Defense Department Weighing COCOM Realignment and Rebrand
The Pentagon is considering doing away with two combatant commands—and no longer calling them combatant commands.
Defense News (“DoD Weighs Major COCOM Realignment“):
The Pentagon is considering a major overhaul of its geographical combatant commands, possibly realigning oversight within hot-button areas of the world and eliminating thousands of military and civilian positions, according to defense sources.While the plans for combatant command (COCOM) realignment and consolidation are still notional, sources say some options include:Combining Northern Command and Southern Command to form what some are calling “Americas Command” or “Western Command.”Dissolving Africa Command and splitting it up among European Command and Central Command.Expanding Pacific Command to include Afghanistan and Pakistan, which are part of Central Command.In all, the realignments could shutter two COCOMs and eight service-supporting commands, totaling more than 5,000 people, both uniformed and civilian.
This would be a bold step, although the cost savings would be minor by Pentagon standards. Offhand, all of the proposals listed above seem odd. Southern Command, which oversees Latin America minus Mexico, is arguably our most functional COCOM, characterized by repeat assignments and language and cultural proficiency. AFRICOM is largely useless but the symbolism of shuttering what is already a Potemkin COCOM so soon after standing it up would be horrible. While AfPak is part of the Asian continent, nobody thinks of it as Asian.
But there’s at least some real thinking behind this.
Combining Northern and Southern commands could lead to greater resources for activities in South and Central America, which experts say has long been DoD’s most neglected region.Combining the regions could better address cross-border issues — particularly drug trafficking — among Mexico, South America and the United States, said Bob Killebrew, a retired Army colonel and senior fellow at the Center for a New American Security.Mexico is part of Northern Command, which also includes the contiguous United States, Alaska and Canada.“[I]t makes … sense not to have a kind of artificial DoD boundary, not only between Mexico and Central America, but between Mexico and the American border as well,” Killebrew said.
It strikes me that the more obvious solution would be to place Mexico into SOUTHCOM, where it belongs linguistically and culturally. For all intents and purposes, NORTHCOM isn’t a fighting command but an administrative creature. So, combining the two would simultaneously take away SOUTHCOM’s unique culture while lumping it in with the least prestigious of the COCOMs; it’s not at all clear why that would improve focus on Latin America.
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