Unified combatant command

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, such as special operations, power projection, or transport. 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) establishes the missions, command responsibilities, and geographic areas of responsibility of the unified combatant commands.[5] As of August 2019, there are eleven unified combatant commands. Seven have regional responsibilities, and four have functional responsibilities. Each time the Unified Command Plan is updated, the organization of the combatant commands is reviewed for military efficiency and efficacy, 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 (per the Goldwater–Nichols Act) goes from the President through the Secretary of Defense to the combatant commanders.

Geographic combatant commands

Four geographic combatant commands have their headquarters located outside their geographic area of responsibility.
EmblemCommandAcronymEstablishedHeadquarters
United States Africa CommandUSAFRICOMOctober 1, 2008[9]Kelley Barracks, Stuttgart, Germany
United States Central CommandUSCENTCOMJanuary 1, 1983MacDill Air Force Base, Florida
United States European CommandUSEUCOMAugust 1, 1952Patch Barracks, Stuttgart, Germany
United States Indo-Pacific CommandUSINDOPACOMJanuary 1, 1947Camp H. M. Smith, Hawaii
United States Northern CommandUSNORTHCOMOctober 1, 2002Peterson Air Force Base, Colorado
United States Southern CommandUSSOUTHCOMJune 6, 1963Doral, Florida
United States Space CommandUSSPACECOMSeptember 1985[10]Peterson Air Force Base, Colorado (temporary)[11][12]

Functional combatant commands

EmblemCommandAcronymEstablishedHeadquarters
United States Cyber CommandUSCYBERCOMMay 4, 2018[13]Fort George G. Meade, Maryland
United States Special Operations CommandUSSOCOMApril 16, 1987MacDill Air Force Base, Florida
United States Strategic CommandUSSTRATCOMJune 1, 1992Offutt Air Force Base, Nebraska
United States Transportation CommandUSTRANSCOMJuly 1, 1987Scott Air Force Base, Illinois

History

The current system of unified commands in the U.S. 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.[14] A unified command structure also existed to coordinate British and U.S. military forces operating under the Combined Chiefs of Staff, which was composed of the British Chiefs of Staff Committee and the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff.[15] 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 was 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.[16] Known as the "Outline Command Plan," it would become the first in a series of Unified Command Plans. 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).[17]

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.[18] 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").[19] 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.[20]

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

A 1958 "reorganization in National Command Authority relations with the joint commands" with a "direct channel" to unified commands such as Continental Air Defense Command (CONAD) was effected after President Dwight Eisenhower expressed concern about nuclear command and control.[21] CONAD itself was disestablished in 1975.

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.[22] Examples include the U.S. Naval Forces, Eastern Atlantic and Mediterranean and the U.S. Air Force's Strategic Air Command. Like the unified commands, the specified commands reported directly to the JCS instead of their respective service chiefs.[23] These commands have not existed since the Strategic Air Command was disestablished in 1992. The relevant section of federal law, however, remains unchanged, and the President retains the power to establish a new specified command.[24]

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. Joint Forces Command was disbanded on 3 August 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 as a sub-unified 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.[25]

President Donald Trump announced on 18 August 2017 that the United States Cyber Command (USCYBERCOM) would be elevated to the status of a unified combatant command from a sub-unified command. It was also announced that the separation of the command from the NSA would be considered.[26][27] USCYBERCOM was elevated on 4 May 2018.

Vice President Mike Pence announced on 18 December 2018 that President Donald Trump had issued a memorandum ordering the stand-up of a United States Space Command (USSPACECOM)[28]. A previous unified combantant command for unified space operations was decommissioned in 2002. The new USSPACECOM will include "(1) all the general responsibilities of a Unified Combatant Command; (2) the space-related responsibilities previously assigned to the Commander, United States Strategic Command; and (3) the responsibilities of Joint Force Provider and Joint Force Trainer for Space Operations Forces"[29]. USSPACECOM was re-established on 29 August 2019.

