Unified Combatant Command

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Areas of Responsibility
President George W. Bush and Secretary Robert Gates meeting with the joint chiefs and combatant commanders.

A Unified Combatant Command (UCC) is a United States Department of Defense command that is composed of forces from at least two Military Departments and has a broad and continuing mission.[1] These commands are established to provide effective command and control of U.S. military forces, regardless of branch of service, in peace and war.[2] They are organized either on a geographical basis (known as "Area of Responsibility", AOR) or on a functional basis. UCCs are "joint" commands with specific badges denoting their affiliation.

The creation and organization of the Unified Combatant Commands is legally mandated in Title 10, U.S. Code Sections 161–168.[3][4]

The Unified Command Plan (UCP) is updated annually in conjunction with the DoD Fiscal Year and can modify areas of responsibility or combatant command alignments or assignments.[5] As of September 2011, there are nine Unified Combatant Commands as specified in Title 10 and the latest annual UCP. Six have regional responsibilities, and three have functional responsibilities. Each time the Unified Command Plan is updated, the organization of the combatant commands is reviewed for military efficiency and effectiveness, as well as alignment with national policy.

Each unified command is led by a Combatant Commander (CCDR),[6] who is a four-star general or admiral. CCDRs exercise combatant command (COCOM),[7] a specific type of nontransferable command authority over assigned forces, regardless of branch of service, that is vested only in the CCDRs by federal law in 10 U.S.C. § 164.[8] The Chain of Command for operational purposes (as per the Goldwater–Nichols Act) goes from the President through the Secretary of Defense to the Combatant Commanders.

Current Commands[edit]

Emblem Command Acronym Role Established Headquarters
Africom emblem 2.svg United States Africa Command USAFRICOM Geographic October 1, 2007 Kelley Barracks, Stuttgart, Germany
Seal of the United States Central Command.png United States Central Command USCENTCOM Geographic January 1, 1983 MacDill Air Force Base, Florida
USEUCOM.svg United States European Command USEUCOM Geographic March 15, 1947 Patch Barracks, Stuttgart, Germany
United States Northern Command emblem.png United States Northern Command USNORTHCOM Geographic October 1, 2002 Peterson Air Force Base, Colorado
United States Pacific Command.png United States Pacific Command USPACOM Geographic January 1, 1947 Camp H. M. Smith, Hawaii
United States Southern Command Logo.svg United States Southern Command USSOUTHCOM Geographic June 6, 1963 Miami, Florida
United States Special Operations Command Insignia.svg United States Special Operations Command USSOCOM Functional April 16, 1987 MacDill Air Force Base, Florida
USSTRATCOM.svg United States Strategic Command USSTRATCOM Functional June 1, 1992 Offutt Air Force Base, Nebraska
US-TRANSCOM-Emblem.svg United States Transportation Command USTRANSCOM Functional July 1, 1987 Scott Air Force Base, Illinois

Central Command does not have its headquarters in its area of operations. The other regional unified commands with headquarters located outside their areas of operations are United States Southern Command (USSOUTHCOM), currently based in Miami, Florida, and United States Africa Command (USAFRICOM), currently based in Stuttgart, Germany.

History[edit]

The current system of unified commands in the US military emerged during World War II with the establishment of geographic theaters of operation composed of forces from multiple service branches that reported to a single commander who was supported by a joint staff.[9] A unified command structure also existed to coordinate British and American military forces operating under the Combined Chiefs of Staff, which was composed of the British Chiefs of Staff Committee and the American Joint Chiefs of Staff.[10] In the European Theater, Allied military forces fell under the command of the Supreme Headquarters Allied Expeditionary Force (SHAEF). After SHAEF was dissolved at the end of the war, the American forces were unified under a single command, the US Forces, European Theater (USFET), commanded by General of the Army Dwight D. Eisenhower. Unified commands in the Pacific Theater proved more difficult to organize as neither General of the Army Douglas MacArthur nor Fleet Admiral Chester W. Nimitz were willing to become subordinate to the other.

