New challenges for the unified command plan. (Military Transformation).
Perhaps the most significant aspect of the new plan is the establishment of U.S. Northern Command (NORTHCOM), which has responsibility for land, sea, and aerospace defense of the continental United States (CONUS) and Alaska, the seaward approaches to the United States out to 500 miles, Canada, Mexico, the Gulf of Mexico, and large portions of the Caribbean. It will also have responsibility for all forces operating within the United States in support of civil authorities, particularly to counter terrorist threats and deal with terrorist attacks that are beyond the capacity of civil authorities, aid first responders in natural disasters, assist in counterdrug operations, protect national infrastructure through the critical asset protection program, and, with the services, enhance force protection for CONUS bases and installations. Additionally, NORTHCOM will be the focus of civil-military planning and support to ensure close and continuous coordination with the Coast Guard, Federal Bureau of Investigation, Drug Enforcement Administration, Federal Emergency Management Agency, Immigration and Naturalization Service, Centers for Disease Control, and other Federal, state, and local agencies with homeland security roles. Accordingly, the command, which will be activated at Peterson Air Force Base on October 1, 2002, is likely to have personnel from civilian agencies, and its representatives may be situated with other agencies for liaison and planning. It is also expected to have command and staff representation from the active and Reserve components, including the Army and Air National Guard, which are integral to homeland defense and support civil authorities when requested and authorized.
While the Secretary of Defense cites NORTHCOM as the first time homeland defense has been assigned to a single commander, the idea has been around for some time. During hearings on defense reorganization in 1958, Senator Henry ("Scoop") Jackson questioned the likely need for a homeland defense command similar to those proposed for overseas:
Supposing a finding is made that the threat is not only in the Pacific where we have a unified command, or in the European theater, or in the Middle East where we have a unified command, but there is reason to believe that the first target might be the United States, the homeland. On what basis can you accept the unified command concept outside of the United States and reject it in? (1)
In response, Jackson and fellow senators as well as others raised the specter of the man on horseback, a military leader who might threaten civil liberties and the viability of the Republic. Such critics held that a commander responsible for the homeland and authority over CONUS-based forces or a strong Chairman with a general staff and operational authority could represent the threat to the Government that the founding fathers sought to avoid through militias and a constitutional proscription against large standing armies.
The notion of a unified command structure for homeland defense resurfaced in the summer of 1998 when the issue of preparing the National Guard and other units for response to a biological or chemical attack arose in high administration circles. The former Deputy Secretary of Defense, John Hamre, told NATO officers that the Pentagon was entertaining the idea of creating a regional commander for the United States and reinforced the longstanding DOD view of military assistance to civil authority: "We don't believe we have the primary responsibility, but within minutes of an event, people are going to turn to us." (2) Again civil libertarians and journalists portrayed the idea of a CONUS regional commander as a threat to individual rights, especially if the Armed Forces were involved in law enforcement. In response to the American Civil Liberties Union and other critics, the unified command plan issued in 1999 recommended organizing a standing Joint Task Force for Civil Support (JTF/CS) under U.S. Joint Forces Command (JFCOM) as an interim step. The task force served as a focal point for military planning and assistance to civil authority. It was initially commanded by a National Guard brigadier general, a citizen-soldier with ties to the civil sector, in an attempt to assuage concern over the new command as a threat to civil authority on any level.
The events of 9/11 caused a sea change in thinking on the political acceptability and military necessity of a homeland defense command. At the press conference announcing the establishment of NORTHCOM, the Chairman remarked, "If you look at how the department responded to needs up in New York after the World Trade Center, you might find that ... there was not good unity of effort ... we'll have a focus on what will allow us to provide what's needed at the right time to the right Federal agency or perhaps a state agency...." In this respect, it is anticipated that this new command will control only mission-essential forces on a day-to-day basis. And like other regional commanders, additional forces will be provided to meet emergent threats and specific missions, dampening fear of one individual commanding sufficient forces to threaten the Republic.
Joint task forces. NORTHCOM will assume responsibility for JTF/CS on October 1. The task force is likely to remain in Norfolk under a two- or three-star flag officer. It will probably grow in size and capability as active and Reserve units are identified and new technologies are fielded to help civil authorities meet a nuclear, biological, chemical, radiation, or conventional terrorist attack in the United States or overseas, support other unified commands, and answer calls for assistance in natural or other disasters that tax the response capabilities of state and local authorities.