Sub-unified combatant commands

A sub-unified command, or, subordinate unified command, may be established by combatant commanders when authorized to do so by the Secretary of Defense or the president.[30] They are created to conduct a portion of the mission or tasking of their parent geographic or functional command. Sub-unified commands may be either functional or geographic, and the commanders of sub-unified commands exercise authority similar to that of combatant commanders.

Examples of current and former sub-unified commands are the Alaskan Command (ALCOM) under USNORTHCOM, the United States Forces Korea (USFK) under USINDOPACOM, and United States Forces—Afghanistan (USFOR-A) under USCENTCOM.

Combatant commanders

Each combatant command (CCMD, also COCOM) is headed by a four-star general or admiral (the CCDR) 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.[31]

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 thus exercise administrative control (ADCON)[32] rather than operational control (OPCON—the prerogative of the combatant commander) over their forces.

Each combatant command can be led by a general or flag officer from any of the military services.

UCC area coverage by country

CommandCountry nameCountry code[33]
USCENTCOMAfghanistanAF
USEUCOMAlbaniaAL
USAFRICOMAlgeriaDZ
USEUCOMAndorraAD
USAFRICOMAngolaAO
USINDOPACOMAntarcticaAQ
USSOUTHCOMAntigua and BarbudaAG
USSOUTHCOMArgentinaAR
USEUCOMArmeniaAM
USSOUTHCOMArubaAW
USINDOPACOMAustraliaAU
USEUCOMAustriaAT
USEUCOMAzerbaijanAZ
USNORTHCOMBahamasBS
USCENTCOMBahrainBH
USINDOPACOMBangladeshBD
USSOUTHCOMBarbadosBB
USEUCOMBelarusBY
USEUCOMBelgiumBE
USSOUTHCOMBelizeBZ
USAFRICOMBeninBJ
USNORTHCOMBermudaBM
USINDOPACOMBhutanBT
USSOUTHCOMBoliviaBO
USAFRICOMBotswanaBW
USEUCOMBosnia and HerzegovinaBA
USSOUTHCOMBrazilBR
USNORTHCOMBritish Virgin IslandsVG
USINDOPACOMBruneiBN
USEUCOMBulgariaBG
USAFRICOMBurkina FasoBF
USINDOPACOMBurmaBU
USAFRICOMBurundiBI
USINDOPACOMCambodiaKH
USAFRICOMCameroonCM
USNORTHCOMCanadaCA
USAFRICOMCape VerdeCV
USSOUTHCOMCayman IslandsKY
USAFRICOMCentral African RepublicCF
USAFRICOMChadTD
USSOUTHCOMChileCL
USINDOPACOMChinaCN
USSOUTHCOMColombiaCO
USAFRICOMComorosKM
USSOUTHCOMCosta RicaCR
USEUCOMCroatiaHR
USSOUTHCOMCubaCU
USSOUTHCOMCuracaoCW
USEUCOMCyprusCY
USEUCOMCzech RepublicCZ
USAFRICOMDemocratic Republic of the CongoCD
USEUCOMDenmarkDK
USAFRICOMDjiboutiDJ
USSOUTHCOMDominicaDM
USSOUTHCOMDominican RepublicDO
USSOUTHCOMEcuadorEC
USCENTCOMEgyptEG
USSOUTHCOMEl SalvadorSV
USAFRICOMEquatorial GuineaGQ
USAFRICOMEritreaER
USEUCOMEstoniaEE
USAFRICOMEthiopiaET
USINDOPACOMFijiFJ
USEUCOMFinlandFI
USEUCOMFranceFR
USAFRICOMGabonGA
USAFRICOMGambiaGM
USEUCOMGeorgiaGE
USEUCOMGermanyDE
USAFRICOMGhanaGH
USEUCOMGreeceGR
USSOUTHCOMGrenadaGD
USSOUTHCOMGuatemalaGT
USAFRICOMGuineaGN
USAFRICOMGuinea-BissauGW
USSOUTHCOMGuyanaGY
