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The Theater

The Unified Command Plan (UCP) establishes criteria for a unified theater based on National Security Strategy, National Military Strategy, geography, and history. The President approves the UCP, which sets forth basic guidance to all unified combatant commanders; establishes their missions, responsibilities, and force structure; delineates the general geographical AOR for geographic combatant commanders; and specifies functional responsibilities for functional combatant commanders. A key consideration is strategic objectives. National strategic direction and evolution of geopolitical circumstances shape the theater's geographic boundaries.

Theater commanders provide strategic direction and operational focus to subordinate commanders. They develop a theater strategy and campaign plan, organize their theaters, and establish command relationships for effective unified (joint and multinational) operations. Through this process, theater commanders plan and conduct unified operations that ensure a united effort within the command.

The military instrument of national security policy requires synchronization with the diplomatic, informational, and economic efforts. Circumstances determine the extent of the synchronization required. The national synchronization effort is referred to as unified action; the theater level is referred to as unified operations. Interagency operations are another consideration for Army commanders in the theater.

The US Constitution requires civilian control (the NCA) of US military forces. Consequently, subsequent legislation has molded today's defense establishment and produced the concept of the unified theater. Unity of command requires that one responsible commander focus resources toward obtaining defined objectives and strategic end states. Across the range of military operations, unity of command gives a single, unified commander responsibility for all military operations within a designated theater strategic environment (see Figure 2-1). Command lines within the unified theater are established to designate one responsible commander.

Section I

The Strategic Hierarchy

The first round of the first battle is a strategic-level decision.

                                                    GEN William W. Hartzog
                          Commander, US Army Training and Doctrine Command

To accomplish unity of effort within the unified theater, the CINC devises a theater strategy for that geographic portion of the globe. This military strategy is a combination of the art and science of employing armed forces or the potential threat posed by the presence and capabilities of that force to secure national security objectives through the application of force. The CINC derives his military strategy for a geographic region from a hierarchy of guidance and manifests it in the unified theater campaign plan and theater contingency plans.

The theater strategic environment is shaped by the special conditions, circumstances and influences in the theater that affect the employment of military forces and the decisions of the chain of command. The theater strategic direction is expressed through hierarchical levels of strategy. National Security Strategy, National Military Strategy, and theater strategy all provide the basis for each theater's strategic direction. These strategies integrate national security and military objectives (ends), national security policies and military concepts (ways), and national resources and military forces (means) to achieve national security objectives. The Army's planning and conduct of major operations or MOOTW is the operational-level link between the tactical level force's actions and the strategic hierarchy discussed above. This operational-level link is discussed later in this chapter and in the Chapter 3 discussion of operational art and design.

The National Security Act (NSA) of 1947, as amended, created the Department of Defense and the positions of Secretary of Defense (SECDEF) and Joint Chiefs of Staff (JCS). The National Security Act of 1947, and subsequent implementing memorandums, authorized the formation of unified and specified combatant commands. Commanders of these combatant commands are called CINCs.


The NCA establish the National Security Strategy and appropriate strategic end states. The National Security Strategy announces US interests and objectives. This strategy is the art and science of developing, applying, and coordinating the instruments of national power--diplomatic, economic, military, and informational--to achieve objectives that contribute to national security. National values and principles form the foundation of US interests and objectives. The Army's keystone doctrine (FM 100 5) reflects these values as the American view of war. US interests and objectives outlined in the 1994 version of National Security Strategy include--

  • Enhancing our security. The survival of the US as a free and independent nation, with its basic values; intact and its institutions and people secure.

  • Promoting prosperity at home. A healthy and growing US economy to ensure opportunity for individual prosperity and resources for national endeavors at home and abroad.

  • Promoting democracy. Healthy, cooperative, and diplomatically vigorous relations with allies and friendly nations. A stable and secure world where political and economic freedom, human rights, and democratic institutions flourish.

The 1995 National Military Strategy describes two fundamental strategic military objectives derived from the National Security Strategy.

  • Promote stability through regional cooperation and constructive interaction.

  • Thwart aggression through credible deterrence and robust warfighting capabilities.

To achieve these strategic objectives, US military forces must perform three tasks:

  • One, remain constructively engaged in peacetime.

  • Two, attempt to prevent the eruption of conflict.

  • Three, should conflict prevention fail, fight and win our nation's wars.

The overlapping and interrelated strategic concepts that allow the military to execute these three tasks are overseas presence and power projection. Figure 2-2 depicts the relationships between the strategic concepts of overseas presence and power projection and the national military objectives.


The Goldwater Nichols DOD Reorganization Act of 1986 requires the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff (CJCS) to help the NCA in providing strategic direction for the armed services. The National Military Strategy and the Joint Strategic Planning System (JSPS) are the methods the CJCS uses for providing that assistance.

The National Military Strategy and defense policy provide strategic guidance for the employment of military forces. The Joint Strategic Capabilities Plan (JSCP) provides planning guidance to the CINCs and chiefs of the services to accomplish their missions based on current military capabilities.


The CINC translates the national level strategic directives into a theater strategy. This strategy is the basis for developing a campaign plan and leads to operations plans for execution. Joint or multinational forces implement these plans in theater to achieve theater strategic objectives that, in turn, achieve national objectives.

The CINC's strategy has several components. First, it expresses his vision and intent (military objectives)--the theater ends to which operations are conducted. Next, it provides integrated strategic concepts, COAs, and guidance--the theater ways designed to secure national objectives, using the theater's wide-ranging military capabilities. Finally, it gives the service and functional component commanders guidance for planning and employing nuclear, conventional, and SOF theater means.

The plan's process allocates the theater means. Forces are allocated based on theater missions as they compete with requirements in other theaters. Means are expected to fall short of what would ideally be available. The theater campaign plan sequences unified activities over time and space to compensate for these shortcomings.

METT-T analysis is a traditional assessment method for tactical-level leaders. Under deliberate planning circumstances, tactical-level commanders and staffs should use the Army's deliberate decision making procedures in FM 105-5. As part of the Joint Operations Planning and Execution System (JOPES) procedures, strategic and operational level leaders use more formal methods, such as strategic estimates or commander's estimates, as they analyze military and diplomatic situations (see Joint Pubs 5-03.1 and 5-00.2).

At the strategic level, METT-T analysis focuses on conditions, circumstances, and influences of the theater strategic environment. At the operational level, it includes the mission analysis and the assessment of the operational-level environment discussed in Section VI of this chapter. At the theater strategic level, the CINC develops his theater strategy by first identifying specified and implied missions and tasks for his theater. He derives these from many sources, including the national security and military strategies, policies, directives, the JSCP, the UCP, Joint Pub 0-2, and other directives and agreements.

While identifying theater missions, the CINC analyzes his theater strategic environment. Using the strategic estimate, which includes the factors of METT-T, he considers the potential instabilities or threats, the limitations, and the nature of anticipated operations. Assessment factors include the integration of capabilities by diplomatic, informational, and economic instruments of national power provided to the military. In addition, the CINC must consider international security agreements. This analysis leads to formulation of a strategic estimate that defines the strategic situation in the theater. Thus, the estimate produces broad, strategic concepts of what must be done in theater. Then, the CINC integrates these concepts into the theater strategy.

The CINC's staff and subordinates, to include his service and functional component commanders, contribute to the development of the theater strategy. The functional component commander is the commander in charge of a service or functional component command, which consists of all individuals, units, detachments, organizations, and installations under the command assigned to the unified CINC. The development of the multiple theater strategic concepts leads to a specific strategic COA for implementation in the theater campaign. Once the CINC selects the desired course, his staff and subordinate joint commands use the theater strategy to develop and integrate OPLANs, including campaigns.

