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Chapter 3


The defense strategy places a broad range of demands on U.S. military forces—shaping and responding to most near-term demands, while at the same time preparing for an uncertain future. Meeting the military requirements of the strategy requires ready, robust, flexible military capabilities that draw on the combined strengths of the Services and support agencies. The U.S. armed forces can only meet the demands of the strategy by seamlessly integrating Army, Navy, Air Force, and Marine Corps capabilities across the spectrum from peacetime to wartime. Nothing short of fully joint armed forces—forces that are joint institutionally, organizationally, intellectually, and technically—will ensure effective integration among U.S. armed forces as they conduct military operations today and in the future.


The National Security Act of 1947 established unified combatant commands, or military commands that have broad continuing missions and are composed of forces from at least two or more military departments. The 1997 Unified Command Plan recognizes nine unified combatant commands, each led by a four-star general or admiral known as a CINC, or commander in chief. Five of these commands are geographic commands with a specific set of missions and an area of responsibility (AOR). Four combatant commands do not have geographic areas of responsibility, but rather have worldwide functional areas of responsibility. The Services provide forces to the CINCs. The CINCs, drawing on guidance from the President and the Secretary of Defense, determine how those forces will be used on a day-to-day basis.

For virtually every region in the world, there is a unified combatant command, led by a CINC whose primary purpose is to use the forces assigned to that command to shape the environment, respond to the full spectrum of crises, and prepare for the future in that region. The geographic CINCs are responsible for planning and conducting all military operations within their theaters of operation. In carrying out these duties, the CINCs may receive assistance from other geographic CINCs, as well as from the functional CINCs. Functional CINCs have worldwide responsibility for specialized areas such as transportation, space, and special forces; they provide these high demand resources to geographic CINCs as appropriate.


United States European Command

The United States European Command’s (USEUCOM) area of responsibility includes more than 14 million square miles and 89 countries. It extends from the North Cape of Norway, through the waters of the Baltic and Mediterranean seas, including most of Europe and parts of the Middle East, to the Cape of Good Hope in South Africa. The Commander in Chief of USEUCOM (USCINCEUR) commands five U.S. components: U.S. Army Europe, U.S. Navy Europe, U.S. Air Forces in Europe, Special Operations Command Europe, and Marine Forces Europe. USCINCEUR is also NATO’s Supreme Allied Commander Europe.

While USEUCOM’s most visible mission in 1998 was continuing to provide forces to the NATO-led Stabilization Force in Bosnia through Operation Joint Forge, European Command maintains forces that are ready to conduct the full spectrum of military operations. USEUCOM conducted several operations in 1998, including coordinating operation Task Force Able Sentry, the U.S. contribution to the United Nations’ Preventive Deployment in Macedonia, evacuating U.S. citizens from Guinea-Bissau, and supporting humanitarian demining efforts in countries from Chad to Rwanda to Zimbabwe.

USEUCOM is responsible for enhancing transatlantic security through support to NATO, promoting regional stability, and advancing U.S. interests in Europe, Africa, and the Middle East. To enhance transatlantic security and promote regional stability, USEUCOM conducts a variety of engagement activities with NATO allies, partner countries, and other friendly nations throughout its AOR. Through these engagement activities, European Command shapes the international environment in ways to promote and protect U.S. interests. In March 1998, for example, USEUCOM military personnel joined other NATO member and partner militaries in Exercise Strong Resolve, which was designed to test NATO’s ability to respond to multiple, simultaneous crises in separate locations. Through the Partnership for Peace program, approximately 240 USEUCOM personnel participated in Cooperative Best Effort 98, an interoperability exercise conducted in Macedonia designed to improve light infantry peace support skills among NATO partner countries. Under the auspices of the Joint Contact Team Program, multi-Service military contact teams from USEUCOM live and work in partner countries across Europe and the New Independent States throughout the year, coordinating USEUCOM efforts to encourage democratization, military professionalism, and closer relationships with NATO. These engagement activities provide not only immediate benefits by improving interoperability among U.S. forces and their allied and partner colleagues, but also build and strengthen political-military relationships between the United States and countries in the USEUCOM AOR over the long term.

