Academic journal article Parameters

A CINC for Sub-Saharan Africa? Rethinking the Unified Command Plan

Academic journal article Parameters

A CINC for Sub-Saharan Africa? Rethinking the Unified Command Plan

Article excerpt

In 1946, the Joint Chiefs of Staff, recognizing the importance of the unity of military effort achieved by US forces during World War II, issued the "Outline Command Plan." This was the first in a series of documents specifying an arrangement now known as the Unified Command Plan. The plan divided the world into geographic regions and assigned responsibility to a designated military command for protecting US security interests in each region. This organizing principle has guided post-World War II US military operations. [1]

Over the last 54 years, the Unified Command Plan has been revised 18 times in response to the changing strategic environment, advances in technology, and the growing global commitment of US forces. [2] Legislation adopted in 1979 specified that the Unified Command Plan be reviewed biennially. [3] The President approved the current Unified Command Plan on 13 October 1999.

In this latest review there were no regional or functional changes pertaining to the continent of Africa. In fact, none of the language in the last two assessments directly addressed Africa. This is consistent with Department of Defense declarations that the United States has "very little traditional strategic interest in Africa," [4] but that assertion is itself somewhat puzzling in light of the fact that the United States has intervened militarily in the region more than 20 times since 1990. [5]

Under the current Unified Command Plan, responsibility for the continent of Africa is divided among three of the five regional unified commands. The duties of the commands include developing joint operation plans to deter war and, if necessary, to guide the transition to war or to military operations other than war. [6] When hostilities start, the unified commands plan and conduct campaigns and major operations. [7]

In addition to these purely military roles, the Commanders in Chief (CINCs) of the unified commands also have come to play important diplomatic roles by using US military resources to enhance access and influence while communicating regularly with senior foreign civil and military leaders on a variety of issues. [8] No other organization of the US government is manned or equipped to play a regional role of this magnitude. [9]

Essentially, a unified command is the primary organization charged with protecting America's security interests in a geographic region of the world. It does this not only by managing US military resources in the region, but by building better security relations with the foreign countries in the region, endeavoring to build trust and "habits of cooperation" that permit quick agreement and common action to resolve regional conflict. Assisting America's diplomats in building coalitions and maintaining alliances is thus a key role of the unified commands. Such a role is particularly important in regions where US resources are limited.

Because of the increased US engagement in Sub-Saharan Africa, and because the current regional unified commands are principally focused elsewhere, the time has come to rethink the Unified Command Plan as it regards Africa. The current plan cannot effectively protect America's security interests on that continent. It is unlikely to realize the articulated policy objectives of the United States in the region, and it should be revised to better secure those objectives.

History of the Unified Command Plan and Africa

The "Outline Command Plan" of 1946 established seven unified commands: Far East Command, Pacific Command, Alaskan Command, Northeast Command, Atlantic Fleet, Caribbean Command, and European Command. [10] None was assigned responsibility for the continent of Africa. Not until 1952 was responsibility for at least a part of Africa assigned to a unified combatant command. [11] On 2 December 1952, recognizing the historical ties between North Africa and Europe, the European Command was given responsibility for the Algerian Departments of France, along with joint planning requirements for French Morocco, Tunisia, and Libya. …

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