Section II

The Chain of Command

The Goldwater Nichols DOD Reorganization Act of 1986 prescribes the chain of command. The NCA exercises authority and control of the armed forces through the chain of command with two distinct branches. The first branch runs from the President to the SECDEF to the combatant commanders for missions and forces assigned to their commands. The second branch runs from the NCA to the secretaries of the military departments to the chiefs of the service forces for execution of service functions.

Commanders of combatant commands are responsible to the NCA for the preparedness of their commands and execution and accomplishment of assigned missions. The secretaries of the military departments are responsible for organizing, training, equipping, and providing forces. The authority exercised by the military departments is subject by law to the authority provided to the combatant commanders.

The DOD Reorganization Act placed the CJCS within the chain of command to communicate the directions of the NCA. Though he does not exercise military command over any combatant forces, all communications between the NCA and combatant commanders pass through the CJCS. Figure 2-3 displays the chain of command.


This portion of the chain of command begins with the President and SECDEF, who make up the NCA. They alone have the constitutional authority to direct US armed forces into military action. Once the NCA makes the decision, authorization for military action is passed to combatant commanders. The President, with the advice of the SECDEF and CJCS, establishes combatant commands and appoints combatant commanders under the authority of the National Security Act of 1947. The JSCP apportions forces for each combatant command for planning.


While the CJCS does not exercise command over military forces, the SECDEF may assign oversight responsibilities to the CJCS to assist in controlling and coordinating the combatant commanders. The CJCS functions within the chain of command by conveying to the CINCs the orders of the President and SECDEF.

The CJCS coordinates all communications on matters of joint interest addressed to the CINCs by other authority. The CJCS acts as the spokesperson for the CINCs, especially on the operational requirements of their commands. The CJCS monitors the geographic regions of the world not assigned to a combatant command.


A combatant commander is a commander of a unified or specified command. A combatant commander is called the CINC. A combatant commander is the only military leader with statutory authority (combatant command) to organize and task all services under his control to accomplish military missions. Combatant commanders are key links in the chain of command.


The chain of command for the military departments runs from the NCA to the secretaries of the military departments. The secretaries exercise authority, direction, and control through the service chiefs of their forces not assigned to combatant commands. This chain of command includes all military forces within the respective service. This branch of the chain of command is separate and distinct from the branch that exists within a combatant command.

The secretaries of the military departments are responsible for the administration and support of their forces, to include those assigned or attached to combatant commands. The secretaries fulfill their responsibilities for forces apportioned to combatant commands by exercising administrative control (ADCON) through the service component commanders assigned to the combatant commands. ADCON is subject to the command authority of the combatant commander.

The ASCC, using ADCON authority, is responsible for preparing, maintaining, training, equipping, administering, and supporting ARFOR assigned to the unified and specified commands. The emphasis of the service branch of the chain of command is administrative (legal, personnel, finance) and logistical support to respective service forces. Training during peacetime, in preparation for war, and before commitment of forces is also a key element and task for the ASCC.

The CINC provides the channel for strategic and operational guidance in theater and ensures the US unity of command. The service administrative and support channel provides administrative, training, and logistics support, ensuring that the CINC receives organized, equipped, and trained US military forces. Figure 2-3 illustrates this branch of the chain of command.

Within the parameters set by the CINC's organization of the theater and the command relationships he establishes, the ASCC organizes the ARFOR to best accomplish the assigned missions. The CINC has the authority to direct certain Army organizational options but normally leaves internal Army organization and command relationships to the ASCC.


Command is central to all military actions. Unity of command is central to unity of effort. The authority vested in a commander must be commensurate with the responsibility assigned. Commanders in the chain of command exercise authority as prescribed by law or a superior commander. Commanders of US military forces use various levels of authority, which are described as command relationships and other authorities. Within the seven levels of authority, four are command relationships--combatant command (COCOM), operational control (OPCON), tactical control (TACON), and support. The other three are coordinating authority, ADCON, and direct liaison authorized (DIRLAUTH).


COCOM is the command authority authorized by Title 10, US Code, Section 164, or as directed by the President in the UCP to combatant command commanders (unified or specified). COCOM provides full authority to organize and employ commands and forces as the combatant commander considers necessary to accomplish assigned missions. This authority enables the CINC to organize and employ his commands and forces, assign tasks, designate objectives, and give authoritative direction over all aspects of military operations, joint training, and logistics necessary to accomplish the assigned missions. The CINC normally exercises COCOM through his service component commanders. COCOM is not transferable.


Commanders at or below the combatant commander exercise OPCON as their command authority. OPCON is inherent in COCOM and is the authority to perform the functions of command over subordinate forces.

The CINC may delegate OPCON to his subordinates. OPCON is the most authority with which subordinates can direct all aspects of military operations and joint training needed to accomplish any assigned mission. A commander with OPCON may control forces from one or more services. OPCON does not normally include the authority to direct logistics, administration, discipline, internal organization, or unit training. The service component commander retains his service responsibility and authority for forces under OPCON of another command. Commanders must be aware of the US and North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) terms of OPCON and not interchange the two. The NATO term OPCON more closely resembles the US definition of TACON.


The CINC uses TACON to limit the authority to direct the tactical use of combat forces. TACON is authority normally limited to the detailed and specified local direction of movement and maneuver of the tactical force to accomplish an assigned task. TACON does not provide organizational authority or administrative and support responsibilities. The service component continues to exercise these authorities.


The CINC identifies support relationships for one force to aid, assist, protect, or logistically support another force. The supporting force gives the needed support to the supported force. Establishing supported and supporting relationships between components is a useful option to accomplish needed tasks. This concept applies equally to all dimensions of the joint force organized by the CINC.


During Operations Desert Shield and Desert Storm, the NATO terminology for subordinate command relationships caused some problems. The NATO terms operational command and tactical command are similar to the Army terms OPCON and TACON. With NATO forces working for a CINC outside the NATO structure, some confusion resulted.

OPCOM is a NATO term used to assign missions or tasks to subordinate commanders, to deploy units, to reassign forces, and to retain or delegate OPCON and/or TACON as necessary. OPCOM does not include responsibility for administration or logistics. OPCOM may indicate the forces assigned to a commander.

OPCON, as discussed in joint doctrine, is a slightly broader authority than OPCOM. OPCON, besides the authorities stated above, includes the authority to prescribe the chain of command; organize commands and forces; suspend or reassign officers; delineate functional responsibilities; and delineate geographic AORs.

Operational control is also a defined NATO term. In NATO, operational control is the authority delegated to a commander to direct forces assigned so that the commander may accomplish specific missions or tasks that are limited usually by function, time, or location. It further includes the deployment of units concerned and the retention or delegation of TACON to those units. It does not include authority to assign separate employment of components of concerned units. Neither does it, of itself, include administrative or logistical control.

TACOM, the NATO term, is the authority delegated to a commander to assign tasks to forces under his command for the accomplishment of the mission assigned by higher authority. This differs from TACON in that TACON involves only the necessary control of movements and maneuvers to accomplish a previously assigned mission. Both NATO and joint doctrine share the same definition for TACON.

These definitions demonstrate the complexity of multinational operations. The subtle differences in terms were a source of confusion among allies with a long history of multinational operations.