United States Pacific Command

The United States Pacific Command’s (USPACOM) area of responsibility extends from the west coast of the United States mainland to the east coast of Africa, and from the Arctic Ocean to Antarctica, including Alaska and Hawaii. Geographically, USPACOM is the largest of the U.S. unified commands. USPACOM’s AOR covers about 50 percent of the earth’s surface or more than 100 million square miles, including 43 countries, 10 U.S. territories, and 20 territories of other countries that together make up nearly 60 percent of the world’s population. The Commander in Chief of USPACOM (USCINCPAC) commands a total force of about 308,000 military—nearly 20 percent of all active duty U.S. military forces—drawn from all the Services, organized into a headquarters and four component commands: U.S. Army Pacific, U.S. Navy Pacific Fleet, U.S. Marine Forces Pacific, and U.S. Pacific Air Forces.

To shape the environment in the Asia-Pacific region, USPACOM forces conducted over 400 military training exercises with several different nations. These activities included participating in military-to-military exchange programs and providing other assistance to partner nations in the form of security assistance, seminars, and special programs such as the Asia Pacific Chiefs of Defense Conference. In 1998, for example, USPACOM conducted Exercise Foal Eagle in Korea, which provided division level field training with continental United States (CONUS)-based forces participating in a simulated Korean conflict, and Cobra Gold in Thailand, designed to strengthen the Royal Thai Army’s national defense capabilities and enhance interoperability between U.S. and Thai forces. Pacific Command also conducted counterdrug operations through Joint Interagency Task Force-West, focusing on interdicting drug flows in the Eastern Pacific and in Southeast Asia. Finally, USPACOM provided educational and military exchange opportunities through courses at the Asia-Pacific Center for Security Studies and the Center for Excellence in Disaster Management and Humanitarian Assistance, both located in Hawaii.

Like European Command, Pacific Command has forces assigned that can respond to the full spectrum of crises. In 1998, USPACOM forces were called upon to respond to a variety of international situations ranging from demining operations in Laos to airlifting disaster relief supplies to China in the aftermath of an earthquake, to the rapid deployment of forces for possible contingency operations in the United States Central Command (USCENTCOM) area of responsibility. USPACOM also provides forces to Joint Task Force-Full Accounting, a standing Joint Task Force working with representatives from Vietnam, Laos, and Cambodia charged with conducting investigations and remains recovery operations to provide the fullest possible accounting of American citizens still missing as a result of war in Southeast Asia.

United States Central Command

The United States Central Command’s area of responsibility includes 25 countries of diverse political, economic, cultural, and geographic makeup in the Middle East, including the Persian Gulf, Central Asia, Southwest Asia, and Northeast Africa. USCENTCOM’s AOR is larger than the continental United States, stretching some 3,100 miles east to west and 3,600 miles north to south. The Commander in Chief of USCENTCOM commands five component commands: U.S. Army Forces Central Command, U.S. Central Command Air Forces, U.S. Naval Forces Central Command, U.S. Marine Corps Forces Central Command, and U.S. Special Operations Command Central.

Although continued tensions with Iraq are the major focus for USCENTCOM, this unified command has a broader mission that includes supporting U.S. interests in the region, promoting regional security in cooperation with regional allies and friends, and projecting U.S. military force into the region if necessary. USCENTCOM shapes the regional security environment using a variety of programs, including combined training, military-to-military contacts, educational opportunities, and security assistance. In 1998, USCENTCOM conducted exercises with 19 of the 25 nations in its AOR, including Bahrain, Egypt, Jordan, Kenya, and Saudi Arabia. USCENTCOM conducts Joint Combined Exercise Training with nations in the region which helps develop interoperability and reinforces military-to-military relationships between the United States and host nations. USCENTCOM also coordinates placements for over 2,500 students from countries across the region in a variety of U.S. military courses, schools, and colleges.

Operation Desert Fox, launched in response to Iraq’s repeated refusals to comply with UN Security Council resolutions, was the most prominent operation conducted in 1998 by USCENTCOM. Operation Desert Fox significantly reduced Iraq’s ability to threaten its neighbors and to produce weapons of mass destruction. USCENTCOM continues to provide robust support to Operation Southern Watch, the United Nations mandated no-fly zone in Iraq and is prepared to respond rapidly to future Iraqi aggression. The Command also participated in humanitarian demining operations in Yemen and rapidly responded to the terrorist attack on the U.S. Embassy in Kenya.

