IN CONTRAST TO POPULAR PERCEPTION, the real power in the U.S. military is not headquartered at the Pentagon. Instead, it is located at six geographic combatant commands located in Florida, Hawaii, Colorado, and Germany. With numerous changes in law, policy, and the perceptions of the security environment during the last half century, combatant commands have replaced the military services in prominence. Based on the president's Unified Command Plan, these combatant commands are responsible for planning and executing all military operations from major war to security assistance. Consequently, the officers who serve as combatant commanders have emerged as key leaders within the U.S. military and within the government's national security bureaucracy.
With major war a relative rarity today, combatant commands are changing to focus on security assistance and are incorporating civilian capabilities into their command structures. Key to this strategic approach is the need to build partners' security capacity to confront local challenges before these challenges create national or regional instability. For Adm. James Stavridis, who has commanded forces in the Western Hemisphere and now commands U.S. and NATO forces in Europe, “The security of the United States and that of our partners depends largely on our capacity to leverage joint, international, interagency, and public-private cooperation, all reinforced by focused messaging and strategic communication.”1 Chile's former president Michelle Bachelet agrees, “The U.S. can make an enormous contribution in this new stage of global development by helping deepen hemispheric cooperation and political dialogue. If successful, this will lead to a better future for our peoples.”2
Stavridis and Bachelet make clear that national security can no longer be guaranteed by preparation for military confrontation with other countries. Instead, international cooperation is at the root of national and international security. The shift from confrontation to cooperation represents a profound change in the use of the military. This chapter explores the implications of this change by analyzing how the structure and function of combatant commands are changing,