Moreover, NORTHCOM could serve as a model for restructuring other unified commands in the future by using the concept of standing joint task force headquarters. Such headquarters could focus on planning for certain regions or contingencies and could be deployed with variable and tailored forces to meet specific operational needs on short notice. The Secretary of Defense, Donald Rumsfeld, has declared that he is a fan of standing joint task forces: "If an event occurs and there is not a standing joint task force that is organized, arranged, staffed, well-coordinated, familiar with everybody, available to deal with something ... it may not get started quite as fast as it otherwise would."
Pentagon officials are reportedly considering restructuring overseas component commands and supporting echelons to free 6,000 billets by the end of 2002, presaging emphasis on deployed standing joint task forces in the field awaiting employment. Task force headquarters could replace component commands, streamlining infrastructure and command channels. Such headquarters can focus on regional, functional, or specific operational tasks and are expected to improve flexibility and reduce response time to surprise events. As an example, one or more standing joint task force headquarters responsible for daily engagement could plan for operations in sub-Saharan Africa and ensure familiarity with local countries and leading personalities; improve the speed, flexibility, and quality of American responses to events; and be assigned to one of two geographic commands with responsibility for emergent contingency operations. Similarly, extensive regions--like the areas of responsibility under U.S. European, Central, and Pacific Commands--might benefit from several task force headquarters responsible to combatant commanders for planning and operations within smaller, more manageable portions of their regions.
Structuring unified commands around task forces is not a new proposal. It may be an idea, like a unified command for homeland defense, whose time has arrived. In discussing the Defense Reorganization Act of 1958, Admiral Robert Carney, USN (Ret.), told the Senate:
Another good reason for refraining from any all-inclusive, preset, and rigid command arrangements can be found in the task-force principle: When the task is known, appropriate forces are assigned to the job, and command arrangements are set up to fit the task and the forces assigned.... Here flexibility is what is needed, not some rigid organizational structure. Why set up fixed arrangements for unforeseeable contingencies? (3)
The joint task force model also lends itself to creating interagency organizations for specific aspects of homeland defense. NORTHCOM may incorporate multiple joint interagency task forces (JIATFs) composed of representatives of various agencies with a narrow focus. There are JIATFs for counterdrug operations in the Atlantic and Pacific regions that serve as models. NORTHCOM will assume responsibility for counterdrug operations within its region, working with PACOM and SOUTHCOM to stem the flow of illegal drugs. Military support for interdiction on the border of the United States under JTF-6 will begin reporting to NORTHCOM in October. JIATFs could be organized to counter illegal immigration or other activities where military assistance is needed.
Finally, NATO experience gained from combined joint task forces composed of elements of several nations may serve as models for NORTHCOM to create similar task forces with assets from the United States, Canada, and Mexico for highly focused homeland defense and hemispheric security purposes. Moreover, Washington is expected to argue for restructuring NATO command structures at the Prague summit in November 2002, advocating the development of high-readiness commands and NATO mobile joint headquarters, perhaps beginning with special operations forces capitalizing on the close Allied cohesion in Afghanistan.
Maritime defense. NORTHCOM will be responsible for coastal approaches to the United States out to 500 miles, plus the Gulf of Mexico and portions of the Caribbean. U.S. European Command (EUCOM) will cover the Atlantic Ocean east of a line of longitude below the southern tip of Greenland. These actions remove the last vestiges of an area of responsibility from JFCOM, leaving it as a functional command. The Coast Guard remains responsible for defending harbors, ports, and coastal waters, while the Navy will cover deepwater approaches. Arrangements will be worked out with regard to both Pacific and Atlantic defense responsibilities, perhaps in the form of standing joint task forces reporting through Maritime Defense Zone commanders or the commander of Pacific Fleet Forces and his counterpart in the Atlantic. In addition, there must be clear lines of authority for the Coast Guard within the NORTHCOM structure and among the Departments of Transportation, Defense, and Navy.