Each subordinate element of the joint force can support or be supported by other elements. Normally an establishing directive is issued to specify the purpose of the support relationship, the effect desired, and the scope of the action to be taken. Joint Pub 0-2 states, "Unless limited by the establishing directive, the commander of the supported force will have the authority to exercise general direction of the supporting effort." The execution of general direction includes the designation and prioritization of targets or objectives, timing and duration of the supporting action, and other instructions necessary for coordination and efficiency. The supporting commander is responsible for ascertaining the needs of the supported commander. The supporting commander must fulfill those needs from within the existing capabilities, priorities, and requirements of other assigned tasks. The categories of support are general, mutual, direct, and close.

General Support

General support provides designated support to an entire supported force and not to any particular subdivision. General support is the most centralized support relationship. For combat units, this relationship provides the most flexibility for influencing the battle during conduct of operations and is used when the enemy situation is unclear. It is more commonly used in the defense than the offense.

Mutual Support

Mutual support describes actions that units provide one another against an enemy because of their assigned tasks, their positions relative to one another and to the enemy, and their inherent capabilities.

Direct Support

Direct support provides designated support to a specific force and authorizes the supported force to seek this support directly. The supporting force provides support on a priority basis to the supported force. Also, the supporting force may provide support to other forces when it does not jeopardize the mission or put the supported force at risk. The authority to accomplish support of other than directly supported forces rests with the higher tactical or operational commander but also may be delegated. An example of this support is when the elements of a general support artillery brigade assigned a direct support mission are diverted temporarily to support a force other than the designated force.

Close Support

The fourth alternative, close support, is that action of the supporting force against targets or objectives that are sufficiently near the supported force as to require detailed integration or coordination of the supporting action with the fire, movement, or other actions of the supported force.


Other authorities granted outside the command relations delineated above are coordinating authority, ADCON, and DIRLAUTH.

Coordinating Authority

Coordinating authority is a consultation relationship between commanders, but not an authority to exercise control. The CINC and other subordinate commanders designate coordinating authority to assist during planning and preparation for actual operations. The CINC specifies coordinating authority to foster effective coordination; however, coordinating authority does not compel any agreements.

Administrative Control

ADCON is the direction or exercise of authority necessary to fulfill military department statutory responsibilities for administration and support. ADCON may be delegated to and exercised by service commanders at any echelon at or below the service component command. The secretaries of military departments are responsible for the administration and support of their forces assigned or attached to unified commands. The secretaries fulfill this responsibility by exercising ADCON through the service component commander of the unified command. ADCON is subject to the command authority of the combatant commander.

Direct Liaison Authorized

DlRLAUTH is the authority granted by a commander at any level to a subordinate commander to coordinate an action directly with a command or agency within or outside the command. DIRLAUTH is a coordination relationship, not a command relationship.

Section III

Joint Force Commands

The NCA, with the advice and assistance of the CJCS, establishes combatant commands (unified and specified) on a regional or functional basis. Regionally oriented unified commands are called theater combatant commands. The CINC, using the COCOM options, establishes the theater command structure. He may establish subordinate JFCs (subunified commands and JTFs). These subordinate JFCs may be established on a regional or functional basis.


With the advice and assistance of the CJCS, the NCA establishes combatant commands (unified and specified) to perform military missions and prescribes the force structure of such commands. Commanders of combatant commands are responsible to the NCA for the preparedness of their commands to execute assigned missions and for the accomplishment of the military missions assigned to them.


A specified command is a command that has broad, continuing missions. The NCA, with advice and assistance of the CJCS, establishes a specified command. A specified command is composed normally of forces from a single military department. Still, it may include units and staffs from other services. Currently, no specified commands exist.


Unified commands are those combatant commands with significant forces from two or more services. Unified commands may be functionally or regionally oriented.

Functionally Oriented (Global) Unified Commands

Functionally oriented unified commands are the US Space Command (SPACECOM), the US Transportation Command (TRANSCOM), the US Special Operations Command (SOCOM), and the US Strategic Command (STRATCOM). Functionally oriented unified commands operate globally across all geographic regions. The UCP provides missions, geographical areas, and forces assigned to unified commands. The UCP is normally reviewed biennially during an odd year. Suggested changes are submitted for consideration. Those that receive support are subsequently implemented.

Regionally Oriented (Theater) Unified Commands

Unified commands with regional responsibilities are the US Atlantic Command (ACOM), the US Southern Command (SOUTHCOM), the US European Command (EUCOM), the US Central Command (CENTCOM), and the US Pacific Command (PACOM). Each regional combatant command has a specific geographic AOR or theater that includes the land, sea, and airspace in the strategic region. UCP-designated AORs provide military focus and a basis for coordination worldwide.

A theater combatant commander has the flexibility to organize and employ forces wherever required to accomplish his assigned responsibilities in coordination with other supporting combatant commanders. Effective use of the nation's military power requires close integration of the separate services. Unity of effort is required for effectiveness and efficiency. Centralized direction provides for unified action by forces. Decentralized execution is essential because of the enormity of the command and control (C²) span.


The theater combatant commander, referred to as the CINC, is a strategic-level commander of a unified command, who provides strategic direction and operational focus to his subordinate commands. CINCs serve as the vital link between national military strategy and theater strategy. They provide the strategic and operational direction required for major unified and joint land, air, and maritime operations. The CINC is not simply a planner and allocator of resources; he has a broad range of responsibilities established by public law and described in joint publications.

The CINC organizes his forces, assigns tasks, designates objectives, provides authoritative direction, and employs his forces. He designs and executes theater campaigns and unified operations, supports the operations of other theater CINCs, and continually assesses the environment, anticipating the need for theater operations where his forces may play a supporting or supported role.

A CINC is assigned a myriad of responsibilities to fulfill his unique command role. Joint Pub 0-2 discusses the CINC's responsibilities at length. It specifies that the CINC is responsible for maintaining the security of his command and protecting the interests of the US, its possessions, and its bases against direct and indirect hostile threats. The CINC ensures that his command is prepared to carry out missions assigned by the NCA. The CINC assigns responsibilities and missions to his component forces and maintains unity of command.

The CINC executes his strategic planning responsibilities for developing a theater strategy and theater campaigns (war plans to achieve national strategic objectives). He uses operational art and theater design while performing the following critical tasks:

  • Prepares the estimates (strategic and commander's) of the situation.

  • Establishes a theater strategic end state.

  • Determines strategic center of gravity.

  • States his strategic vision and intent in his strategic concept of operations.

  • Organizes the theater.

  • Identifies subordinate commands and determining specific forces required to execute campaign plans.

  • Establishes command relationships and delegating authority.

  • States readiness shortfalls and developing programs to correct those shortfalls.

  • Concentrates his forces and supplies strategically.

  • Conducts strategic maneuver to destroy, dislocate, or neutralize the strategic center of gravity.

  • Seeks strategic advantage and the initiative.

  • Directs the development of theater contingency plans and concept plans leading to the conduct of operations in war or MOOTW.

  • Achieves a theater strategic end state.

The CINC's campaign plan provides a common frame of reference within which operations of land, air, maritime, special operations, and space forces, as well as interagency, multinational, or UN forces, are unified, integrated, and harmonized. Joint campaign doctrine is found in Joint Pubs 3-0, 5-0, 5-00.1.

The services provide forces to operate within a subordinate JFC in the operational areas that the theater commander organizes. They further subdivide these areas among their forces. The SECDEF directs the Secretary of the Army to assign ARFOR to the CINCs. Operating within national budget constraints, the NCA cannot satisfy all of the CINC's requirements. Therefore, during deliberate planning, CINCs identify their force shortfalls. The CJCS, through the military department chiefs, identifies forces to fill these shortfalls. The JSCP apportions forces to each CINC for planning purposes. This apportionment may not equal the current forces assigned. The NCA assigns additional forces when a CINC is required to implement a specific plan requiring more forces than assigned or apportioned for planning.

