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Demand for SOF Outpacing Growth: US Special Operations Command has grown from about 45,000 people in 2001 to about 68,000 today, and it has plans to continue that growth to 71,000 through Fiscal 2018, said Garry Reid, principal deputy assistant secretary of defense for special operations and low-intensity conflict. Speaking at AFA’s Air & Space Conference in National Harbor, Md., Sept. 18, Reid said SOF capacity also has increased about 25 percent during that time. However, even such steady growth has not been able to mitigate the incredibly high operational tempo endured by special operators over the last 11 years. In fact, USSOCOM operational tempo is nine times greater than it was prior to that growth, with many operators racking up 20 to 30 deployments just to Iraq and Afghanistan. “From a command and leadership perspective, we have to start thinking about sustainment and how that goes in the long-term,” said Reid. Although the US has pulled out of Iraq and plans are in place for a 2014 withdrawal from Afghanistan, that op tempo is not expected to change any time soon, he said. US special operators operate from about 200 different countries throughout the course of a year and are in 70 to 80 countries on any given day.