The Joint Chiefs of Staff continued to advocate in favor of establishing permanent unified commands, and President Harry S. Truman approved the first plan on 14 December 1946.[11] Known as the "Outline Command Plan," it would become the first in a series of Unified Command Plans.[citation needed] The original "Outline Command Plan" of 1946 established seven unified commands: Far East Command, Pacific Command, Alaskan Command, Northeast Command, the U.S. Atlantic Fleet, Caribbean Command, and European Command. However on 5 August 1947 the CNO recommended instead that CINCLANTFLT be established as a fully unified commander under the broader title of Commander in Chief, Atlantic (CINCLANT). The Army and Air Force objected, and CINCLANTFLT was activated as a unified command on 1 November 1947. A few days later, the CNO renewed his suggestion for the establishment of a unified Atlantic Command. This time his colleagues withdrew their objections, and on 1 December 1947 the U.S. Atlantic Command (LANTCOM) was created under the Commander in Chief, Atlantic (CINCLANT).[12]

Under the original plan, each of the unified commands operated with one of the service chiefs (the Chief of Staff of the Army or Air Force, or the Chief of Naval Operations) serving as an executive agent representing the Joint Chiefs of Staff.[13] This arrangement was formalized on 21 April 1948 as part of a policy paper titled the "Function of the Armed Forces and the Joint Chiefs of Staff" (informally known as the "Key West Agreement").[14] The responsibilities of the unified commands were further expanded on 7 September 1948 when the commanders' authority was extended to include the coordination of the administrative and logistical functions in addition to their combat responsibilities.[15]

Far East Command and U.S. Northeast Command were disestablished under the Unified Command Plan of 1956–57.

Although not part of the original plan, the Joint Chiefs of Staff also created specified commands that had broad and continuing missions but were composed of forces from only one service.[16] Examples include the U.S. Naval Forces, Eastern Atlantic and Mediterranean and the US Air Force's Strategic Air Command. Like the unified commands, the specified commands reported directly to the JCS instead of their respective service chiefs.[17] Although these commands have not existed since the Strategic Air Command was disestablished in 1992, federal law still contains a provision authorizing the President to establish a new specified command.[18]

The Goldwater-Nichols Defense Reorganization Act of 1986 clarified and codified responsibilities that commanders-in-chief (CINCs) undertook, and which were first given legal status in 1947. After that act, CINCs reported directly to the United States Secretary of Defense, and through him to the President of the United States.

The U.S. Atlantic Command became the Joint Forces Command in the 1990s after the Soviet threat to the North Atlantic had disappeared and the need rose for an integrating and experimentation command for forces in the continental United States. The Joint Forces Command was disbanded on August 3, 2011 and its components placed under the Joint Staff and other Combatant Commands.

On 24 October 2002, Secretary of Defense Donald H. Rumsfeld announced that in accordance with Title 10 of the US Code (USC), the title of "Commander-in-Chief" would thereafter be reserved for the President, consistent with the terms of Article II of the United States Constitution. Thereafter, the military CINCs would be known as "combatant commanders", as heads of the Unified Combatant Commands.

A sixth geographical unified command, United States Africa Command (USAFRICOM]], was approved and established in 2007 for Africa. It operated under U.S. European Command during its first year, and transitioned to independent Unified Command Status in October 2008. In 2009, it focused on synchronizing hundreds of activities inherited from three regional commands that previously coordinated U.S. military relations in Africa.[19]

Subordinate Unified Commands[edit]

A Subordinate Unified Command, or Subunified Command, may be established by combatant commanders when authorized to do so by the Secretary of Defense or the President.[20] They are created to conduct a portion of their parent Unified Command. Like Unified Commands, Subunified Commands may be either functional or geographic, and the commanders of Subunified Commands exercise authority similar to that of combatant commanders.

Examples of current and former Subunified Commands are the Alaskan Command (ALCOM) and the United States Forces Korea (USFK) under USPACOM, the United States Cyber Command (USCYBERCOM) under USSTRATCOM, and the former United States Forces – Iraq (USF-I) under USCENTCOM.

