Definition/Scope: The National Security Act of 1947 established unified combatant commands, or military commands that have broad continuing missions and are composed of forces from at least two or more military departments. The 1997 Unified Command Plan recognizes nine unified combatant commands, each led by a four-star general or admiral known as a CINC, or commander in chief. Five of these commands are geographic commands with a specific set of missions and an area of responsibility (AOR). Four combatant commands do not have geographic areas of responsibility, but rather have worldwide functional areas of responsibility. The Services provide forces to the CINCs. The CINCs, drawing on guidance from the President and the Secretary of Defense, determine how those forces will be used on a day-to-day basis. For virtually every region in the world, there is a unified combatant command, led by a CINC whose primary purpose is to use the forces assigned to that command to shape the environment, respond to the full spectrum of crises, and prepare for the future in that region. The geographic CINCs are responsible for planning and conducting all military operations within their theaters of operation. In carrying out these duties, the CINCs may receive assistance from other geographic CINCs, as well as from the functional CINCs. Functional CINCs have worldwide responsibility for specialized areas such as transportation, space, and special forces; they provide these high demand resources to geographic CINCs as appropriate.
Narrower Terms:Functional Commands
Related Terms:Annual Defense Report