Navy SEALs Shifting Focus Away From Counterterrorism to Face Russia and China

The 2018 National Defense Strategy outlined the US military's shift away from counterterrorism towards so-called 'great power competition'

The US Navy SEALs are undergoing a major overhaul. The special operations forces are following the rest of the US military and shifting focus away from counterterrorism in the Middle East to face China and Russia.

As part of the transition, the SEALs are reducing the number of platoons it has by 30 percent so that the remaining teams will have more personnel. SEALs commanders are looking to focus on maritime operations since any conflict with China and Russia would involve naval battles.

Rear Adm. H. Wyman Howard III, the top commander of the SEALs, told The Associated Press that the special operations forces will expand cyber and electronic warfare capabilities. Howard said the SEALs could use skills they learned over the past 20 years in counterterrorism missions but that the focus must be shifted. “Many of these things are transferable, but now we need to put pressure on ourselves to operate against peer threats,” he said.

The 2018 National Defense Strategy outlined the US military’s plan to shift focus towards so-called “great power competition” with China and Russia. Each military branch is revamping its forces to confront these two powers in regions such as the Arctic and the Indo-Pacific. Even US Central Command, with overseas US military operations in the Middle East, has identified China and Russia as top threats.

Having bigger enemies benefits the US military as it is always looking to expand its massive budget. When President Biden requested $753 billion for the 2022 military budget, which would be the highest of all time, the Pentagon said the exorbitant amount of money was needed to confront China, which it identified as the top “threat” facing the US.

Author: Dave DeCamp

Dave DeCamp is the news editor of, follow him on Twitter @decampdave.