United States Southern Command

The United States Southern Command’s (USSOUTHCOM) area of responsibility encompasses 32 countries, represents about one-sixth of the world’s land mass, and covers over twelve million square miles, stretching 6,000 miles from Mexico’s southern border to Cape Horn. The Commander in Chief of USSOUTHCOM commands approximately 7,000 U.S. military personnel and 4,000 civilians, organized into a headquarters and five component commands: U.S. Army South, Commander in Chief Atlantic Fleet, 12th Air Force, Marine Corps Forces South, and Joint Task Force Bravo. USSOUTHCOM also has a subunified command, Special Operations Command South, and two Joint Interagency Task Forces, JIATF-East and JIATF-South.

Throughout 1998, USSOUTHCOM conducted a diverse set of exercises and operations to advance U.S. interests. To shape the environment and promote regional stability, USSOUTHCOM uses a variety of tools, including military training exercises, security assistance programs, and military-to-military exchange programs. USSOUTHCOM’s 1998 exercise program included a disease intervention exercise in Peru, engineering exercises in Honduras and the Dominican Republic, and regional peacekeeping exercises in Central and South America. Counterdrug activities form an important part of Southern Command’s shaping mission and include exercises with host nations, intelligence collection, and various efforts to halt the flow of drugs both at the source of production and in the transit zone. In Operation Laser Strike, for example, USSOUTHCOM helped disrupt the production and movement of illegal drugs and improved multinational drug interdiction capabilities in the region.

Southern Command not only shapes the environment, but also employs assigned forces to respond across the full spectrum of crises in the region. In 1998, USSOUTHCOM conducted humanitarian demining operations in Costa Rica, Honduras, and Nicaragua and supported a variety of humanitarian activities. Southern Command also supported peacekeeping efforts along the border between Peru and Ecuador. To decrease the potential for renewed tensions in Haiti as the UN mission continued to drawdown, USSOUTHCOM provided support to U.S. and UN forces through Exercise Fairwinds/New Horizon. Finally, USSOUTHCOM coordinated all U.S. military assistance in support of disaster relief efforts in Central America in the aftermath of Hurricane Mitch. The Command’s Joint Task Force Bravo, based in Honduras, provided command and control for Task Force Hope, the provisional military organization established to provide assistance, which included over 500 personnel, 20 helicopters, four fixed-wing aircraft, and 10 Zodiac inflatable boats. Task Force Hope ensured that over 22,000 pounds of relief supplies were distributed to disaster victims in Central America.

United States Atlantic Command

The United States Atlantic Command’s (USACOM) 45 million square-mile area of responsibility includes the Atlantic Ocean west of 17 degrees East (excluding the waters adjoining South and Central America, south of 8 degrees North and west of 30 degrees West), the Arctic Ocean east of 95 degrees West and west of 100 degrees East, and Greenland and other islands, except the United Kingdom and Ireland, in all assigned water areas. USACOM integrates the military capabilities of nearly all forces based in the continental United States through its components: the Air Force’s Air Combat Command, the Army’s Forces Command, the Marine Corps’ Marine Forces Atlantic, the Navy’s Atlantic Fleet, and U.S. Special Operations Command Atlantic.

In response to the changing international environment, USACOM has refocused its efforts from serving as primarily a maritime command to becoming the premier trainer, integrator, and provider of CONUS-based forces to fulfill America’s worldwide operational requirements. USACOM’s mission is to plan for the land defense of the United States and the combined Canada-U.S. land and maritime defense of Canada. USACOM is also responsible for conducting several shaping and responding missions, including joint operations, humanitarian assistance, counterdrug operations, and military support to civilian authorities. Working with U.S. law enforcement agencies and host nations within its AOR, USACOM conducted counterdrug operations and counterterrorism activities throughout 1998. USACOM also provided support to U.S. civilian authorities responding to severe ice storms in the Northeast and assisted the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s efforts to provide flood relief support in the Midwest.

USACOM plays a major role in helping prepare U.S. forces today to meet the challenges of tomorrow. The Secretary of Defense recently charged USACOM to spearhead DoD’s effort to create and explore new joint operational concepts and conduct joint experiments. These experiments and operational concepts will support the implementation of Joint Vision 2010, the conceptual template for harnessing the Revolution in Military Affairs to achieve new levels of effectiveness in joint warfighting. As the executive agent for Joint Concept Development and Experimentation, USACOM will assess selected new operational concepts and design experiments, including wargames, modeling, simulations, and exercises, to test those concepts. After analyzing the results, USACOM will recommend resources and organizational and personnel changes required to turn promising new concepts into concrete improvements in the way the U.S. armed forces operate.