USSOUTHCOMHaitiHT
USEUCOMHoly See (The Vatican)VA
USSOUTHCOMHondurasHN
USEUCOMHungaryHU
USEUCOMIcelandIS
USINDOPACOMIndiaIN
USINDOPACOMIndonesiaID
USCENTCOMIranIR
USCENTCOMIraqIQ
USEUCOMIrelandIE
USEUCOMIsraelIL
USEUCOMItalyIT
USAFRICOMIvory CoastCI
USSOUTHCOMJamaicaJM
USINDOPACOMJapanJP
USCENTCOMJordanJO
USCENTCOMKazakhstanKZ
USAFRICOMKenyaKE
USINDOPACOMKiribatiKI
USEUCOMKosovoXK
USCENTCOMKuwaitKW
USCENTCOMKyrgyzstanKG
USINDOPACOMLaosLA
USEUCOMLatviaLV
USCENTCOMLebanonLB
USAFRICOMLesothoLS
USAFRICOMLiberiaLR
USAFRICOMLibyaLY
USEUCOMLiechtensteinLI
USEUCOMLithuaniaLT
USEUCOMLuxembourgLU
USEUCOMMacedoniaMK
USAFRICOMMadagascarMG
USAFRICOMMalawiMW
USINDOPACOMMalaysiaMY
USINDOPACOMMaldivesMV
USAFRICOMMaliML
USEUCOMMaltaMT
USINDOPACOMMarshall IslandsMH
USAFRICOMMauritaniaMR
USAFRICOMMauritiusMU
USAFRICOMMayotteYT
USNORTHCOMMexicoMX
USINDOPACOMMicronesiaFM
USEUCOMMoldovaMD
USEUCOMMonacoMC
USINDOPACOMMongoliaMN
USEUCOMMontenegroME
USAFRICOMMoroccoMA
USAFRICOMMozambiqueMZ
USINDOPACOMMyanmarMM
USAFRICOMNamibiaNA
USINDOPACOMNauruNR
USINDOPACOMNepalNP
USEUCOMNetherlandsNL
USINDOPACOMNew ZealandNZ
USSOUTHCOMNicaraguaNI
USAFRICOMNigerNE
USAFRICOMNigeriaNG
USINDOPACOMNorth KoreaKP
USEUCOMNorwayNO
USCENTCOMOmanOM
USCENTCOMPakistanPK
USINDOPACOMPalauPW
USSOUTHCOMPanamaPA
USINDOPACOMPapua New GuineaPG
USSOUTHCOMParaguayPY
USSOUTHCOMPeruPE
USINDOPACOMPhilippinesPH
USEUCOMPolandPL
USEUCOMPortugalPT
USCENTCOMQatarQA
USAFRICOMRepublic of the CongoCG
USAFRICOMRéunionRE
USEUCOMRomaniaRO
USEUCOMRussiaRU
USAFRICOMRwandaRW
USAFRICOMSaint Helena, Ascension and Tristan da CunhaSH
USSOUTHCOMSaint Kitts and NevisKN
USSOUTHCOMSaint LuciaLC
USNORTHCOMSaint Pierre and MiquelonPM
USSOUTHCOMSaint Vincent and the GrenadinesVC
USINDOPACOMSamoaWS
USEUCOMSan MarinoSM
USAFRICOMSao Tome and PrincipeST
USCENTCOMSaudi ArabiaSA
USAFRICOMSenegalSN
USEUCOMSerbiaRS
USAFRICOMSeychellesSC
USAFRICOMSierra LeoneSL
USINDOPACOMSingaporeSG
USEUCOMSlovakiaSK
USEUCOMSloveniaSI
USINDOPACOMSolomon IslandsSB
USAFRICOMSomaliaSO
USAFRICOMSouth AfricaZA
USINDOPACOMSouth KoreaKR
USAFRICOMSouth SudanSS
USEUCOMSpainES
USINDOPACOMSri LankaLK
USAFRICOMSudanSD
USSOUTHCOMSurinameSR
USAFRICOMSwazilandSZ
USEUCOMSwedenSE
USEUCOMSwitzerlandCH
USCENTCOMSyriaSY
USINDOPACOMTaiwanTW
USCENTCOMTajikistanTJ
USAFRICOMTanzaniaTZ
USINDOPACOMThailandTH
USINDOPACOMTimor-LesteTL
USAFRICOMTogoTG
USINDOPACOMTongaTO
USSOUTHCOMTrinidad and TobagoTT
USAFRICOMTunisiaTN
USEUCOMTurkeyTR
USCENTCOMTurkmenistanTM
USNORTHCOMTurks & Caicos IslandsTC
USINDOPACOMTuvaluTV
USAFRICOMUgandaUG
USEUCOMUkraineUA
USCENTCOMUnited Arab EmiratesAE
USEUCOMUnited KingdomGB
USNORTHCOM &
USINDOPACOM
United StatesUS
USSOUTHCOMUruguayUY
USCENTCOMUzbekistanUZ
USINDOPACOMVanuatuVU
USSOUTHCOMVenezuelaVE
USINDOPACOMVietnamVN
USAFRICOMWestern SaharaEH
USCENTCOMYemenYE
USAFRICOMZambiaZM
USAFRICOMZimbabweZW