The CINC, by exercising COCOM authority, performs the following legal functions of command over assigned forces:

  • Determines forces required to achieve the military end state, organizes available forces, allocates resources, and commands forces.

  • Employs commands and forces.

  • Assigns tasks.

  • Designates objectives.

  • Exercises authoritative direction over all aspects of military operations, signal support, logistics, and joint training to accomplish missions assigned to his command.

Combatant commanders alone exercise COCOM authority by establishing command relationships with subordinates, delegating appropriate authorities, and assigning responsibilities to their subordinates (see Figure 2-4). The CINC strives for centralized direction and decentralized planning and execution. The CINC has the following six options, including combining options, through which he may exercise COCOM authority (Joint Pub 0-2):

  • Service component command.

  • Functional component command.

  • Subordinate unified command.

  • Joint task force.

  • Single-service force.

  • Direct command.


A service component command consists of those individuals, units, detachments, organizations, and installations of a single military service assigned to the unified command. Except for the CINC and members of his joint staff, the senior officer of the service component assigned to a unified command and qualified for command by the regulations of that service is designated the service component commander. His assignment is subject to the concurrence of the CINC. The service component commander is responsible for all command aspects of his force, to include logistics within the unified command.

The ASCC serves as the principal advisor to the CINC for supporting and employing ARFOR in theater and ARFOR outside the theater tasked to support theater operations. The ASCC may delegate part of this responsibility as the theater becomes more complex, and it may become necessary to establish an intermediate headquarters, based on the complexity of the operational environment. This alternative is discussed further in Section VI of this chapter.


Based on his mission analysis, the CINC may form a functional component composed of like functional forces from more than one service. Functional component commands may be established for MOOTW or war to perform particular operational missions that may be of short duration or may extend over time and involve forces from two or more services. The functional component commanders are as Command (ALCOM), US Forces Japan (USFJ), follows:

  • Joint force land component commander (JFLCC).

  • Joint force air component commander (JFACC).

  • Joint force maritime component commander (JFMCC).

  • Joint force special operations component commander (JFSOCC).

Each focuses on operational responsibilities, leaving logistical support to the respective service component commander. See Figure 2-5. Functional component commanders may serve simultaneously as service component commanders. For example, an Army JFLCC could direct Marine forces and serve as the ASCC commander.


Unified commanders, with approval from the NCA, may establish subordinate unified commands (also called subunified commands). CINCs establish subunified commands to conduct operations on a continuing basis according to the criteria that established the unified command.

The CINC may exercise COCOM through a subunified commander for operations on a continuing basis. The subunified commander exercises functions, authority, and responsibilities similar to those of a unified command CINC, except for COCOM. He exercises OPCON of assigned commands and forces within the assigned AOR or functional area. The CINC PACOM, for example, has three subordinate unified commands: Alaskan Command (ALCOM), US Forces Japan (USFJ), and US Forces Korea (USFK).

The ASCC of subunified commands operates in the chain of command within the subordinate unified command. The ASCC of the subunified command normally communicates directly with the unified command ASCC on matters that relate specifically to that service and informs the subunified commander as that commander directs.


The SECDEF, a combatant commander, a subunified commander, a functional component commander, or an existing commander of a joint task force (CJTF) may establish a JTF. A JTF is established normally on a geographical area or functional basis to execute missions with specific limited objectives that do not require centralized control of joint logistics. A JTF is composed of elements of two or more services and exists until mission completion.

The CJTF exercises OPCON over forces assigned to the JTF. The unified command's ASCC places an ARFOR under OPCON of the CJTF for the conduct of operations and retains responsibility to provide service-specific support to the ARFOR. The JTF established in the Persian Gulf in 1988 to protect shipping and the JTF established in Panama in 1989 to conduct Operation Just Cause illustrate this type of organization.


Normally, the Army will not be involved in this COCOM option due to its operational interdependence with the other services. Still, on occasion, such as the support to Charleston, SC, by FORSCOM units in the aftermath of Hurricane Hugo, the Army may conduct a single-service operation.


The CINC can retain direct command of specific operational forces. The direct command option is used when the circumstances of the mission require urgency and the forces must remain immediately responsive to the CINC. Direct command of specific SOF is a prime example of this COCOM option. Such forces could be composed of forces from one or more services. This option would likely be employed for short, sensitive, and small-scale operations. Special operations often fall under this organizational option.

Section IV

Multinational Commands

Operations in a multinational environment have both similarities and differences to normal joint operations. This section highlights some of the differences found in a multinational environment. It details the differences between alliance and coalition operations. It discusses the need for mutual understanding and respect, for capitalizing on inherent operational strengths of a particular nation, and for obtaining unity of effort.


Multinational operations can be categorized in one of two major groups: coalitions and alliances. Coalitions and alliances must create a structure that meets the needs, diplomatic realities, constraints, and objectives of the participating nations. Since no single command structure fits the needs of all alliances and coalitions, several different models could evolve.


Coalitions normally form as a rapid response to unforeseen crises and are ad hoc arrangements between two or more nations for common action. During the early stages of such a contingency, nations rely upon their military command systems to control the activities of their forces. Therefore, the initial coalition arrangement will most likely involve a parallel command structure.

Under a parallel command, no single multinational army commander is designated. Usually, member nations retain control of their national forces. Coalition decisions are made through a coordinated effort among the participants. A coordination center can be established to facilitate exchange of intelligence and operational information, ensure coordination of operations among coalition forces, and provide a forum for resolving routine issues among staff sections. During Operation Desert Storm, the coalition coordination, communications, and integration center (C3IC) was established to effect command relationships. Figure 2-6 depicts a parallel command.

As a coalition matures, the members may choose to centralize their efforts through establishing a lead nation command structure. A lead nation command is one of the less common command structures in an ad hoc coalition. A coalition of this makeup sees all coalition members subordinating their forces to a single partner, usually, the nation providing the preponderance of forces and resources. Still, subordinate national commands maintain national integrity. The lead nation command establishes integrated staff sections, with the composition determined by the coalition leadership. Figure 2-7 provides a model for a lead nation command structure in a coalition.


Typically, alliances are formed because of formal agreements among two or more nations for broad, long-term objectives. Alliances are characterized by years of cooperation among nations. In alliances--

  • Agreed-upon objectives exist.

  • Standard operating procedures have been established.

  • Appropriate plans have been developed and exercised among participants.

  • A developed theater of operations exists, some equipment interoperability exists, and command relationships have been firmly established.

Cooperation among members of an alliance, such as NATO, is advantageous, since mutually developed procedures for making and executing decisions exist. Often, when members of such an alliance cooperate in operations outside of their alliance sphere, such as in naval operations in the Persian Gulf, procedures worked out within the alliance are adapted quickly.

As in a coalition, a lead nation command structure may exist in a developing alliance when all member nations place their forces under the control of one nation. This means that the lead nation's procedures and doctrine form the basis for planning for and coordinating the conduct of operations. Though this type of arrangement is unusual in a formal alliance, such a command structure may have advantages under certain treaty circumstances existing with Latin America, Southwest Asia, or Japan that may evolve into alliance arrangements.