Combatant Commanders[edit]

Each CCMD is headed by a four-star general or admiral recommended by the Secretary of Defense, nominated for appointment by the President of the United States, confirmed by the Senate and commissioned, at the President's order, by the Secretary of Defense. The Goldwater-Nichols Act and its subsequent implementation legislation also resulted in specific Joint Professional Military Education (JPME) requirements for officers before they could attain flag or general officer rank thereby preparing them for duty in Joint assignments such as UCC staff or Joint Chiefs of Staff assignments, which are strictly controlled tour length rotations of duty. However, in the decades following enactment of Goldwater-Nichols, these JPME requirements have yet to come to overall fruition. This is particularly true in the case of senior naval officers, where sea duty/shore duty rotations and the culture of the naval service has often discounted PME and JPME as a measure of professional development for success. Although slowly changing, the JPME requirement still continues to be frequently waived in the case of senior admirals nominated for these positions.[21]

The operational chain of command runs from the President to the Secretary of Defense to the Combatant Commanders of the combatant commands. The Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff may transmit communications to the Commanders of the combatant commands from the President and Secretary of Defense and advises both on potential courses of action, but the Chairman does not exercise military command over any combatant forces. Under Goldwater-Nichols, the service chiefs (also four stars in rank) are charged with the responsibility of the "strategic direction, unified operation of combatant commands, and the integration of all land, naval, and air forces in an efficient "unified combatant command" force. Furthermore, the Secretaries of the Military Departments (i.e. Secretary of the Army, Secretary of the Navy, and the Secretary of the Air Force) are legally responsible to "organize, train and equip" combatant forces and, as directed by the Secretary of Defense, assign their forces for use by the combatant commands. The Secretaries of the Military Departments also do not exercise any operational control over their forces.[citation needed]

Each combatant command can be led by a general or flag officer from any of the military services. Most commands have traditional service affiliations, but in recent years, non-traditional appointments have become more common. EUCOM was traditionally an Army command with USAF generals on occasion, but was held by a Marine from 2003 through 2006. CENTCOM was traditionally an Army and Marine command but William J. Fallon, commander from 2007 through 2008, was a Navy admiral. PACOM has always been commanded by a Navy admiral due to the wide expanse of ocean, although Air Force generals have been nominated for the post. U.S. Atlantic Command (USACOM) was also a traditional Navy assignment until it was successively commanded by Marine, Army, and Air Force generals, thereby becoming the first to have had commanders from all four services (USACOM was redesignated as JFCOM in 1999).[22] CENTCOM and SOUTHCOM were traditionally Army general positions until the Marines received their first CinC assignments. This led the way for General Pace to become the first Vice Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and ultimately Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. CCDRs are strong candidates for either position.[citation needed] The two newest commands, AFRICOM and NORTHCOM, have had the fewest number of commanders, with all of AFRICOM's being Army and NORTHCOM's alternating between the Air Force and Navy, until its first Army commander, General Charles H. Jacoby, Jr., took command in August 2011.

Countries assigned to each Command[edit]