United States Special Operations Command

The Commander in Chief of United States Special Operations Command (USSOCOM) commands over 46,000 active and reserve personnel in four component commands: Air Force Special Operations Command, U.S. Army Special Operations Command, Naval Special Warfare Command, and Joint Special Operations Command. In actual operations, Service component units are normally employed as part of a joint force by the geographic CINCs through the geographic Special Operations Command (SOC). The SOC normally forms a joint special operations task force, which may be employed independently or in support of a larger joint task force.

All U.S. special operations forces (SOF) are assigned to USSOCOM, which prepares special operations forces to carry out special operations missions. As the unified combatant command responsible for special operations forces, USSOCOM develops SOF doctrine, tactics, techniques, and procedures. USSOCOM also conducts specialized courses of instruction for all SOF, trains assigned forces, ensures interoperability of equipment and forces, and monitors the preparedness of special operations forces assigned to other unified commands. USSOCOM also develops and acquires unique special operations forces equipment, materiel, supplies, and services, and submits program and budget proposals for special operations forces.

Although special operations forces are used most frequently to respond to specific crisis situations, they help shape the international environment through various training programs. For example, in 1998 special operations forces provided training to several African nations as part of the African Crisis Response Initiative. Drawing on their specialized training and equipment, special operations forces also play a unique role in responding to a broad spectrum of conflict worldwide. In the Balkans, SOF personnel in 1998 supported the preventive deployment in Macedonia, the Kosovo Observer Mission, and the NATO-led peacekeeping operation in Bosnia. In the Persian Gulf, SOF contributed to Northern Watch and Southern Watch, the two no-fly zones in the Persian Gulf, and Operation Desert Thunder in Kuwait. In 1998, special operations forces also participated in operations in Asia, Africa, and Latin America, to include providing support to Joint Task Force-Full Accounting, Operation Shepherd Venture, the evacuation effort in Guinea-Bissau, and Operation Safe Border, the border monitoring operation in Peru and Ecuador.

United States Space Command

American military satellite systems—used for communications, navigation, and ballistic missile attack warning information—are controlled by United States Space Command (USSPACECOM). These space-based assets provide important information to geographic CINCs and also support the ability of U.S. forces to respond to crises by ensuring forces have the communications and navigational capabilities they need to function effectively during military operations.

In 1998, USSPACECOM launched and operated satellites that provided critical information to U.S. forces in Bosnia, the Persian Gulf, and other crisis points around the world. Space Command used satellites to keep forces serving in Operations Northern and Southern Watch in Iraq apprised of current weather information and ensure warning of missile attacks. Space Command also enhances the U.S. military’s ability to respond to crises by both ensuring the United States has access to and the ability to operate in space and by denying that capability to its enemies.

United States Strategic Command

The United States Strategic Command (USSTRATCOM) has the primary responsibility of overseeing the strategic nuclear force structure in support of U.S. deterrence policy, and is prepared to employ those weapons should deterrence fail. In so doing, USSTRATCOM strengthens America’s ability to reduce the potential for conflict in the international environment and deter aggression against its allies and friends. The Commander in Chief of USSTRATCOM (CINCSTRAT) works closely with the Offices of the Secretaries of Defense and Energy in ensuring a safe and reliable nuclear stockpile, and provides weapons of mass destruction planning expertise to U.S. agencies engaged in developing strategic arms control positions with other nuclear nations. USSTRATCOM also provides planning expertise for countering nuclear, chemical, and biological weapons and supports the geographic CINCs in theater planning and in shaping through intelligence collection efforts.

United States Transportation Command

The United States Transportation Command (USTRANSCOM) is the sole manager of America’s global defense transportation system and is responsible for coordinating personnel and transportation assets necessary to project and sustain U.S. forces whenever, wherever, and for as long as they are needed. USTRANSCOM supports military operations all over the world, from military exercises to humanitarian activities to major operations such as Desert Fox in the Persian Gulf.

