New Unified Command Plan Issued

President Bush signed an updated unified command plan on Dec. 17. Chief among changes, UCP 2008 codifies US Africa Command with its specific missions, responsibilities, and geographic boundaries, the Pentagon said in a release Dec. 23. AFRICOM assumed full operations in October. The plan also shifts the Bahamas, Puerto Rico, the US Virgin Islands, and the Turks and Caicos Islands from US Southern Command’s area of responsibility to US Northern Command’s purview. And, it cements US Pacific Command’s responsibility for homeland defense operations in Hawaii, Guam, and other US territories in the Pacific. The new document is the first UCP to assign all combatant commanders responsibility for planning and conducting military support of stability, security, transition, and reconstruction operations as well as humanitarian assistance, and disaster relief activities. It is also the first to assign central planning authorities to individual commands for certain global missions. For example, NORTHCOM is assigned the new “pandemic influenza” mission, with responsibility for planning efforts across the Department of Defense in support of the US government’s response to an outbreak. Similarly, US Special Operations Command is assigned responsibility for global operations against terrorist networks, and US Strategic Command becomes responsible for combating weapons of mass destruction, global missile defense, and cyberspace operations. “This is a new concept,” said Pentagon spokesman Bryan Whitman. He added, “What it means is the assignment of responsibilities to a single coordinator to coordinate missions that exceed the responsibility of any one commander.” Assignment of the cyberspace mission to STRATCOM recognizes cyberspace as a warfighting domain that is critical to joint military operations, DOD officials said. (Includes AFPS report by Donna Miles) (New map of unified command areas of responsibility)