National Composite Adversary Force

The National Composite Adversary Force (NCAF) is a unique special operations unit in the sense of its organization and mission. NCAF sits under the United States Department of Energy, and its main goal is probing security risks at nuclear power plants and test sites. NCAF is the DOE’s equivalent to the Department of Defense’s various special operation teams and is similar to France’s DGSE Action Division, which sometimes tests the security of France’s nuclear power plants. 

The NCAF’s main mission is to probe for weaknesses in the US’s nuclear power infrastructure system. However, NCAF does not guard these facilities. Agents are sent to a site without the site knowing, and agents are given 3 days to devise a plan to compromise the security of the plant. (Source) After the mission is completed, evaluators from the DOE and Nuclear Energy Commission compile a report of the successes and failures of the plant. (Source) These reports are simply meant to improve security, and the NCAF is one of the only special operations groups where failure is not necessarily a bad thing – it means the site is in no need of changes. Chris Pumroy, an NCAF team leader had this to offer, “Nuclear facilities in the U.S are most certainly very hard targets, and our job is to better prepare the nuclear assets of America from external threats.” (Source)

Organization and Recruitment

NCAF agents are selected from top DOE operators and are selected based on their knowledge of plant operations, physical ability, and mental toughness. There are about 26 NCAF agents and 12-15 trainers for the unit. Recruitment is not an application process, but rather the NCAF approaches operators that they think would work well with the rest of the team. Candidates also need to be recommended by the directors of their existing security position and go through multiple interviews. (Source)

Glenn Podonsky, former director of the DOE Office of independent oversight performance assurance had this to offer about NCAF recruitment standards and the operators they have, “They run the gamut from former POWs to groups that have broken up terrorist groups. “…We need the best of the best to do what we do…” (Source)

NCAF’s role in threat probing and security assessment of nuclear facilities used to be done by a variety of other special forces units, such as:

However, the DOE decided it would be more effective for their own agents to fill the role. Podonsky also offered his personal analysis of NCAF’s efficiency, “We’re as good as, if not better than, any military organization we have today.” (Source)

Tactics, Training, and Procedure 

NCAF operates from an offensive doctrine, and they use immersion training techniques to mimic the behaviours and tools used by enemies of the United States to better prepare them for their mission. Operators are expected to attend mandatory NCAF training sessions two or three times a year, working their regular DOE operator positions the rest of the year. (Source)

Operators have been trained at the Military Operations in Urban Terrain (MOUT) site at Camp Pendleton, CA, and the Nevada Test Site, near Las Vegas, NV, which has been historically used for testing hazardous chemicals, conventional weapons and emergency response training by federal agencies. Recently, they have been training at “The Range Complex-TRC’s” 1000-acre North Carolina facility. (Source) However, NCAF operators need to be flexible, and training has also taken place at various installations across the US like:

  • Savannah River Site

  • Idaho National Laboratory

  • U.S. Army’s Fort Polk Joint Readiness Training Center. (A state-of-the-art “combat city” used by the special operations personnel to train in urban warfare.) (Source)


According to Podonsky, NCAF operators are given access to a large variety of weaponry and equipment to train from.

“Members are armed with light machine guns, rocket-propelled grenade launchers, light anti-tank weapons, and whatever other weapons terrorists might use,” the director added. 



The Composite Adversary Team trains and operates to maintain their unique mission standard: probe for security risks at nuclear facilities in the United States. NCAF operators are sufficiently trained in a offensive manner, and to think like an attacker, making them on the most interesting units of the DOE, and the United States at large.

Speaking on the prowess of the NCAF team, Podonsky offered high praises, “Our guys are unsung heroes. They test and stress systems to make sure the facilities in the United States are protected.” (Source)

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