A lead nation command in an alliance may be characterized by a staff that is integrated to the degree necessary to ensure cooperation among multinational or national subordinate Army formations. Usually, alliances are organized under an integrated command structure that provides unity of command in a multinational setting. The key ingredients in an integrated alliance command are that a single commander will be designated, that his staff will be composed of representatives from all member nations, and that subordinate commands and staffs will be integrated to the lowest echelon necessary to accomplish the missions. Figure 2-8 represents a typical multinational army force organized under an integrated command structure in an alliance.

If multinational formations exist below the multinational army component headquarters, the alliance membership will determine the command of those subordinate organizations. Multinational army force headquarters staffs will be integrated. Accordingly, heavy reliance will be placed on liaison between forces.


International agreements should set forth the degree of authority for multinational commanders and procedures that ensure unity of effort. Ideally, the coalition/alliance will designate a single military commander to direct the combined efforts of the participating forces. The US contingent of a multinational command may be a unified command, a specified command, a subordinate unified command, a functional component command, a JTF, or a force of a single service.

A common understanding of C² relationships facilitates the required unity of effort. The US chain of command, from the President to the lowest US commander in the field, remains inviolate. US forces in a multinational force will continue to recognize their COCOM relationship to a US unified or specified commander. Subject to NCA prior approval, a multinational force commander may exercise appropriate and negotiated OPCON over IJS units in specific operations authorized by a legitimizing authority such as the UN Security Council.

The multinational force commander and the US theater CINC providing the US forces to the multinational force must coordinate and agree to the command relationships. This agreement must be in consonance with the NCA criteria for C² within multinational operations, which may establish limits of OPCON. For example, within these limits, a foreign UN commander cannot--

  • Change the mission or deploy US forces outside the AOR agreed to by the NCA.

  • Separate units.

  • Redirect logistics and supplies.

  • Administer discipline.

  • Promote individuals.

  • Change the internal organization of the US units.

Other national forces will likely remain aligned to their national command authority.

International agreements will specify when and how the transfer of authority from national command to multinational command takes place. At lower echelons, command relationships will be identical to US joint relationships (OPCON, TACON, support, coordinating authority) or at least similar (OPCOM, tactical command [TACOM]). Definitions of these terms differ slightly between US and NATO. Commanders of operating forces must clarify how each is applied. FM 100-8 describes the doctrine for multinational army operations.

Section V

Theater Organizations

A theater is an assigned geographic area outside CONUS and under the command of a regional combatant commander (unified command) (Joint Pub 0-2). Under the UCP, a theater or AOR is viewed from the strategic context, the level of international military cooperation required, or the degree of dedicated US military resources necessary in the theater. These perspectives influence how the Army conducts operations in each theater.


Military strategists often describe theaters as maritime, continental, or littoral, based on their dominant geographic and strategic characteristics. This description influences the predominant type of military forces used, the strategic missions assigned, and the strategic and operational objectives pursued in the theater.

Continental theaters primarily involve control of land and associated airspace. Maritime theaters focus on ensuring control of the seas and associated airspace. While continental and maritime theaters are different, both demand the synchronized efforts of all services, both within and between theaters. Littoral theaters combine aspects of both continental and maritime theaters.


Continental theaters are established to control the land and associated airspace vital to the sustenance of a nation or nations or to destroy an opponent's means to exercise such control. EUCOM, CENTCOM, and SOUTHCOM are continental theaters. Military action in continental theaters may vary in purpose and scope from participation in the internal defense of another nation against subversion, lawlessness, and insurgency to major operations and campaigns to destroy enemy land forces. The focus of continental campaigns is on the combination and sequencing of air, space, land, sea, and SOF operations.


Maritime theaters are established both for the forward defense of the nation and for strategic access to US resource needs, friends, and potential adversaries. ACOM and PACOM are maritime theaters The focus of maritime campaigns is very similar to that of continental campaigns. Campaigns in maritime theaters may be composed of one or more of the following types of operations:

  • Fleet operations to seize or maintain unobstructed access to ocean areas by destroying or blocking enemy forces.

  • Joint operations to control key land areas.

  • Limited operations with limited objectives such as peacekeeping or nation assistance.


Operations in a littoral region require integration and synchronization of naval, air, and land forces. World political changes and affordability have reduced US access to land bases in forward areas near the most likely crisis regions. This has increased the importance of military operations that can capitalize on sea bases and land lodgments that, once synchronized, project land and air combat power deep into the region. Littoral theaters are not as predominant as the other two theaters but have been seen in previous campaigns along peninsulas or coastlines.

The deployment of US forces to Southwest Asia during Operation Desert Shield in 1990 was accomplished for the most part by sealift. However, maritime support and the maritime interdiction operations required synchronization forces operating within the CENTCOM continental theater, thus forming a littoral region.


When considering the requirements of the many active theaters, national planners establish the priorities by providing planning guidance, allocating forces, and apportioning limited resources. Theaters are described as theaters of focus, economy-of-force theaters, or deferred theaters. This description corresponds to the relative prioritization of resources for the specific theaters.


A theater of focus is the theater of main military effort because it has the highest risk level and potential for conflict. NCA and CJCS provide guidance, forces, and resources accordingly. CENTCOM was the theater of focus during Operations Desert Shield/Storm.


An economy-of-force theater receives a lesser level of forces and resources than the theater of focus because the associated risk and potential for conflict are lower. SOUTHCOM during the early 1980s illustrates this type of theater. Forces and resource requests are filled after those of the theater of focus. Those that cannot be filled are then identified and tagged for filling when the economy-of-force theater is upgraded to a theater of focus.


A deferred theater receives the least priority for assigned forces and resources, based on its associated risk level and potential for conflict. CENTCOM during the early 1980s was an example of a deferred theater. Forces and resources are identified and tagged for deployment but not deployed other than during exercises.


Theater combatant commanders develop a theater strategy and then organize the theater. Considerations for multinational operations should always be prominent as the commander considers his theater structure and command relationships. The Army, besides operating as part of a joint force, must be prepared to conduct multinational operations with land, air, and naval forces of other nations, as well as interagency operations. While unity of command may not be possible in multinational operations, unity of effort is essential.

Each CINC may assign associated areas within his theater to subordinate commanders. CINCs may designate joint areas or zones during war and MOOTW, while theaters of war and operations are designated only in time of war. Combat zones (CZs) and communications zones (COMMZs) may be established as needed. The CZ is an area required by forces to conduct combat operations. The COMMZ contains LOCs and those theater organizations and other agencies required to support forces in the field. The CINC organizes his theater to enable him to synchronize his unified operations or integrate single-service, joint, special, and supporting operations with allied and interagency activities and NGOs and PVOs.


In war, the CINC may use many of the structures identified above or others as required to subdivide the theater. When the NCA authorizes combat operations, the theater commander, with NCA and CJCS approval, delineates a theater of war.

Theater of War

A theater of war is defined as the air, land, sea, and space area which is or may become directly involved in the operations of war. Operations within a theater of war are invariably joint and usually multinational. The theater of war should be operationally self-sufficient, with a sustaining base adequate to support contemplated operations. The theater of war should encompass only that part of the areas or countries to be involved in the war. While part of the theater is in a state of war, it may be possible that all nations within the theater are not at war. See Figure 2-9.

Theater of Operation

If the CINC determines that he should subdivide his theater of war to contend with more than one major threat, he may designate subordinate theaters or AOs for each major threat. Still, the theater commander must ensure that such divisions do not violate the principle of unity of effort. The theaters of operation refer to that portion of an area of war necessary for military operations and for the administration of such operations for extended periods. The theater of operations commander often has responsibilities similar to the theater CINC, but not of the same scope. During World War II, the Atlantic, European, Mediterranean, and Russian theater of strategic direction was divided into four similar subordinate theaters of operation. These theaters of operation were integrated geographically and focused upon enemy Axis forces.