Command Country Name Country Code[23]
USCENTCOM Afghanistan AF
USEUCOM Albania AL
USAFRICOM Algeria DZ
USEUCOM Andorra AD
USAFRICOM Angola AO
USPACOM Antarctica AQ
USSOUTHCOM Antigua and Barbuda AG
USSOUTHCOM Argentina AR
USEUCOM Armenia AM
USSOUTHCOM Aruba AW
USPACOM Australia AU
USEUCOM Austria AT
USEUCOM Azerbaijan AZ
USNORTHCOM Bahamas BS
USCENTCOM Bahrain BH
USPACOM Bangladesh BD
USSOUTHCOM Barbados BB
USEUCOM Belarus BY
USEUCOM Belgium BE
USSOUTHCOM Belize BZ
USAFRICOM Benin BJ
USNORTHCOM Bermuda BM
USPACOM Bhutan BT
USSOUTHCOM Bolivia BO
USAFRICOM Botswana BW
USEUCOM Boznia and Herzegovina BA
USSOUTHCOM Brazil BR
USNORTHCOM British Virgin Islands VG
USPACOM Brunei BN
USEUCOM Bulgaria BG
USAFRICOM Burkina Faso BF
USPACOM Burma BU
USAFRICOM Burundi BI
USPACOM Cambodia KH
USAFRICOM Cameroon CM
USNORTHCOM Canada CA
USAFRICOM Cape Verde CV
USSOUTHCOM Cayman Islands KY
USAFRICOM Central African Republic CF
USAFRICOM Chad TD
USSOUTHCOM Chile CL
USPACOM China CN
USSOUTHCOM Colombia CO
USAFRICOM Comoros KM
USSOUTHCOM Costa Rica CR
USEUCOM Croatia HR
USNORTHCOM Cuba CU
USSOUTHCOM Curacao CW
USEUCOM Cyprus CY
USEUCOM Czech Republic CZ
USAFRICOM Democratic Republic of the Congo CD
USEUCOM Denmark DK
USAFRICOM Djibouti DJ
USSOUTHCOM Dominica DM
USSOUTHCOM Dominican Republic DO
USSOUTHCOM Ecuador EC
USCENTCOM Egypt EG
USSOUTHCOM El Salvador SV
USAFRICOM Equatorial Guinea GQ
USAFRICOM Eritrea ER
USEUCOM Estonia EE
USAFRICOM Ethiopia ET
USPACOM Fiji FJ
USEUCOM Finland FI
USEUCOM France FR
USAFRICOM Gabon GA
USAFRICOM Gambia GM
USEUCOM Georgia GE
USEUCOM Germany DE
USAFRICOM Ghana GH
USEUCOM Greece GR
USSOUTHCOM Grenada GD
USAFRICOM Guinea GN
USAFRICOM Guinea-Bissau GW
USSOUTHCOM Guyana GY
USSOUTHCOM Haiti HT
USEUCOM Holy See (The Vatican) VA
USSOUTHCOM Honduras HN
USEUCOM Hungary HU
USEUCOM Iceland IS
USPACOM India IN
USPACOM Indonesia ID
USCENTCOM Iran IR
USCENTCOM Iraq IQ
USEUCOM Ireland IE
USEUCOM Israel IL
USEUCOM Italy IT
USAFRICOM Ivory Coast CI
USSOUTHCOM Jamaica JM
USPACOM Japan JP
USCENTCOM Jordan JO
USCENTCOM Kazakhstan KZ
USAFRICOM Kenya KE
USPACOM Kiribati KI
USEUCOM Kosovo XK
USCENTCOM Kuwait KW
USCENTCOM Kyrgyzstan KG
USPACOM Laos LA
USEUCOM Latvia LV
USCENTCOM Lebanon LB
USAFRICOM Lesotho LS
USAFRICOM Liberia LR
USAFRICOM Libya LY
USEUCOM Liechtenstein LI
USEUCOM Lithuania LT
USEUCOM Luxembourg LU
USEUCOM Macedonia MK
USAFRICOM Madagascar MG
USAFRICOM Malawi MW
USPACOM Malaysia MY
USPACOM Maldives MV
USAFRICOM Mali ML
USEUCOM Malta MT
USPACOM Marshall Islands MH
USAFRICOM Mauritania MR
USAFRICOM Mauritius MU
USAFRICOM Mayotte YT
USNORTHCOM Mexico MX
USPACOM Micronesia FM
USEUCOM Moldova MD
USEUCOM Monaco MC
USPACOM Mongolia MN
USEUCOM Montenegro ME
USAFRICOM Morocco MA
USAFRICOM Mozambique MZ
USPACOM Myanmar MM
USAFRICOM Namibia NA
USPACOM Nauru NR
USPACOM Nepal NP
USEUCOM Netherlands NL
USPACOM New Zealand NZ
USSOUTHCOM Nicaragua NI
USAFRICOM Niger NE
USAFRICOM Nigeria NG
USPACOM North Korea KP
USEUCOM Norway NO
USCENTCOM Oman OM
USCENTCOM Pakistan PK
USPACOM Palau PW
USSOUTHCOM Panama PA
USPACOM Papua New Guinea PG
USSOUTHCOM Paraguay PY
USSOUTHCOM Peru PE
USPACOM Philippines PH
USEUCOM Poland PL
USEUCOM Portugal PT
USCENTCOM Qatar QA
USAFRICOM Republic of the Congo CG
USAFRICOM Réunion RE
USEUCOM Romania RO
USEUCOM Russia RU
USAFRICOM Rwanda RW
USAFRICOM Saint Helena, Ascension and Tristan da Cunha SH
USSOUTHCOM Saint Kitts and Nevis KN
USSOUTHCOM Saint Lucia LC
USNORTHCOM Saint Pierre and Miquelon PM
USSOUTHCOM Saint Vincent and the Grenadines VC
USPACOM Samoa WS
USEUCOM San Marino SM
USAFRICOM Sao Tome and Principe ST
USCENTCOM Saudi Arabia SA
USAFRICOM Senegal SN
USEUCOM Serbia RS
USAFRICOM Seychelles SC
USAFRICOM Sierra Leone SL
USPACOM Singapore SG
USEUCOM Slovakia SK
USEUCOM Slovenia SI
USPACOM Solomon Islands SB
USAFRICOM Somalia SO
USAFRICOM South Africa ZA
USPACOM South Korea KR
USAFRICOM South Sudan SS
USEUCOM Spain ES
USPACOM Sri Lanka LK
USAFRICOM Sudan SD
USSOUTHCOM Suriname SR
USAFRICOM Swaziland SZ
USEUCOM Sweden SE
USEUCOM Switzerland CH
USCENTCOM Syria SY
USPACOM Taiwan TW
USCENTCOM Tajikistan TJ
USAFRICOM Tanzania TZ
USPACOM Thailand TH
USPACOM Timor-Leste TL
USAFRICOM Togo TG
USPACOM Tonga TO
USSOUTHCOM Trinidad and Tobago TT
USAFRICOM Tunisia TN
USEUCOM Turkey TR
USCENTCOM Turkmenistan TM
USNORTHCOM Turks & Caicos Islands TC
USPACOM Tuvalu TV
USAFRICOM Uganda UG
USEUCOM Ukraine UA
USCENTCOM United Arab Emirates AE
USEUCOM United Kingdom GB
USNORTHCOM United States US
USSOUTHCOM Uruguay UY
USCENTCOM Uzbekistan UZ
USPACOM Vanuatu VU
USSOUTHCOM Venezuela VE
USPACOM Vietnam VN
USAFRICOM Western Sahara EH
USCENTCOM Yemen YE
USAFRICOM Zambia ZM
USAFRICOM Zimbabwe ZW

