Unified Command Plan Reflects Arctic’s Importance

WASHINGTON, April 7, 2011 — Changes made to the U.S. military’s Uni­fied Com­mand Plan shift geo­graph­ic bound­aries and stress the grow­ing impor­tance of the Arc­tic, offi­cials said. Pres­i­dent Barack Oba­ma signed the doc­u­ment yes­ter­day.

The biggest change to the plan assigns U.S. North­ern Com­mand respon­si­bil­i­ty for the Arc­tic. U.S. Euro­pean Com­mand and U.S. Pacif­ic Com­mand shared respon­si­bil­i­ty with U.S. North­ern Com­mand for the region under the last change pub­lished in Decem­ber 2008. It also places respon­si­bil­i­ty for Alas­ka under North­ern Com­mand. The pre­vi­ous plan had North­ern Com­mand and U.S. Pacif­ic Com­mand shar­ing respon­si­bil­i­ty for the state and adja­cent waters. 

“North­com was giv­en advo­ca­cy respon­si­bil­i­ty for Arc­tic capa­bil­i­ties pri­mar­i­ly due to hav­ing the only U.S. Arc­tic ter­ri­to­ry with­in its area of oper­a­tions,” a Pen­ta­gon spokesman said. 

North­ern Com­mand also already works close­ly with Cana­da and “has a habit­u­al rela­tion­ship with the Depart­ment of Home­land Secu­ri­ty and the U.S. Coast Guard,” the spokesman con­tin­ued. “These rela­tion­ships are key to human and envi­ron­men­tal safe­ty and security.” 

The doc­u­ment includes lan­guage about dis­solv­ing U.S. Joint Forces Com­mand lat­er this year, and strength­en­ing the role of U.S. Strate­gic Com­mand in com­bat­ing weapons of mass destruc­tion. The plan also assigns U.S. Trans­porta­tion Com­mand the respon­si­bil­i­ty for syn­chro­niz­ing all plan­ning for the glob­al dis­tri­b­u­tion net­work -– a role the com­mand already is doing. 

The Uni­fied Com­mand Plan is the respon­si­bil­i­ty of the chair­man of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and is reviewed every two years. The Joint Staff coor­di­nates input from the com­bat­ant com­man­ders, the ser­vice chiefs and Defense Depart­ment lead­er­ship. The chair­man, Navy Adm. Mike Mullen, sub­mit­ted his rec­om­men­da­tions through Defense Sec­re­tary Robert M. Gates to Obama. 

There are oth­er geo­graph­ic relo­ca­tions. U.S. Africa Command’s mar­itime bound­ary is shift­ing to include all of Cape Verde’s exclu­sive eco­nom­ic zone. It also shift­ed the mar­itime bound­ary between U.S. Africa Com­mand and U.S. South­ern Com­mand so the South Sand­wich Islands fall under South­ern Command. 

Oth­er changes include U.S. Spe­cial Oper­a­tions Com­mand renam­ing psy­cho­log­i­cal oper­a­tions to mil­i­tary infor­ma­tion sup­port oper­a­tions, replac­ing the term “trans­for­ma­tion” with “devel­op and shape” and delin­eat­ing what func­tions of Joint Forces Com­mand will remain. 

There are six geo­graph­ic com­bat­ant com­mands. These are: Africa Com­mand, Cen­tral Com­mand, Euro­pean Com­mand, South­ern Com­mand, Pacif­ic Com­mand, and North­ern Com­mand. The four func­tion­al com­bat­ant com­mands are Trans­porta­tion Com­mand, Strate­gic Com­mand, Spe­cial Oper­a­tions Com­mand and, for the time being, Joint Forces Command. 

U.S. Depart­ment of Defense
Office of the Assis­tant Sec­re­tary of Defense (Pub­lic Affairs) 

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