Some observers have cited the massive changes in the Department of Defense (DoD), most being made this fall, as the largest reorganization of the U.S. defense structure since establishment of the department in 1947. Perhaps most significant is a new combatant command responsible for the land, aerospace, and sea defenses of the United States. Called Northern Command (NorthCom), it will command forces within the United States and area waters to help DoD counter terrorist and military attacks, coordinate DoD assistance in natural disasters or other civil difficulties, and provide more coordinated military support to civil authorities.
Beyond U.S. territory and adjacent waters, NorthCom's area of responsibility includes Cuba. The remainder of the Caribbean area is within the purview of the U.S. Southern Command. The Cuban shift elicited this comment from an unidentified DoD official: "It's messy and everyone recognizes that. But they wanted to have a sense of covering the approaches" to the United States from the sea.
Unclear so far is how Coast Guard or naval forces in U.S. ports and waters will relate to NorthCom. For example, in the aftermath of the 11 September 2001 terrorist attacks, Navy and Marine Corps aircraft based at U.S. airfields flew combat air patrols over major U.S. cities. In the past, naval fighters operated temporarily with the continental air defense command.
NorthCom was scheduled to commence operations on 1 October, with Air Force General Ralph Eberhart as its commander-in-chief. He served previously as commander-in-chief of both the U.S. Space Command (SpaceCom) and North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD), a subcommand of SpaceCom. Under the reorganization, NORAD will be a subordinate command of NorthCom, with headquarters planned to be at Peterson Air Force Base in Colorado.
"Some in the past have worried that creation of a command that covered the United States of America could be inward-looking," Secretary of Defense Donald H. Rumsfeld said in a Pentagon press conference earlier this year. "Nothing could be further from the truth. The creation of NorthCom means that we now have a command assigned to defend the American people where they live and work, and it will be functioning in a supporting role to civil authorities as occasions arise."
Many of the other unified commands—now generally referred to as combatant and functional commands—are undergoing changes. Essentially all operating forces are assigned to these commands, which plan for military operations, direct exercises and combat operations, and have operational control of specifically assigned forces. There will now be nine unified commands. Six, including NorthCom, have responsibility for specific geographic areas, and three have worldwide areas of responsibility. The unified command structure is not fixed by law or regulation, and periodically, the President and the Secretary of Defense change their number and their respective responsibilities.
The Joint Forces Command (ForceCom) was established in its previous form on 7 October 1999 to control all U.S. forces in the Atlantic area. Formerly the U.S. Atlantic Command (USACom), ForceCom has been responsible for U.S. military operations in the Atlantic area. The service component commands under ForceCom included the Atlantic Fleet (including the Second Fleet) and Marine Forces Atlantic (including the II Marine Expeditionary Force).
Although ostensibly responsible for all conventional military forces in the United States, USACom did not control Pacific Fleet forces based on the U.S. west coast; those forces—including Marine Forces Pacific—continued to come under the Pacific Command (PacCom). Although emphasis had increased on "universal" doctrine and structure for U.S. forces, the geography, personality, allies, and other factors make operations in the Pacific very different from those in the European-Atlantic and other regions.
ForceCom will become a functional rather than a combatant command. Its geographic area of responsibility transfers to the U.S. Northern and European Commands, and its homeland defense responsibilities go to NorthCom. As a result, ForceCom will be able to focus on helping transform U.S. military forces.
Under the current reorganization, ForceCom gives up the Second Fleet to the U.S. European Command. Complicating the change is the fact that CinCForceCom (and his predecessors) concurrently held the position of Supreme Allied Commander Atlantic (SACLant) in the NATO structure. Because of the U.S. changes and an ongoing review of the NATO command structure, DoD has proposed to NATO that after 1 October the Alliance temporarily keep the SACLant position unfilled pending further study. The Deputy SACLant (a British flag officer) now has interim responsibility for day-to-day operations. ForceCom is headquartered in Norfolk, Virginia.
Central Command (CentCom) has area responsibility for the Middle East; southwest Asia (Afghanistan, Iran, Iraq, and Pakistan); the Persian Gulf and Arabian Sea; northwest Africa (Egypt, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Kenya, Libya, Somalia, and Sudan); and the central Asian states of the former Soviet Union (Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, and Uzbekistan). Previously, the U.S. European Command had responsibility for Israel, Lebanon, and Syria.
CentCom directed U.S. military operations in the buildup and war in the Persian Gulf War in 1990-1991 and the subsequent air strikes against Iraq (including Operation Desert Fox and the northern and southern "no-fly zones"). Now it is directing combat operations in Afghanistan. CentCom's naval components comprise the Fifth Fleet.
