August 15, 2013
Defense News reporter Marcus
Weisgerber that the Pentagon is “considering a major overhaul of its
geographical combatant commands, possibly realigning oversight within
hot-button areas of the world and eliminating thousands of military and
The reason for
the possible shift? Blame the sequester’s
villainy. “Combining combatant commands is certainly not something that we
want to do,” a DOD official whined to Weisgerber, “but something that we have
to consider because all cuts have to be on the table.”
The Unified Combatant
Command (UCC) system was created at the dawn of the Cold War. Inter-service
rivalry had been fierce during the campaign against Japan. (Truman
felt that “if the Army and Navy had fought our enemies as hard as they fought
each other, the war would have ended much earlier.”) Legislation enacted in
1947, 1958, and 1986 -- bills opposed by many elements of the top brass -- framed
the structure that exists currently.
Each UCC, the
Pentagon explains, has “a broad continuing mission under a single commander
established and so designated by the President, through the Secretary of
Defense and with the advice and assistance of the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs
of Staff. Combatant commands typically have geographic or functional
responsibilities.” The latter type make a lot of sense. Strategic
Command, for example, runs the nuclear-weapons complex, and its mission, according
to the Congressional Research Service, is to “detect, deter, and prevent
attacks … and to … defend the nation should deterrence fail.” Special
forces have a UCC, as does transportation.
lies with the six geographical UCCs. They cover North America, South
America, Europe, Africa, the Middle
East, and the Pacific.
That’s right, no portion of the globe
falls outside the Pentagon’s purview. Mission
creep? It’s mission superfluity, with tasks ranging from drone-bombing
terrorists to training the soldiers of “allies,” disaster relief to “projecting
power” at “peer competitors,” narcotics interdiction to fostering “a
security environment conducive to good governance and development.”
reports that DOD planners are weighing a single UCC for the Americas, the transfer of Pakistan and Afghanistan
to Pacific Command, and the dispersal of Africa Command’s duties to European
Command and Central
(i.e., Middle East) Command. Analysts told Defense News that the changes being explored would “better align [the
Pentagon] with long-term strategic goals.” In other words, they’re
management-consultant reforms crafted to comply with sequestration’s piddling
cuts, not reorient policy toward America First.
A UCC architecture
geared toward “defending” not the world, but the nation, would look quite different from today’s sprawling plexus. Functional
commands would persist. (Nuclear weapons are useful things, space assets are essential,
and it’s nice to have a few SEALs around when you need them.) Northern Command --
home of NORAD, and operator of
system -- would keep its present assignments, but be renamed something more
appropriate. (Homeland Command? Continental Command?) Pacific Command would
survive, but patrol only the triangle from Southern California to Hawaii to Alaska.
Atlantic Command would be reestablished, and monitor the U.S. side of the world’s
The remaining geographical
commands would be eliminated. With a GDP
that exceeds ours, Europe
hardly needs U.S. “protection.” The occupation of Afghanistan is scheduled to end in
2014. Why not accelerate
the timeline? To the west, it’s a safe bet that Arabs and Israelis (and
Sunni and Shia) will slaughter each other as frequently as they did before U.S.
meddling. Africa? The tragic denizens of the Dark Continent need property rights, limited government, and
free trade, not enhanced militarization. Rising powers China and India
should be left to run their neck of the world, and Beijing,
Taipei, and Tokyo
can work out the Senkaku
Islands squabble between themselves.
retrenchment of geographical UCCs is certain. A government nearly $17 trillion in
debt, presiding over an economy that will soon be brutalized
by nationalized pension and healthcare liabilities, can’t afford to be a
globocop. And as developing countries get richer, they will, understandably,
begin to pressure America
to move its legions out of their regions.
Why not get
ahead of inevitability? Voters would welcome a serious effort to draw down the
armed forces’ deployments abroad. Weary from disaster in Iraq and quagmire in Afghanistan,
many recognize that Washington’s
schemes to bend the planet to its will are too costly, in blood and billions.
geographical UCCs should have faced major restructuring, with several
excisions, at the close of the Cold War. Nearly a quarter-century later, it’s
time to bring the boys -- and girls -- home.
D. Dowd Muska (www.dowdmuska.com) writes about government, economics, and technology. Follow him on Twitter @dowdmuska.
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