Author Biography

Whitney Grespin has worked in contingency contracting and educational exchange programming on five continents. Currently, she works in support of USG UAV programs and related private operations for anti-poaching and environmental preservation missions. Previously, she worked on operations and program management for USG foreign military training and institutional capacity building programs. Ms. Grespin holds a BA from Duquesne University, Master’s in Public and International Affairs from the University of Pittsburgh, a professional certificate in Project Management from Georgetown University, and is completing a post-baccalaureate certification in Curriculum Development and Instruction from Penn State. She was named one of 2013’s “99 Under 33 Foreign Policy Leaders” by Young Professionals in Foreign Policy and the Diplomatic Courier, and is currently a Visiting Junior Fellow at the U.S. Army War College’s Peacekeeping and Stability Operations Institute. The views represented herein are her own.



Subject Area Keywords

Complex operations, Counterinsurgency, Counterterrorism, Defense policy, Development and security, Foreign internal defense, Foreign policy, Governance and rule of law, Human security, Intelligence studies/education, International institutions, International security, Irregular warfare, Law enforcement, Public diplomacy, Security management, Security policy, Security studies, Special operations forces, Stability operations, Stabilization and reconstruction


The last decade of international engagements marks a shift in the way that the American military fights wars and mitigates conflict overseas. Although America has long had an affinity for creative destruction and cycles of force buildup and tear down, it is increasingly apparent that such an approach is not a viable option for the U.S. military’s path ahead. After a decade of costly conflict with large conventional forces and an abundance of direct action operations, the American way of war is evolving towards less muscle, more mind.

To this end, the specialized training, mentoring, and capacity building skills that Special Operations Forces (SOF) receive must remain a priority in an era of fiscal austerity and streamlined resources. It is easier to strengthen security forces than to strengthen governance and the drivers that combat instability. As SOF returns to a focus on partner capacity building programs rather than direct action missions, the lessons learned of the last twelve years of international security assistance programs must be embraced and codified rather than allowed to atrophy, as is often the case when the United States military reorients its attention to new policy priorities. Reliance on external nations and allied partners, coupled with the strategic direction to employ innovative, low-cost, and small-footprint indirect approaches to prevent conflict, have made SOF a resource of choice for both Combatant Commanders and military strategists.