See also

Notes

  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., eds. (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. 37.
  7. Joint Pub 1-02
  8. Joint Pub 1, p. IV-4.
  9. Note: U.S. Africa Command was established on October 1, 2007 as a sub-unified command under U.S. European Command. It separated from U.S. European Command and was elevated to full unified command status on October 1, 2008.
  10. Note: U.S. Space Command was originally established as a unified combatant command in September 1985. It was disestablished in October 2002 and reestablished on August 29, 2019.
  11. http://www.airforcemag.com/Features/Pages/2019/August%202019/US-Space-Command-Takes-Reins-on-Space-Ops-But-Questions-Remain.aspx
  12. https://www.spacecom.mil/MEDIA/NEWS-ARTICLES/Article/1948103/us-space-command-establishment-ceremony-launches-new-era-of-space-superiority-c/
  13. Note: U.S. Cyber Command was established on June 23, 2009 as a sub-unified command under U.S. Strategic Command. It separated from U.S. Strategic Command and was elevated to full unified command status on May 4, 2018.
  14. JCS (1985), p. 1
  15. JCS (1977), p. 1
  16. JCS (1977), p. 2
  17. Joint History Office, "History of the Unified Command Plan 1946–1993," 14–15.
  18. JCS (1977), p. 3.
  19. JCS (1977), p. 5.
  20. JCS (1977), p. 6.
  21. Wainstein, L. (June 1975). The Evolution of U.S. Strategic Command and Control and Warning: Part One (1945-1953) (Report). Study S-467. Institute for Defense Analyses. pp. 1–138.
  22. Naval Advancement
  23. JCS (1977), p. 4
  24. 10 U.S.C. 161
  25. AFRICOM FAQs
  26. "Statement by President Donald J. Trump on the Elevation of Cyber Command" (Press release). The White House: Office of the Press Secretary. 2017-08-18. Retrieved 2017-08-18.
  27. Trump, Donald (2017-08-23). "Presidential Documents: Memorandum of August 15, 2017: Elevation of U.S. Cyber Command to a Unified Combatant Command" (PDF). Federal Register. U.S. Government Printing Office. 82 (162): 39953–39954. Retrieved 2017-08-23.
  28. "Remarks by Vice President Pence at Kennedy Space Center" (Press release). Kennedy Space Center: Office of the White House Press Secretary. 2018-12-18. Retrieved 2018-12-18.
  29. "Text of a Memorandum from the President to the Secretary of Defense Regarding the Establishment of the United States Space Command" (Press release). The White House: Office of the Press Secretary. 2018-12-18. Retrieved 2018-12-18.
  30. Joint Pub 1, p. V-9.
  31. Holder and Murray, p. 86.
  32. Lt. Col. Justin M. Redfern and Maj. Aaron M. Cornett (April 5, 2018)The challenging world of command and support relationships
  33. ISO 3166-1 alpha-2

References

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