cover image

A unified combatant command (CCMD), also referred to as a combatant command, is a joint military command of the United States Department of Defense that is composed of units from two or more service branches of the United States Armed Forces, and conducts broad and continuing missions.[1] There are currently 11 unified combatant commands and each is established as the highest echelon of military commands, in order to provide effective command and control of all U.S. military forces, regardless of branch of service, during peace or during war time.[2] Unified combatant commands are organized either on a geographical basis (known as an "area of responsibility", AOR) or on a functional basis, e.g. special operations, force projection, transport, and cybersecurity. Currently, seven combatant commands are designated as geographical, and four are designated as functional. Unified combatant commands are "joint" commands and have specific badges denoting their affiliation.

Unified combatant commands areas of responsibility

The Unified Command Plan (UCP) establishes the missions, command responsibilities, and geographic areas of responsibility of the combatant commands.[lower-alpha 1] Each time the Unified Command Plan is updated, the organization of the combatant commands is reviewed for military efficiency and efficacy, as well as alignment with national policy.[4][5]

Each unified combatant command is led by a combatant commander (CCDR),[6] who is a four-star general or admiral. The combatant commanders are entrusted with a specific type of nontransferable operational command authority over assigned forces, regardless of branch of service.[7] The chain of command for operational purposes (per the Goldwater–Nichols Act) goes from the president of the United States through the secretary of defense to the combatant commanders.