Origins and Missions of U.S. Combatant Commands

The history, missions and operations of the nine U.S. military combatant commands (COCOMs) are detailed in a new report from the Congressional Research Service.

Collectively, these military commands operate across the globe.  “In a grand strategic sense, the [Unified Command Plan] and the COCOMs are the embodiment of U.S. military policy both at home and abroad.  The COCOMs not only execute military policy but also play an important role in foreign policy,” the CRS said.

The CRS report presents some critical discussion of the role of the COCOMs in shaping U.S. policy.  The report cites a series of stories by Dana Priest in the Washington Post in September 2000 which said the COCOMs “had evolved into the modern-day equivalent of the Roman Empire’s proconsuls– well-funded, semi-autonomous, unconventional centers of U.S. foreign policy.”

“Some national security experts consider this [Washington Post] series as the catalyst of the continuing debate as to whether or not COCOMs have assumed too much influence overseas, thereby diminishing the roles other U.S. government entities play in foreign and national security policy,” the CRS report said.  “The assertion that COCOMs have usurped other U.S. government entities in the foreign policy arena may deserve greater examination,” the report added.

Congress has prohibited CRS from making its publications directly available to the public.  A copy of the report was obtained by Secrecy News.  See “The Unified Command Plan and Combatant Commands: Background and Issues for Congress,” November 7, 2011.

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