Land defense. With an ill-defined yet demonstrated asymmetric threat to the United States, the nature of the organizational structure for territorial defense will require study and innovation. Again, regional standing joint task forces with designated Army commanders responsible may be the organizing concept. The Reserve components will play a large part and may require reworking to create units optimized for homeland defense roles and missions. Impediments in interpreting Title 10 and 32 authorities for mobilizing and utilizing the National Guard must be ironed out. The use of Guardsmen for airport security since September 2001 is an instructive case.
Air and missile defense. When NORTHCOM is formally established, its commander will assume duties as commander of the North American Aerospace Command (NORAD), a bilateral element focused on aerospace defense of the hemisphere with Canadian forces integrated on every staff and operational level. NORAD reports to both U.S. and Canadian authorities. This current arrangement is unlikely to change, having proven effective in providing a joint and combined capability for warning and response to threats and intrusions in North American airspace. It would seem logical, and within the scope of his responsibilities for homeland defense, that when systems for intercepting ballistic and cruise missiles are fielded, the overall command of forces should be assigned to NORTHCOM. Missile defense units could be integrated with NORAD since they would be purely defensive or separately organized as a standing joint task force, although the former may be more advisable given likely Canadian participation in some if not all aspects of the future missile defense system and given the nature of a broader evolving threat.
Cyber defense. NORTHCOM may be the logical command to assume responsibility for computer network defense, an area critical to homeland defense which, like national infrastructure, will involve far more than DOD efforts. With ties to the civil sector, the command may prove best suited to integrate military capabilities and procedures with others to thwart this new age national security hazard. Computer network attack, on the other hand, might best be assigned to another command, given the strategic nature, targeting requirements, and often unintended consequences of such an attack being authorized and carried out. Like strategic nuclear weapons, the decision to launch a cyber attack will probably be made by the President or Secretary of Defense, and plans to employ such weapons should be integrated into war plans of regional commands, much like some nuclear weapons. U.S. Strategic Command (STRATCOM) or U.S. Special Operations Command (SOCOM) may be the logical venue for centralized planning and implementation of cyber attacks.
Bilateral command headquarters. Just as NORAD is a bilateral command, NORTHCOM in the course of its evolution is likely to become a U.S.-Canadian (and in time Mexican) multinational command for all aspects of hemispheric defense--land, sea, aerospace, and cyber. This structure will probably take the form of an expansion of the current NORAD framework to include land and maritime defense responsibilities, thus enhancing hemispheric unity of effort.
Joint Forces Command
As mentioned, with implementation of the new unified command plan, JFCOM will no longer have geographical responsibilities. This will enable the command to focus on the joint experimentation functions it was established to advance: joint training, providing joint forces to unified combatant commanders, and joint doctrine development. The Chairman, General Richard Myers, underscored how the new plan bolsters the JFCOM role in transformation: "With an eye on the future, [it] will allow us to integrate new ideas and concepts into our forces, into our doctrine and strategy, and our tactics, and it will keep the edge we need to quickly adapt to the uncertainties ahead." (4) It will also enable JFCOM, as the provider of forces to regional commanders as authorized by the Secretary of Defense, to focus on training all CONUS-based forces for assignment to joint commanders. Some commanders had early doubts that a single force provider responsible for a region would place force development and apportionment needs above other responsibilities. This action should dispel those doubts.
One remaining issue is the role of Commander, JFCOM, as Supreme Allied Commander Atlantic (SACLANT). To focus on providing ready forces to unified commanders and enhancing joint force training, integration, and transformation, he must be divested of NATO responsibilities. Indeed, that intention has been announced and it is being negotiated with the Allies. Traditionally SACLANT has been the NATO major command held by Commander, Atlantic Command, a naval officer who is equivalent to Supreme Allied Commander Europe (SACEUR) within NATO. Even though the unified command plan does not directly address NATO or other international command responsibilities, the Alliance command structure remains a subliminal UCP consideration. General Colin Powell as Chairman polled his Allied counterparts in 1993 and found no major objection to SACLANT being other than a naval officer. Since then SACLANT has been headed by a Marine general, a Navy admiral, and an Army general.