Through its three component commands—Air Mobility Command, Military Sealift Command, and Military Traffic Management Command—USTRANSCOM provides the transportation assets the U.S. military needs to support the strategy. USTRANSCOM provides airlift, sealift, and land transportation to send troops to exercises and other engagement activities critical to the military’s shaping mission, and provides the transportation that enables the U.S. military to respond to crises around the world. In 1998, Air Mobility Command assets delivered food and medical supplies to humanitarian emergencies in Africa and elsewhere, sent troops from the United States to Europe to support Operation Joint Forge in Bosnia, and provided medical and other support in the aftermath of the embassy bombings in Nairobi and Dar Es Salaam. Military Sealift Command assets transported equipment and supplies to exercises like Baltic Challenge and Ulchi Focus Lens in Korea, provided transportation support to counterdrug operations in the Caribbean, and sent troops to Southern Watch, one of the no-fly zones in Iraq. The Military Traffic Management Command provides overland transportation for the U.S. armed forces, primarily in the United States, and coordinates all transportation operations taking place simultaneously through USTRANSCOM.


In addition to the nine unified combatant commands, there are also subunified commands and combined commands that play an important role in the U.S. defense strategy. Two of these commands, U.S. Forces Korea and North American Aerospace Defense Command, are particularly unique and warrant further discussion.

U.S. Forces Korea

United States Forces Korea (USFK), a subordinate unified command of USPACOM, is the joint headquarters through which American combat forces would be sent to the Combined Forces Command (CFC), the bi-national command that has operational control over more than 600,000 active duty military personnel from both the United States and South Korea. In the event of an attack from North Korea, the CFC would provide a coordinated defense of South Korea through its fighting components—the Combined Ground, Air, Naval, and Marine Forces Component Commands. Commander USFK, a four-star U.S. Army general, is also the Commander in Chief, Combined Forces Command, with a four-star Republic of Korea (ROK) army general serving as the deputy. Additionally, Commander USFK serves as the Commander in Chief United Nations Command and visibly represents the will of the UN Security Council to secure peace on the Korean Peninsula.

Joint and combined training exercises are a major tool to shape the international environment on the Korean Peninsula. These exercises demonstrate U.S. and ROK warfighting capabilities, enhance interoperability between these forces, and deter aggression from North Korea. In 1998, USFK participated in Exercise RSOI (Reception, Staging, Onward Movement, and Integration). RSOI demonstrates the ability of the United States to move forces on to the Korean Peninsula and USFK’s ability to receive, prepare, and integrate newly arrived forces. Ulchi Focus Lens, a command post exercise, seeks to improve ROK and CFC coordination during transition to war and early conflict. These sophisticated exercises plus robust U.S. modernization efforts for USFK forces provide tangible evidence of U.S. supported resolve for peace and stability on the Korean Peninsula.

North American Aerospace Defense Command

The North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD) is a binational combined command that includes Canadian and U.S. forces. This command is responsible for aerospace warning and aerospace control for North America. The Commander in Chief of NORAD (CINCNORAD) also currently serves as Commander in Chief, United States Space Command. In accordance with the binational NORAD agreement, CINCNORAD is responsible through the Canadian Chief of the Defense Staff and the U.S. Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff to the Canadian and U.S. National Command Authorities. Finally, U.S. Element NORAD (USELEMNORAD) is responsible for employing U.S. aerospace forces unilaterally to defend the continental United States, Alaska, and other areas as directed. NORAD’s command and control center is located in Cheyenne Mountain, an underground base that is the central collection facility for a worldwide system of sensors designed to provide the CINC, the President of the United States, and the Prime Minister of Canada with an accurate picture of any aerospace threat.

By providing early warning of a potential aerospace attack, NORAD helps deter aggression against North America on a daily basis, a critical shaping mission. In 1998, NORAD continuously monitored North American airspace and alerted National Command Authorities of any potential threats to the continent. By providing early warning of an attack, NORAD also enables United States Strategic Command to respond to such an attack if necessary. In 1998, NORAD monitored several thousand crossings into North American airspace. While most unidentified crossings proved to be only aircraft that lost their way or filed incorrect flight plans, a small percentage of these crossings were drug smugglers. Although early warning of an attack against North America remains the primary mission, NORAD uses its unique capabilities to work with other unified commands to help identify and respond to drug smuggling activities.


The commanders in chief ensure that U.S. military forces actively shape the international environment and respond as needed to a full range of crises, from noncombatant evacuations to major shows of force. Through the CINCs, the United States conducts peacetime engagement activities with nations around the world—building stronger military relationships with allies and friends in the process. These commands also conduct operations around the world, from peace enforcement operations in Bosnia to humanitarian relief operations throughout Africa, to counterdrug operations in South America and the Caribbean. Working as a team with the geographic commands, the functional commands provide essential support for almost every one of these operations.

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