It's Time To Update The Unified Command Plan (Ucp)

1477 words - 6 pages

The Unified Command Plan (UCP), as originally described in the “Outline Command Plan” of 1946, established in the National Security Act of 1947 and later amended by the Department of Defense Reorganization Act of 1958, sets forth basic guidance to all combatant commanders (COCOMs). The UCP also establishes combatant command missions, responsibilities, and force structure; delineates geographic areas of responsibility for geographic combatant commanders; and specifies functional responsibilities for functional combatant commanders. The UCP was a revolutionary leap forward in restructuring America’s military power following the lessons learned from World War II. However, the 21st century presents a less-delineated, dynamic threat environment with ambiguous, non-state adversaries widely dispersed and deeply integrated in transnational affairs. Simply put, the globe is not as easily divisible as perhaps it once was. In many cases, emerging threats and actors blur geographic boundaries and require unconventional thinking, methods, and often interoperability among COCOMs to effect success. Established missions among unified and functional commands often overlap traditional responsibility demarcations causing friction. Therefore, Congress and the national security leadership in conjunction with the Secretary of Defense should examine UCP organizational COCOM structure to determine if its present form aids COCOMs in completion of their missions and/or meets present U.S. national security needs. In the modern era, the global force projection structure as outlined within the UCP may, in fact, be more optimally aligned and gain more unity of effort organized around functional capability requirements.
From its inception in 1946 to the present day, UCP architects are at odds over how best to organize the command structure. Myriad debates have typically divided the house between those who desire commands organized around assignment of missions and forces (function) and those who believe division among geographic areas is best. In a recent example of the friction between the functional and geographic schools of thought, Admiral McRaven, U.S. Special Operations Commander (USSOCOM), which is a functional COCOM, is seeking an expansion of authorities that would allow him the ability to control the movements of deployed Special Operations Forces (SOF) when and where he sees fit. Presently, once U.S. SOF deploys into a region, direction and oversight is provided by a geographic COCOM and USSOCOM is no longer in control of where they go or what mission they perform. With the present arrangement, losing operational control of its SOF units is proving problematic for USSOCOM given its lead role in the global counterterrorism mission. In this way, USSOCOM becomes dependent on a geographic COCOM for completion of a mission it owns. In a new structure, however, where USSOCOM had equal footing among the COCOMs, it could provide deploy and task SOF units...

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