Forging Netherlands Maritime Special Operations Forces
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In 2009, the Royal Netherlands Marine Corps started merging its two SOF units into one The Netherlands Maritime Special Operation Forces (NL MARSOF). This newly formed unit is envisioned as a unique mixture of traditional maritime special operations and national counter-terrorism capabilities. Even though the creation of NL MARSOF marks significant progress in the professionalization of Dutch maritime SOF, new challenges in determining its strategic utility and cultural differences between NL MARSOFs sub-units hamper its optimal development and effectiveness. Based on an organizational model of unit culture and a theoretical framework based on SOFs strategic utility, this research explored how NL MARSOF can better unify its culture and clarify its strategic utility. Governing document analysis, survey research, and interviews with key members of NL MARSOF revealed several shortcomings that should be addressed in order to improve NL MARSOFs effectiveness and ensure its survival during times in which the Dutch Ministry of Defense faces the largest budget cutbacks in its history. The survey results and interviews indicate that NL MARSOF is experiencing a sort of identity crisis. Even though NL MARSOF leadership has focused on (infra-)structural elements of the reorganization, it failed to define and communicate a clear mission supported by the majority of the community, and thus offered neither a sense of purpose nor sufficient guidance. This lack of a long-term vision set out in strategic direction now negatively affects the overall performance of NL MARSOF. The way forward is to get NL MARSOF members involved in the process of defining the units way ahead. Strategic management sessions will define the way ahead for NL MARSOF, thereby clarifying its strategic utility. These sessions are the vital first step in improving operational effectiveness. A working group on symbols and traditions will give NL MARSOF its much-needed professional face and provide the symbols (logos, insignias, traditions, and customs) to strengthen the shared system of beliefs and values and thus create a stronger unit culture. Finally, training courses in change management and team-building sessions will help smooth the transition to one NL MARSOF.
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