The range of military operations also may require designating several geographic subareas of responsibility such as a joint operations area (JOA) or joint zone (JZ), a joint special operations area (JSOA), or a joint rear area (JRA). A subordinate theater also could be used in a larger theater for decentralizing the effort to a subunified commander. Subareas of responsibility are portions of a theater CINC's AOR and are delegated usually for a long term and often over large areas. See Figure 2-10.

Joint Operations Area

JOAs are geographic areas the CINC creates to conduct specific military missions and their supporting activities. JOAs are usually established for short-term operations. JOAs are particularly useful when operations are to be conducted on the boundaries between theaters. The JOA commander's authority is limited to that required to accomplish specific tasks. US operations in Panama during Operation Just Cause in 1989 offer an example of a JOA.

Joint Zone

A joint zone is a term for an area established to permit friendly surface, air, and subsurface forces to operate simultaneously. ARFOR transit but do not normally operate in a JZ.

Joint Special Operations Area

JSOAs are restricted areas of land, sea, and airspace that the CINC assigns to a JFSOCC to conduct special operations. JSOAs may be established for short or long duration special operations efforts, normally when they are independent of conventional operations. If conventional operations in the JSOA are required, coordination with forces operating within the JSOA must be effected prior to initiation of operations. The CINC may delineate a JSOA to facilitate simultaneous conventional and special operations in the same general operating area. The capture of the hijacking terrorists of the Achilles Lauro in the Mediterranean in 1987 was in a JSOA.

Joint Rear Area

In war, as in peacetime and conflict, the CINC may designate a JRA. The JRA is designated to facilitate protection and operation of installations and forces that provide logistics and/or support to combat operations. The joint rear area coordinator (JRAC) is the officer given responsibility for the overall security of the JRA and for furnishing a secure environment to facilitate sustainment, host nation support (HNS), infrastructure development, and movements of the joint force.

The size of the JRA may vary considerably and is highly dependent on the size of the theater, logistics support requirements, the threat, or the scope of the joint operation. The JRA is usually to the rear of the theater or CZ, but it is not necessarily contiguous to the CZ. With split-based operations, much of the JRA could be in CONUS. AJRA can also be adapted to a modern, high-intensity, nonlinear battlefield. A JRA may be segmented and contain isolated pockets of relatively secure support areas that collectively make up a JRA.

Combat Zone, Communications Zone, and Theater Base

The CINC may additionally organize his theater of war into a CZ, a COMMZ, and a theater base. The CZ is that area required by combat forces to conduct operations. CINCs may further subdivide the CZ into forward and rear combat zones. They are normally forward of the Army rear boundary.

The COMMZ contains those theater organizations, LOCs, and other agencies in the JRA required to support forces in the field. Usually, the COMMZ is in the rear portion of the theater of operations, reaching back to the CONUS base or perhaps to another combatant commander's AOR. The theater CINC may establish these areas for long-term, continuing requirements or for short durations to meet a specific situation.

The theater base is a sizable portion of the JRA. It has logistics facilities such as ports of debarkation, marshaling areas, logistics stockage areas, movement control points, logistics headquarters and units, the rear portion of the intratheater communications zone, airfields and air bases, transitioning land forces, theater missile defense forces, the theater rear headquarters, and strategic reserves. See Figure 2-11.

Subordinate Areas of Operations

Subordinate army commanders organize their assigned AOs for tactical operations. This organization is based on terrain orientation, security orientation, or a threat orientation. Subordinate army commanders establish necessary control measures to delineate responsibilities for zones of action or sectors of defense to coordinate fires and direct maneuver. These measures may include lateral boundaries, axes, objectives, phase lines, and special areas, for example, airspace control area or air defense area. If the enemy situation is known, a threat orientation is more appropriate. Accordingly, the subordinate army commanders would organize their AOs to accommodate all of the air, land, and sea forces necessary to impose their tactical battle space to defeat the enemy. For example, the main battle area (MBA) is the portion of the battlefield in which the decisive battle is fought to defeat the enemy. Only those control measures necessary for operations against the enemy should be imposed upon subordinate commanders, minimizing the use of lateral boundaries except where necessary to separate friendly forces or provide flank and rear security against an enemy situation.


The theater of war does not normally encompass the CINC's entire theater. In the remainder of his theater, the CINC may be conducting MOOTW. CINCs designate a theater structure that achieves strategic and theater focus in both MOOTW and war. This structure allows synchronization and integration of all instruments of power within the theater. At times, this synchronization requirement may extend to UN operations.

If hostilities are imminent, the CINC may designate an area of conflict--an area of land, sea, and air designated for the conduct of hostile MOOTW. However, if an MOOTW is required that does not include response to hostilities, such as a natural disaster or humanitarian assistance, the CINC may establish an area of assistance within his theater. The area of conflict or area of assistance may be further subdivided into several geographic subareas of responsibility such as a JOA, JSOA, AO, or COMMZ or JRA. Establishment of these subareas is to provide the same functions and control measures as required for conducting wartime operations. See Figure 2-10.

Section VI

The Army in Theater

This section discusses the three tasks of the operational-level commander and how they influence theater organization, the environment, and the echelons of command within the Army. It discusses the ASCC and the Army commander as a subordinate JFC. Senior army leaders, using an operational level perspective, task-organize the Army to maximize its capabilities in the theater. The Army's theater organization provides the means to execute the designs of operational art while facilitating joint operations.


The ASCC supports the theater combatant CINC by conducting Army operations to support or attain the CINC's established objectives. The Army contributes forces to perform combat, logistics, and support activities in theater. The Army organizes, trains, and equips these land forces to accomplish all assigned missions.

Unified C² results in assigning forces for employment, apportioning forces for planning, and allocating them for execution to combatant commanders. In support of the CINC, the ASCC organizes the assigned forces to accomplish the three operational-level tasks of the senior army commander:

  • Establishing the link among joint, multinational, interagency, NGO, PVO, or UN operations.

  • Executing functions to support continuous operations by subordinate army forces.

  • Planning and executing operations to support the joint campaign when designated as an operational commander by the CINC.

Other subordinate army commanders may perform the tasks; still, they remain the responsibility of the ASCC.


The first task of the senior army commander in theater is to establish linkages to joint, multinational, and interagency organizations. These linkages include--

  • Receiving joint, multinational, and interagency or UN direction.

  • Advising the CINC on Army capabilities.

  • Establishing liaison with joint, multinational, and interagency organizations and NGOs and PVOs.

  • Augmenting the joint, multinational, and interagency staff as required.

  • Linking with specific joint, multinational, NGO, PVO, and interagency systems.

  • Coordinating intelligence collection, analysis, and dissemination.

The commander's guidance includes the subordinate commander's missions and tasks that are expected to contribute to the higher echelon's plan. The guidance should include the assignment of forces and sequencing of subordinates' assigned mission and tasks. The guidance will include any delegated authority, other information pertinent to the situation, and any changes that modify subordinate missions and tasks.

The ASCC of the unified or subunified command or the ARFOR commander of the JTF advises the CINC or CJTF, respectively, on employment of US Army organizations and their capabilities. The ASCC must ensure that his subordinate commanders and staffs are trained, agile, and versatile to meet this requirement. The CINC looks to his ASCC for the nomination and selection of specifically Army-apportioned or assigned units for assignment to subordinate joint commands.

