Assistant Secretary of Defense for Special Operations and Low-Intensity Conflict

The Assistant Secretary of Defense for Special Operations/Low-Intensity Conflict or ASD(SO/LIC), is the principal civilian advisor to the U.S. Secretary of Defense on special operations and low-intensity conflict matters. Located within the Office of the Under Secretary of Defense for Policy (USD(P)), the ASD(SO/LIC) is responsible primarily for the overall supervision (to include oversight of policy and resources) of special operations and low-intensity conflict activities. These activities, according to USSOCOM's 2007 Posture Statement, include counterterrorism; unconventional warfare; direct action; special reconnaissance; foreign internal defense; civil affairs, information and psychological operations; and counterproliferation of WMD.[nb 1]

In addition to policy oversight for special operations and stability operations capabilities, the ASD(SO/LIC) has policy oversight for strategic capabilities and force transformation and resources. This includes oversight of capability development to include general-purpose forces, space and information capabilities, nuclear and conventional strike capabilities, and missile defense. As such, ASD(SO/LIC), after the Secretary and Deputy Secretary, will be the principal official charged with oversight over all warfighting capabilities within the senior management of the Department of Defense. The ASD(SO/LIC) is considered to be a part of the Office of the Secretary of Defense.


This position was mandated by the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 1987 (P.L. 99-661, passed 14 November 1986). The position was officially established on 4 January 1988, by Defense Directive 5138.3. The post's responsibilities for strategic capabilities and forces transformation were added as a result of USD(P) Eric Edelman's 2006 reorganization of the DoD policy office.[1]

The ASD(SO/LIC) is supported in his/her work by three Deputy Assistant Secretaries of Defense:

  • DASD, Special Operations and Combating Terrorism
  • DASD, Partnership Strategy and Stability Operations
  • DASD, Counternarcotics and Global Threats

Office holdersEdit

The table below includes both the various titles of this post over time, as well as all the holders of those offices.

Assistant Secretary of Defense (Special Operations/Low-Intensity Conflict)[2]
Name Tenure SecDef(s) Served Under President(s) Served Under
Assistant Secretary of Defense (Special Operations/Low Intensity Conflict)
Charles S. Whitehouse July 13, 1988 – July 12, 1989 Frank C. Carlucci III
William H. Taft IV (Acting)
Richard B. Cheney
Ronald Reagan
George H. W. Bush
Seth Cropsey (Acting) July 13, 1989 – October 18, 1989 Richard B. Cheney George H. W. Bush
James R. Locher October 19, 1989 – June 19, 1993 Richard B. Cheney
Leslie Aspin, Jr.
George H. W. Bush
Bill Clinton
H. Allen Holmes November 18, 1993 – April 30, 1999 Les Aspin, Jr.
William J. Perry
William S. Cohen
Bill Clinton
Brian E. Sheridan May 7, 1999 – January 12, 2001 William S. Cohen Bill Clinton
Position Vacant 2001–2003 Donald H. Rumsfeld George W. Bush
Thomas W. O'Connell July 23, 2003 – April 2007[3] Donald H. Rumsfeld
Robert M. Gates
George W. Bush
Assistant Secretary of Defense (Special Operations/Low-Intensity Conflict & Interdependent Capabilities)
Michael G. Vickers July 23, 2007 – March 2011 Robert M. Gates George W. Bush
Barack Obama
Michael D. Lumpkin (Acting) April 25, 2011 – December 2011 Robert M. Gates
Leon Panetta
Barack Obama
Michael A. Sheehan December 2011 – June 2013 Leon Panetta
Chuck Hagel
Barack Obama
Michael D. Lumpkin December 2, 2013 – Present Chuck Hagel Barack Obama
Mark E. Mitchell (Acting) Unknown James Mattis Donald Trump
Owen West TBD James Mattis Donald Trump


  1. ^ Section 167 of Title 10 USC provides a very similar but not identical list of SOF activities.


  1. ^ Garamone, Jim (29 August 2006). "Pentagon to Reorganize Policy Shop, Improve Cooperation". American Forces Information Service.
  2. ^ "Department of Defense Key Officials" (PDF). Historical Office, OSD. 2004. Archived from the original (PDF) on 2011-07-21. Retrieved 2011-02-01.
  3. ^ "Honeywell -Investor Relations". Archived from the original on 2011-10-03. Retrieved 2013-06-17.

External linksEdit