Several options may be considered on both sides of the Atlantic with regard to the future of SACLANT. One is abolishing the current role, absent a major maritime threat since the decline of the Soviet navy. This option is not likely to be favored given improved NATO naval operational doctrine and tactics as illustrated by integrated naval forces for Desert Storm, subsequent Adriatic and Balkan operations, and ongoing efforts in the Middle East, Persian Gulf, and Indian Ocean. In addition, SACLANT is charged with force experimentation and integration by NATO and with transformational thinking in parallel with JFCOM. Finally, many Europeans regard a major NATO headquarters in Norfolk as an anchor of the Alliance, ensuring that America remains a full partner.
Another approach is dual-hatting Commander, U.S. Fleet Forces Command/Commander U.S. Atlantic Fleet, as SACLANT. That would call for the position to be continuously occupied by a naval officer, placing a larger burden on the commander, who is responsible for the Pacific as well as Atlantic fleets for administration and training and is a newly established major voice in the Navy budgeting process.
Another option would be to establish another four-star billet as SACLANT. Aside from the additional position, there would be little personnel impact since a fully manned NATO headquarters already is functioning in Norfolk, with manpower contributions from the maritime Allies.
A final option would be subordinating SACLANT within the SACEUR structure and either a European or American naval officer filling the billet. The headquarters could move to Europe. This can be rationalized since the Atlantic area assigned to EUCOM/SACEUR is largely congruent with NATO subregional demarcations. On the other hand, this approach may be opposed by Allies who want to retain a headquarters in the United States for political and military reasons. More will be heard on this subject as the future of SACLANT is negotiated within NATO councils.
A third major change in the unified command plan is the allocation of previously unassigned geographic areas which, as the Chairman stated, "prepares us for the future by assigning every area of the globe to a combatant commander's area of responsibility, thereby streamlining and facilitating our military relationships with respect to all nations." (5)
Russia is assigned to EUCOM which, in coordination with PACOM for planning and engagement activities with that country in the Pacific, will be the focal point for all military relations with it. U.S. relations with the Soviet Union and its Russian successor were of such sensitivity as to demand oversight in Washington, where all proposed policies, contacts, and activities were considered and approved by an interagency process, often on the highest levels. Following the end of the Cold War, the dissolution of the Warsaw Pact, and the demise of the Soviet Union, relations with Moscow somewhat normalized, permitting assignment of the military-to-military relationship to EUCOM within the European theater and further reflecting evolving Russian political and military relationships with NATO and Western Europe.
Antarctica falls under U.S. Pacific Command (PACOM), marking the first time it has been assigned to an area of responsibility by the unified command plan. Although there is no intention of abrogating the treaty provisions that specify the demilitarization of Antarctica, since all military operations that support efforts by the National Science Foundation operate through Christchurch, New Zealand, and since New Zealand is within the PACOM area of responsibility, it was deemed appropriate to include Antarctica in the same area.
Canada and Mexico have remained unassigned in earlier unified command plans largely for political reasons, although U.S. Atlantic, Pacific, and Joint Forces Commands have been involved in Canadian-American defense planning and U.S. Southern Command has increasingly become the interface with the Mexican armed forces. With the advent of NORTHCOM, Canada and Mexico become integral parts of the command area of responsibility, and close cooperation will be required to ensure mission success in defending CONUS and the Northern Hemisphere. Responsibilities for these neighbors are centralized today under one unified command rather than several.
Several matters are under study for further action in the next iteration of the unified command plan.
