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Special Operations to have larger role in reshaped Army

WASHINGTON - The Army is reshaping the way many soldiers are trained and deployed, with some conventional units to be placed officially under Special Operations commanders and others assigned to regions of the world viewed as emerging security risks, particularly in Africa.

The pending changes reflect an effort to institutionalize many of the successful tactics adopted ad hoc in Afghanistan and Iraq. And as the Army shrinks by 80,000 troops over the next five years, its top officer, General Ray Odierno, is also seeking ways to ensure that the land force is prepared for a broader set of missions - and in hot spots around the globe.

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Odierno’s initiatives are a recognition that the role - and clout - of Special Operations forces is certain to grow over coming years, and senior Pentagon policymakers briefed on the plans say they are in keeping with the new strategy announced early this year by Defense Secretary Leon E. Panetta and General Martin E. Dempsey, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

With cuts ordered in the Pentagon budget - and cognizant of public exhaustion with large overseas deployments - the military will focus on working with partner nations to increase their capabilities to deal with security threats within their borders. The goal would be to limit the footprint of most new overseas deployments.

Formal training linking a conventional unit to a Special Operations unit will begin in June at the Joint Readiness Training Center at Fort Polk, La., Army officials said.

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