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ Joint Pub 1, p. GL-11.
  2. ^ Story, p. 2
  3. ^ Watson, Cynthia A. (2010). Combatant Commands: Origins, Structure, and Engagements. ABC-CLIO. p. 3. ISBN 978-0-313-35432-8. 
  4. ^ Whitley, Joe D. et al, ed. (2010). Homeland security: legal and policy issues. American Bar Association. pp. 44–45. ISBN 978-1-60442-462-1. 
  5. ^ DefenseLINK - Unified Command Plan
  6. ^ Joint Pub 1-02, p. 61.
  7. ^ Joint Pub 1-02
  8. ^ Joint Pub 1, p. IV-4.
  9. ^ JCS (1985), p. 1
  10. ^ JCS (1977), p. 1
  11. ^ JCS (1977), p. 2
  12. ^ Joint History Office, "History of the Unified Command Plan 1946–1993," 14–15.
  13. ^ JCS (1977), p. 3.
  14. ^ JCS (1977), p. 5.
  15. ^ JCS (1977), p. 6.
  16. ^ Naval Advancement
  17. ^ JCS (1977), p. 4
  18. ^ 10 U.S.C. 161
  19. ^ AFRICOM FAQs
  20. ^ Joint Pub 1, p. V-9.
  21. ^ Holder and Murray, p. 86.
  22. ^ Joint Warfighting Center History
  23. ^ ISO 3166-1 alpha-2

References[edit]

External links[edit]