The merger of U.S. Space and Strategic Commands. Integrating these two commands has been under consideration for some time and a decision to do so was announced in late June 2002. The merged organization will be U.S. Strategic Command and stand up at Offutt Air Force Base on October 1, 2002--the same day that Northern Command is established. Advocates thought that SPACECOM, as the command that will have first warning of a missile attack on the United States, should be merged with STRATCOM to place nuclear deterrence and other response elements under one commander, who has warning and indications responsibilities. They also argued that fewer nuclear weapons and a reduced strategic targeting base after the Cold War do not justify a separate unified command. Proponents for retaining STRATCOM in its present form emphasized that the devastating nature of such weapons and their residual effects militate in favor of having one officer to whom the President and Secretary of Defense can turn with a single-mission focus on nuclear deterrence and response. Thus the basis for a strategic command is independent of the number of weapons in the inventory. It is expected that there will be a modest migration of personnel from SPACECOM Headquarters at Peterson Air Force Base to the new headquarters at Offutt Air Force Base. Previous studies indicate that the number of manpower spaces to be saved by the merger will be only 100-300 billets with no appreciable cost savings. (6)
The Annual Report to the President and the Congress by the Secretary of Defense for 2002 reiterates the new administration paradigm for strategic deterrent forces. The old triad composed of land-based missile, strategic submarine, and air forces has been displaced by a triad of nuclear and conventional strategic strike forces, strategic offensive and defensive measures to include air and missile defense and information warfare, and a vigorous strategic infrastructure to ensure nuclear weapons superiority and the needs of other elements of the new strategic triad. This new triad will undoubtedly require a review of missions for U.S. Strategic Command since they extend beyond nuclear deterrent forces and may overlap with current geographic command responsibilities. With regard to space, some have argued for the designation of space as a geographic area and creation of a geographic rather than functional command. Others go so far as envisioning a separate service for space as it becomes ever more important to national security and is recognized as an operational medium. In any event, the issues raised by the STRATCOM-SPACECOM merger will be difficult for one commander to master fully and will take time to sort out.
West coast forces. Another issue, although not addressed in the unified command plan, is the assignment of the largely Navy and Marine Corps forces on the west coast. Traditionally these forces have been apportioned to PACOM and remain distributed to unified commands. Similarly, forces in Alaska remain under PACOM because of their projection capabilities, while responsibility for the defense of Alaska is moved to NORTHCOM. A study on the future of west coast forces, which is a highly charged political issue, should be completed by October 1. Senator Dan Inouye of Hawaii is a major voice for retaining the forces under PACOM: "If this is ever translated in such a way that the people in Asia would get the idea that we are beginning to withdraw our forces and thereby show a lack of interest [in the region], then we are in deep trouble." (7)
If the forces are reassigned, the responsible unified command is most likely to be JFCOM, with command of CONUS-based forces except for units assigned to other commands for mission-related purposes. Those who argue for reassigning west coast forces cite JFCOM responsibility for joint force training and integration and for providing ready forces to all unified commands, and that this mission is hampered without full access to west coast forces. This argument is defused in part by recent changes to service component command structures that effectively enable JFCOM to place nondeployed CONUS forces under U.S. Air Combat Command (less assets designated for U.S. Transportation and Strategic Commands), Commander, U.S. Fleet Forces Command, and U.S. Army Forces Command, component commands of JFCOM responsible for force training, readiness, and joint training and integration. A similar realignment is being considered that would place Marine forces under Fleet Marine Forces Atlantic or Fleet Marine Forces Pacific for training and administrative oversight. Even so, the issue of west coast forces remains thorny.
Director of Military Support and Office of the Secretary of Defense. With establishment of NORTHCOM and its responsibility for defending the Nation and supporting civil authorities, the Director of Military Support in the Department of the Army is largely redundant. The structure will likely be abolished and its resources reapportioned to JTF/CS, NORTHCOM headquarters, and the Joint Staff. In addition, there is likely to be reorganization in the Office of the Secretary of Defense to provide focused high-level civilian oversight to homeland defense matters and military support to civil authority and departmental representation in the interagency arena. The Secretary of the Army is currently responsible for this function as executive agent for homeland security.
It is worth reemphasizing the influence of the unified command plan on current and future events. Approved by the President, it prescribes high-level command arrangements for operational forces on a global basis. In structural terms, the plan has a major impact on operations. As such it warrants attention by joint commanders, planners, and students of military affairs. As a pillar of strategy, the plan should not become stagnant, but rather should reflect the organizational structure necessary to respond to the tenor and threats of the emerging global environment. This new plan is a major step toward ensuring that command arrangements are structured for present circumstances and a future replete with uncertainty and surprise.
Unified Command Plan: Areas of Responsibility (effective October 1, 2002)
Unified Commands--An Overview
U.S. Central Command (CENTCOM), MacDill Air Force Base (Tampa, Florida). Activated in 1983 as the successor to the Rapid Deployment Joint Task Force (RDJTF), a temporary organization which stood up in 1980 to project military power in the Middle East and East Africa, CENTCOM component commands include U.S. Army Forces Central Command (ARGENT), U.S. Naval Forces Central Command (NAVCENT), U.S. Marine Forces Central Command (MARCENT), U.S. Central Command Air Forces (CENTAF), and Special Operations Command Central (SOCCENT).
