Congress Will Rethink Combatant Command Boundaries

A U.S. sailor reviews a map aboard the Ticonderoga-class guided-missile cruiser USS Cape St. George (CG 71), July 28, 2012.

U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Christopher S. Johnson

AA Font size + Print

A U.S. sailor reviews a map aboard the Ticonderoga-class guided-missile cruiser USS Cape St. George (CG 71), July 28, 2012.

Reshaping, or even deleting, some of the four-star headquarters that run America’s military operations around the world could be part of broader Defense Department reforms.

Congress may reshape — or even close — some of the Pentagon’s combatant commands, the four-star headquarters that oversee military activities in all corners of the world, the Senate Armed Services Committee chairman said Thursday.

Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., said his panel would look at combatant command responsibilities when it considers broader Defense Department reforms this year.

“We need to figure out whether we need the ones that we have,” McCain said at a Defense Writers Group breakfast.

The boundaries of what the military calls “COCOMs” are laid out in a document called the Unified Command Plan. Every few years, defense leaders debate redrawing the boundaries or combining commands, but there haven’t been any major changes since U.S. Africa Command was created in 2006.

Is it right for us to have an Africa [Command] headquarters in Stuttgart, Germany? Is that what we had in mind when we formed up AFRICOM?
Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz.

In 2012 and 2013, Pentagon leaders considered combining U.S. Northern Command, which oversees homeland defense of the continental United States, Canada and Mexico, with Southern Command, which oversees Central and South America. And in December, incoming Joint Chiefs Chairman Gen. Joseph Dunford said he’d be open to changes.

McCain on Tuesday hinted that lawmakers would consider combining those two commands.

“We need to look at small things, such as ‘Do we need a NORTHCOM and a SOUTHCOM?,” he said. “Why should there be an arbitrary line at the Mexico-Guatemala border?”

As well, the structure of Africa Command, which is headquartered in Europe, has been debated since its creation.

“Is it right for us to have an Africa [Command] headquarters in Stuttgart, Germany?,” McCain said. “Is that what we had in mind when we formed up AFRICOM?”

Some have argued that Northern Command should oversee all military action in the Arctic, where nations are jockeying for natural resources. NORTHCOM currently splits the responsibility with European Command.

Defense Department map, labeled, “The World With Commanders’ Areas of Responsibility.”

Close [ x ] More from DefenseOne

Thank you for subscribing to newsletters from
We think these reports might interest you:

  • Ongoing Efforts in Veterans Health Care Modernization

    This report discusses the current state of veterans health care

  • Modernizing IT for Mission Success

    Surveying Federal and Defense Leaders on Priorities and Challenges at the Tactical Edge

  • Top 5 Findings: Security of Internet of Things To Be Mission-Critical

    As federal agencies increasingly leverage these capabilities, government security stakeholders now must manage and secure a growing number of devices, including those being used remotely at the “edge” of networks in a variety of locations. With such security concerns in mind, Government Business Council undertook an indepth research study of federal government leaders in January 2017. Here are five of the key takeaways below which, taken together, paint a portrait of a government that is increasingly cognizant and concerned for the future security of IoT.

  • Coordinating Incident Response on Posts, Camps and Stations

    Effective incident response on posts, camps, and stations is an increasingly complex challenge. An effective response calls for seamless conversations between multiple stakeholders on the base and beyond its borders with civilian law enforcement and emergency services personnel. This whitepaper discusses what a modern dispatch solution looks like -- one that brings together diverse channels and media, simplifies the dispatch environment and addresses technical integration challenges to ensure next generation safety and response on Department of Defense posts, camps and stations.

  • Forecasting Cloud's Future

    Conversations with Federal, State, and Local Technology Leaders on Cloud-Driven Digital Transformation


When you download a report, your information may be shared with the underwriters of that document.