The Army conducts liaison with joint, multinational, NGO, PVO, and interagency organizations in theater. This liaison includes lateral liaison with other services, as well as higher and lower liaison with the appropriate joint or multinational force staff and any subordinate joint or multinational organizations as required. The ASCC must understand the capabilities that the other services bring to the theater. Such understanding enhances the opportunity for synergy within the joint force.

Similar to the exchange of liaison teams is the requirement of ARFOR to augment a joint force staff or receive augmentation from joint forces when the Army forms the core of a joint staff headquarters. The ASCC must interface with joint information and control systems such as intelligence and communications. These systems require specific hardware that may be unique to the joint force headquarters and may require special Army efforts for effective joint coordination.

Army intelligence elements closely coordinate with joint, multinational, and interagency organizations to establish the mutual supporting intelligence structure required to support the joint commander's operations. The intelligence structure should assign collection capabilities consistent with available assets, conduct timely all-source analysis, and provide rapid dissemination of available intelligence information.


The second task of the ASCC in theater is to execute his Title 10 responsibility by supporting operations. At theater level, the preponderance of operational considerations are logistical but may include significant engineer efforts, depending upon existing infrastructure. In the force-projection mode, decisions made early will be highly significant as the time for combat operations approaches. Decisions such as the sequencing of arriving forces and equipment will often not be reversible.

The answers to such questions as what is needed first--construction engineers or infantrymen, tanks or trucks--may sow the seeds of success or failure. The commander and his staff should analyze these kinds of questions, being careful not to eliminate any option before the need for such a decision is clear.

These analyses require a full assessment of the factors of METT-T and an understanding of where and how risks are taken. Army commanders retain responsibilities to support Army units through the service chain of command, regardless of the joint and multinational arrangements. The ground transportation system, common classes of supply, and construction of the infrastructure are examples of the Army's contribution to the overall theater effort.

Each joint or multinational organization with Army forces has an ARFOR commander who ensures Army support requirements are met. These support requirements, which include logistics, personnel services, and health services, are service-specific and flow through the service chain of command. Support functions at the operational level are addressed in FM 100-16, FM 100-10, and FM 63-4.


The third task of the ASCC in theater is to conduct operations. When designated by the CINC as an operational-level commander, the senior army commander, in this role, serves in the chain of command, planning and executing major operations that support the joint campaign. He designates, sustains, and shifts the main effort of subordinate ground forces to support the joint or multinational plan. His understanding of operational art (see Chapter 3) is essential to his performance of this role.


Each unified and subordinate unified command has an Army service component command. The CINC's Army service component command consists of the ASCC and all those elements under his command. The ASCC is responsible for--

  • Recommending to the CINC or subunified commander the proper employment of Army component forces.

  • Accomplishing assigned operational missions.

  • Selecting and nominating specific units of the Army for assignment to theater forces.

  • Conducting joint training, including training other service components as directed.

  • Informing the CINC of Army logistics support effects on operational capabilities.

  • Supporting operational and exercise plans as requested.

  • Developing Army program and budget requests for the CINC.

  • Informing the CINC of program and budget decisions that may affect planning and operations.

  • Conducting Army-specific functions such as internal administration and discipline, training, normal logistics functions, and Army intelligence matters.

  • Informing the CINC of joint nonstrategic nuclear support required by the Army.

  • Ensuring signal interoperability.

  • Providing logistical and administrative support to the ARFOR participating in a JTF.


The Army service chain expects the ASCC to monitor and support all ARFOR in its geographic area. The ASCC, exercising ADCON, may communicate through the Army Chief of Staff to the Secretary of the Army for service-specific matters. The ASCC is responsible for command logistical support unless a higher command directs otherwise.

Sometimes, the CINC may direct the ASCC to provide common items to other services within his AOR. Additionally, the ASCC may support allied or coalition forces. Army commanders in joint organizations use the channel from the ASCC to the Department of the Army for service-specific requirements. This channel forms a hierarchy for Army support in theater but does not imply a superior-subordinate relationship. Army elements within subordinate joint organizations perform functions similar to the ASCC. An illustration of this concept is the organization of the service channel in PACOM with a notional JTF (Figure 2-12).

In Figure 2-12, the ARFOR within the notional JTF coordinate logistics through US Army, Japan (USAR-J). USAR-J is the Army service component command of USFJ, a subunified command. USAR-J is responsible for coordinating support services through US Army, Pacific (USARPAC). Within PACOM, a unified command, USARPAC is the Army service component command and coordinates directly with the Department of the Army. The purpose of the service channel is the efficient use of Army resources within a theater. The JTF establishing authority's Army service component command is responsible for providing logistical and administrative support to ARFOR participating in a JTF.


During conditions of peacetime, each regional CINC has an Army service component command through which he normally exercises COCOM of ARFOR assigned by the NCA to the CINC. In conflict and war, the CINC may transfer OPCON to the designated headquarters. The organizational design of a headquarters to support C² tasks of the Army service component command, the JTF, the operational-level headquarters (numbered army), and corps must be versatile, agile, flexible, and modular in structure. Such a design provides the Army service component command the flexibility to establish the required C² capability, using assigned assets or preestablished functional and modular augmentation packages from other component forces or other Army assets.

The ASCC must determine the degree of participation within the AOR required by ARFOR. That participation can range from Army contributions to a JTF, to total involvement of the Army component in theater, to reinforcements from CONUS or other theaters. The assessment of the operational environment will determine how the Army organizes within the AOR.

The first option is for the ASCC to provide an operational-level C² capability. The Army contribution to a subunified command is an example of this option. This subunified command's ASCC has responsibilities within the designated AO similar to those of the unified command's ASCC. The deployment of Army units to operate within a JTF requires the ASCC to establish an ARFOR operational level headquarters to command and control those units. This headquarters may require augmentation from the ARFOR not assigned to the CINC or from other services. Another alternative is to augment the JTF headquarters. The complexity of the environment and the degree of Army participation determines the option selected.

A second option is the formation and deployment of an operational-level headquarters (for example, a numbered army) to control the conduct of operations. The ASCC makes this decision in consultation with the CINC. This presupposes a highly complex operational environment with the involvement of multiple ARFOR (usually more than one Army corps). The ASCC remains the senior army commander within the unified command and may or may not be physically located within the AO. If the ASCC is not located in the AO and does not deploy, he may constitute and deploy a requisite headquarters to perform C² for the ASCC's Title 10 support responsibilities therein. This requisite headquarters would be in addition to the operational-level headquarters conducting operations.

The first two options require coordination with the CINC. The third option is internal to the ASCC and concerns the organization of the Army operational-level component. The ASCC may determine a need to consolidate functions under a deputy commanding general responsible for operations and a deputy commanding general responsible for support and logistics. The DCG for Support would serve as the senior logistician responsible for battle command of all logistics and support forces and coordination of all logistics support. If designated as the executive agent, the DCG for Support would also be responsible for coordinating logistics support for joint and/or multinational forces in the theater of operations.

The DCG for Operations would serve as the senior operator responsible for battle command of all maneuver forces, conducting major operations, battles, and engagements. In this arrangement, the ASCC would continue his service responsibilities and establish required linkages among joint, multinational, interagency, NGO, PVO, or UN. This option reduces the span of control required of the commander. As with the first option, complexity of the environment determines the selection of this organizational alternative.

These options provide an orderly means for the Army to accomplish the operational-level responsibilities in theater. The options also provide a means to evolve the Army theater structure as the complexity of the theater evolves.