U.S. European Command (EUCOM), Patch Barracks (Stuttgart-Vaihingen, Germany). Established in 1952, from a previous command initially organized in 1947, EUCOM component commands include U.S. Army Europe (USAEUR), U.S. Naval Forces Europe (USNAVEUR), U.S. Marine Forces Europe (MARFOREUR), U.S. Air Forces Europe (USAFE), and Special Operations Command Europe (SOCEUR).
U.S. Joint Forces Command (JFCOM), Norfolk Naval Base (Norfolk, Virginia). Successor organization to U.S. Atlantic Command (LANTCOM), established in 1947, and to U.S. Atlantic Command (ACOM) which was comprised of Forces Command, Atlantic Fleet, Marine Corps Forces Command Atlantic, and Air Combat Command in 1993; redesignated as JFCOM in 1999; to emphasize its role in military transformation, JFCOM will no longer have a geographic area of responsibility as of October 1,2002.
U.S. Northern Command (NORTHCOM), Peterson Air Force Base (Colorado Springs, Colorado). To stand up on October 1,2002, it will have responsibility for defense of the continental United States and Alaska, the seaward approaches to the United States, and large portions of the Caribbean.
U.S. Pacific Command (PACOM), Camp H.M. Smith (Oahu, Hawaii). Established in 1947, PACOM has Army, Navy, Marine Corps, and Air Force component commands.
U.S. Space Command (SPACECOM), Peterson Air Force Base (Colorado Springs, Colorado). See entry below under STRATCOM.
U.S. Southern Command (SOUTHCOM), (Miami, Florida). Redesignated as SOUTHCOM in 1963, it traces lineage to Panama Canal Department, which activated in 1917, and the subsequent establishment of Caribbean Command in 1947; its component commands include U.S. Army South (USARSO), U.S. Southern Air Force (USAFSO)--12th Air Force, U.S. Atlantic (LANTFLT), U.S. Marine Corps Forces, SOUTHCOM (MARFORSOUTH), and Special Operations Command SOUTHCOM (SOCSOUTH).
U.S. Special Operations Command (SOCOM), MacDill Air Force Base (Tampa, Florida). Established in 1987, SOCOM has Army, Navy, Marine Corps, and Air Force component commands.
U.S. Strategic Command (STRATCOM), Offutt Air Force Base (Bellevue, Nebraska). Established in 1992 as the successor to Strategic Air Command, which was organized in 1946, it has responsibility for the planning, targeting, and wartime employment of strategic forces while training, equipping, and maintenance of forces remain under the Navy and Air Force; it will absorb SPACECOM and assume all duties for full-spectrum global strike, operational space support, integrated missile defense, and global [C.sup.4]ISR and specialized planning expertise as of October 1, 2002.
U.S. Transportation Command (TRANSCOM), Scott Air Force Base (Belleville, Illinois). Organized in 1987, it integrates activities of three service component commands: Military Traffic Management Command, Military Sealift Command, and Air Mobility Command.
[Note: The State of Alaska is in the NORTHCOM area of responsibility, but the forces based in Alaska remain assigned to PACOM.]
(1) U.S. Congress, Senate, Committee on Armed Services, hearings on HR 12541, An Act to Promote the National Defense by Providing for the Reorganization of the Department of Defense and for Other Purposes, 85th Cong., 2d sess., June 17-July 9, 1958, p. 199.
(2) Judith Miller et al., Germs: Biological Weapons and America's Secret War (New York: Simon and Schuster, 2001), pp. 245-46.
(3) Hearings before the Senate Committee on Armed Services, p. 383.
(4) Special Briefing on the unified command plan, news transcript, Defense Link, April 17, 2002.
(6) Joint History Office, The History of the Unified Command Plan 1946-1993 (Washington: Office of the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, 1995), p. 111.
(7) "Hawaii Retains West Coast Forces," Honolulu Advertiser, April 18, 2002.
Captain W. Spencer Johnson, USN (Ret.), is a senior analyst at Science Applications International Corporation and also has taught at the National War College.
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|Author:||Johnson, W. Spencer|
|Publication:||Joint Force Quarterly|
|Date:||Jun 22, 2002|
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