CentCom headquarters are at MacDill Air Force Base in Tampa, Florida. During the Gulf War, however, General Norman Schwarzkopf, CinCCentCom, established a forward headquarters in Saudi Arabia. The current conflict in Afghanistan has led to proposals that CentCom move its headquarters to that area. An exercise later this year is expected to provide DoD with data to decide whether or not to move CentCom headquarters.
The European Command (EuCom) is responsible for all of Europe as well as Russia and most of the former Soviet republics (Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Georgia, Moldova, and Ukraine), most of Africa, and the Mediterranean. With the demise of ForceCom as an operational command, EuCom is now responsible for U.S. military operations throughout the Atlantic area. This means that EuCom now commands the Second Fleet, previously under ForceCom/USACom, as well as the Sixth Fleet in the Mediterranean, which long has been under the U.S. European Command. The Sixth Fleet is "double hatted" as a NATO force, in the same manner that CinCEuCom is also the NATO Supreme Allied Commander Europe. EuCom is headquartered in Stuttgart-Vaihingen, Germany.
Pacific Command (PacCom) has responsibility for the entire Pacific Ocean, from 500 miles off the U.S. West Coast to the coasts of Siberia, China, all of southeast Asia, Australia, New Zealand, and the Indian Ocean to the eastern coast of Africa. Obviously, PacCom needs to coordinate with the U.S. European and Central Commands. The PacCom subordinate commands include the U.S. Pacific Fleet, with the Third Fleet (eastern Pacific) and Seventh Fleet (western Pacific-Indian Ocean). PacCom is headquartered at Camp H. M. Smith, Hawaii.
Southern Command (SouthCom) is responsible for operations in Central and South America, including coastal waters, and the Caribbean and Gulf of Mexico, except Cuba. SouthCom is headquartered in Miami, Florida.
Strategic Command (StratCom) is responsible for all U.S. strategic forces. The Strategic Air Command (SAC), a specified command with only Air Force components, was abolished in 1992, and most of its resources were assigned to the newly formed Strategic Command. Also incorporated into StratCom were the Joint Strategic Target Planning Staff (JSTPS), a multiservice agency that plans the laydown of U.S. strategic weapons and strategic missile submarine operations.
The latter includes the Navy's communications squadrons VQ-3 and VQ-4, which provide communications relay to strategic missile submarines under a program known as TACAMO ("Take Charge and Move Out"). Secretary of Defense Rumsfeld announced that he would merge StratCom and the U.S. Space Command on 1 October. Those unified commands' missions included control of U.S. nuclear forces, military space operations, computer network operations, and strategic warning.3 According to Secretary Rumsfeld, "The missions of SpaceCom and StratCom have evolved to the point where merging the two into a single entity will eliminate redundancies in the command structure and streamline the decision making process." He added, "The merged command will be responsible for both early warning of and defense against missile attack as well as longrange conventional attacks." The new command will use the StratCom headquarters at Offutt Air Force Base, Nebraska.
Space Command (SpaceCom) previously controlled all U.S. activities and forces in space, and monitored foreign activities. In addition, SpaceCom was given responsibility in 1999 for DoD computer network defense-monitoring and attempting to stop cyber intrusions. SpaceCom headquarters were at Peterson Air Force Base, Colorado Springs, Colorado. With the merger of StratCom and SpaceCom, headquarters of the new command will be at Offutt, with Peterson to become NorthCom headquarters.
The Special Operations Command (SOCom) directs U.S. special forces activities throughout the world by way of the subordinate CinCs of the geographic unified commands. SOCom differs from all other unified commands by having major budget planning and manpower management responsibilities similar to those of the military services. Its component commands include the Naval Special Warfare Command. SOCom is headquartered at MacDill Air Force Base, Tampa, Florida.
The Transportation Command (TransCom) is responsible for all U.S. military air and sea transport resources assigned to it. Components include the Navy's Military Sealift Command. TransCom's headquarters is at Scott Air Force Base in Illinois.
In addition to the unified combatant and functional commands, several sub-unified commands and combined commands have important roles in U.S. defense strategy. One that warrants special attention is the North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD), a binational combined command of Canadian and U.S. Forces responsible for warning and air defense for North America. The CinCNORAD also served as the CinCSpaceCom. Under the current reorganization with the abolishment of SpaceCom, NORAD becomes subordinate to NorthCom.