No, SEAL Team Six Isn’t Begging for a Fitness Center
But Special Operation Forces would love an upgrade to their existing facilities
That’s a gross oversimplification of what SOCOM actually requested. Also, the SEALs aren’t the only Special Operation Forces to use the center. The way the SOCOM requested the “fitness center” is interesting, too—a point articles on the subject ignored.
The unfunded requirements list Adm. William McRaven delivered to Congress on April 1 did include an $11-million request for construction of a “Human Performance Center.” But what the Hell is a human performance center? We reached out to SOCOM to find out.
“Human Performance Program Centers are designed to synchronize physical performance, sports medicine, sports psychology and performance nutrition.” Lt. Cmdr. Li Cohen of U.S. Special Forces Command told us via email.
That sounds like a glorified fitness center.
“This is a misperception.” Cohen said. “HPP centers are specifically designed, based on applied science, to meet the unique demands of SOF. An HPP center is an investment to protect the large investment [the Department of Defense] makes to create a competent special operator.”
Cohen added that training a single operator costs $500,000 and takes five years. “SOF cannot be mass-produced overnight, so we have to do everything possible to prevent injuries, increase the speed of recovery and ultimately extend the operational life of the force.”
“HPP centers support an integrated approach to enable the sustained peak performance required of SOF,” Cohen continued. “From the demands of the battlefield coupled with the demanding high-tempo training cycles, SOCOM has documented multiple factors that erode the readiness of SOF, including lack of sleep, over-training, chronic injuries and persistent stressors.”
“This erosion has historically been completely missed because we did not have the expertise to identify it and then appropriately respond to it.”
A Bloomberg article wondered what was wrong with current facilities. So we asked.
“While SOF personnel have access to gym facilities available on the military bases or posts where they are stationed, the access to expert providers and to programs tailored to the specific needs and demands of SOF is not adequately supported in those gym facilities,” Cohen explained.
At present, the operators in Virginia have to walk between four different locations—including two located in tents—to get all their health training, according to Cohen. “The specific intent of the POTFF HPP Center at Dam Neck, Virginia, is to build a two-story building for the Naval Special Warfare Development Group’s Human Performance Program.”
What about that weird remark from McRaven about “nutrition rehabilitation?”
“The value of a comma,” Cohen wrote. “SOCOM has not used that term as part as the Human Performance Program. The UFR list states “Human Performance Center that emphasizes strength conditioning, nutrition, rehabilitation, injury prevention, testing, research and development.”
What a difference a typo makes.
Something else got lost in the story of the human performance center. The way it was requested—an unfunded requirements list.
The unfunded requirements list is a wish list put together by the Joint Chiefs of staff. It is not part of the regular defense budget. It’s a way for the higher ups to squeeze a few extra billion dollars out of the budget for pet projects.
How do they get away with it? By calling it an investment fund and rolling it into other parts of the budget not connected directly to the president and congress approved defense budget. With the wars winding down and sequestration squeezing the Pentagon, the Joint Chiefs are looking for anyway they can to drum up extra cash.
Former secretary of defense Robert Gates put a stop to this practice in 2009. Current secdef Chuck Hagel, pictured, revived it.
The $11 million SOCOM wants for the fitness center is chump changed compares to other stuff on the list. SOCOM’s total “requirements” total $400 million. The Army wants $10.6 billion.
“The Chairman of the JCS and I have reviewed the list of unfunded priorities list and we do not recommend funding any of these additional items,” Hagel wrote in the closing of the cover letter on the wish lists. “Unless and until funding exceeds the total amount requested in the President’s budget submission for 2015 and Opportunity, Growth and Security initiative.”
Congress gets to decide how many of the wish-list projects get funded.