Another set of circumstances in which the Army could be divided into separate elements is when the CINC requires a sense of urgency and direct responsiveness of an Army force to him. Under such exceptional circumstances, the theater organization may have two or more independent ARFOR operating directly under the theater CINC. These separate ARFOR would focus on specific missions, as determined by the CINC and ASCC. The ASCC continues to focus on the task of supporting the operations of all ARFOR within the theater. However, commanders of the ARFOR under COCOM (working directly for the CINC) focus primarily on operations and the establishment and maintenance of joint and multinational linkages. Thus, the three tasks of the operational-level commander would be conducted by both Army commanders. The structure of the ASCC is adaptable enough to meet the three crucial tasks in any theater situation. The ASCC's responsibility is to advise the CINC of a structure that meets the dictates of operational design.

Both the ASCC and numbered army commanders would be responsible for establishing linkages with joint, multinational, government, nongovernment, private voluntary, and interagency organizations. However, the ASCC would focus on support operations, and the numbered army commander would focus on the conduct of operations and the requirements of a joint force land component, if designated by the CINC.


The CINC may designate an ARFOR commander as a subordinate JFC. The designation may be as a subunified commander, a JFLCC, or a CJTF. Based on the ASCC structure, the Army JFC must reexamine his responsibilities and capabilities to perform the three tasks of the operational level commander. Establishing a joint headquarters under these circumstances will be a unique extension of the joint linkage task.

As a JFLCC, the ARFOR commander retains the responsibility, through the service branch of the chain of command, to support subordinate Army forces. Because of the complexity of the two tasks---operations and support--the ASCC may delegate the authority for performing the support task to a subordinate Army headquarters. The ASCC, when delegating this responsibility, must ensure his subordinate commander is aware and understands the CINC's intent and concept of operations. This delegation allows the ASCC, as the JFLCC, to focus on conducting operations.

As a subunified or CJTF, the ARFOR commander would normally expect to focus on the conduct of joint operations. Support of the ARFOR under control of the subunified command or JTF will flow through the CINC's ASCC. Depending on the method in which the CINC employs the Army component, the ASCC may appoint a single subordinate commander responsible for executing typical logistics and administrative functions. Chapter 6 has details on Army component operations.


The requirement to assess the environment in which operations are to be conducted exists at the strategic, operational, and tactical levels. The factors of METT-T provide a structure for the conduct of those analyses. In preparing and conducting major operations to support joint campaigns, the ARFOR commander and the CJTF must examine the operational environment, using the factors of METT-T and a regional analysis. The results of that examination serve as a means for assessing relative strengths and weaknesses of the theater and are used to guide and temper actions.

The ARFOR commander and the CJTF view the operational-level environment in much the same manner as the CINC views the larger theater strategic environment. Both commanders consider the factors peculiar to the area in which they will operate. The environment is determined by the circumstances, influences, and conditions that affect the employment of military force and the decisions of the operational levels of command.

The assessment of the strategic environment is based upon the circumstances, conditions, and influences of the theater. The operational environment within that theater is assessed in a similar manner. The commander's three operational-level tasks provide the structure for the METT-T assessment and correspond to the three elements in the strategic assessment. Within these three tasks, eight components further define the operational METT-T assessment. Figure 2-13 is a model for the conduct of the operational-level assessment.


Four components make up an assessment of joint, multinational, and interagency linkages.


Interoperability is the ability of forces to provide a capability or service, to accept services from other forces or agencies, and to use those capabilities and services to operate effectively together. The presence of government agencies is an aspect of operations in a joint environment. The degree of required Army interoperability with these agencies will be determined by the circumstances of the operational environment.

Alliances and Agreements

Alliances and agreements are the formal means that guide multinational operations. The degree of formality is a dynamic state determined by mutual needs. Where need exists, the degree of formality increases with time. This same principle applies to interagency operations. These arrangements are initiated when a requirement for more formal arrangements exists.

Where arrangements are yet unformed or in early development, operations may be based on very informal agreements by representatives of the army and the agency. Initially, participants may have only general principles from public law, presidential instructions, and agency policy or doctrine to guide their actions. As time permits and requirements demand, the arrangements are formalized in memorandums of understanding that outline specific responsibilities.

Forward Presence

US forces, in modest numbers, are forward deployed to sustain alliance commitments and to contribute to regional stability. Forward presence is accomplished also through the periodic deployment of CONUS-based forces for participation in training exercises, nation assistance activities, or counterdrug operations. Pre-positioning of forces and sustainment to include Army pre-positioned afloat (APA) contribute to mobility and flexibility of US forces. This supports the force projection military strategy and provides for rapid response to a crisis or reinforcement and sustainment of forward-presence forces.


The operational-level commander derives the objective from the theater campaign plan developed from the theater military strategy. That plan and strategy is subject to modification by allies/coalition leaders, which may have a subsequent impact on the operational objective. The time available is also a factor that must be addressed when considering the objective.


The components of the operations task are the threat and the geography, topography, and climatology.


The threat is based on the ability of an enemy or potential enemy to limit, neutralize, or destroy the effectiveness of a current or projected mission, organization, or equipment item. The threat may be indirect by having the potential to adversely impact on US interests or the attainment of US objectives. The world remains extremely dangerous. Many nations can acquire technologically advanced, highly lethal weapons that could threaten US and allied forces. For example, third-dimension platforms, ballistic missiles, cruise missiles, armed helicopters, and weapons-carrying unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), combined with accurate guidance and mass casualty warheads, present a significant threat to a warfighting CINC's assets.


A variety of factors challenges the stability of various countries and regions. These instabilities can lead to increased levels of competition, regional conflicts, and civil war. Additionally, regional factions, some possessing forces and equipment equivalent to the US, may seek to expand their influence by coercion or direct force. These regional challenges will often involve an adversary whose system of beliefs interprets differently such fundamental ideas as right or wrong, the value of human life, and the concept of victory and defeat.

Geography, Topography, and Climatology

The geography describes the land, sea, air, and the distribution of plant and animal life, including man and his industries. The topography describes the configuration of a surface, including its relief and the position of its natural and man-made features. Climatology describes the prevailing weather conditions of a region.


Two components of the support task are the infrastructure and foreign nation support.


Infrastructure is a term that applies to all fixed and permanent installations, fabrications (road, rail, communications networks, water networks, air networks, or utility systems), or facilities for the support and control of military forces.

Foreign Nation Support

Foreign nation support includes all civil or military assistance provided by a nation to foreign forces within its territory during peacetime, conflict, or war. Foreign nation support is based upon agreements mutually concluded between nations. The coalition participants establish similar support arrangements at the theater strategic level. An additional concern, especially in alliances, is to determine the type of support that the US forces, when directed, may have to provide to the alliance partners or host nation.


As the commander examines the operational environment, he begins to make judgments about the operational impact on his three tasks. These judgments are the subjective and objective measurements of the components of each task as they affect the employment of the Army force. They correspond to a range of options that describes the commander's ability to accomplish the three tasks in the operational environment. Figure 2-13 lists the three tasks, the operational environment components, and the broad values that describe the range over which these tasks and components may be measured.

The commander assesses the operational environment and assigns a cumulative assessment describing it as austere, restrictive, or developed. This perspective permits the comprehensive analysis of the operational environment through the examination of each task and the environmental components that align with each task of the operational commander. This analysis helps identify the areas that require more or less effort. The analysis also influences the commander's skillful synchronization of the operational functions.

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