A Government Accountability Office report published earlier this month contains a fascinating and hitherto secret detail: the exact size of the Navy’s SEAL Team 6.
Operating since the late 1980s under the cover name Naval Special Warfare Development Group, Team 6 is a special mission unit that works for Joint Special Operations Command. JSOC performs some of the most secret and sensitive missions for the United States, including the May 2011 raid on Osama bin Laden’s compound in Abbottabad, Pakistan (a mission for which Team 6 provided the ground force). As such, the military has always closely guarded details on how many personnel the unit has.
But pick up the new GAO report on special operations forces, and there’s the information on page 46: As of fiscal year 2014, Development Group had a total of 1,787 authorized positions, of which 1,342 are military and 445 are civilian.
A former senior Team 6 official reacted with surprise when told that the GAO had published the numbers.
I don’t know why they would do that,
he said, adding that he did not recall any previous instance in which the government published such detailed numbers.
Patricia O’Connor, a spokeswoman for Naval Special Warfare Command, which has administrative control over Team 6, said she could not comment.
The numbers appear to be accurate, said a former senior Team 6 official.
However, the figure for military personnel should not be interpreted as meaning that Team 6 has more than 1,000 SEALs. In fact, the unit has only about 300 enlisted SEALs who have made it through Team 6’s arduous assessment and selection process, known as Green Team, the former senior Team 6 official said.
These SEALs, who are known as “operators” once they have graduated, are joined by about 50 to 60 SEAL officers who have been through Green Team, he added. The other Navy personnel support the operators’ missions.