The Navy established the Navy Expeditionary Combat Command (NECC) informally in October 2005 and formally in January 2006. NECC consolidated and facilitated the expansion of a number of Navy organizations that have a role in IW operations. The Navy established the Navy Irregular Warfare Office in July 2008, published a vision statement for irregular warfare in January 2010, and established "a community of interest" to develop and advance ideas, collaboration, and advocacy related to IW in December 2010.

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