Myers: New UCP Addresses Security Issues, Not Politics
By Gerry J. Gilmore
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, Apr. 19, 2002 The U.S. military's senior officer said April 18 that other countries will be geographically aligned with U.S. unified commands in order to better address mutual security issues, not for political reasons.
Air Force Gen. Richard B. Myers, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, discussed the new U.S. Unified Command Plan with reporters of the Foreign Press Center here. Reviewed not less than every two years, the plan establishes the responsibilities and priorities of the U.S. military's combatant commands.
Myers said changes made in the 2002 UCP "will better serve the United States as we carry out our military efforts worldwide."
The plan "will continue to advance our transformation efforts," Myers said. "It prepares us for the future by assigning every area of the globe to a combatant commander's area of responsibility, thereby streamlining our military relationships with respect to all nations.
The UCP has to do with U.S. armed forces, not those of foreign countries, he continued, and it addresses nothing about political-military relationships directly.
American unified commanders' responsibilities are "clearly in the military chain; they're not the political chain," Myers said. Political matters, he noted, are "the responsibility of the Department of State."
One UCP change effective Oct. 1 includes the establishment of U.S. Northern Command, which takes the "various homeland security missions being performed by various combatant commanders and puts them under a single command," he said.
The NORTHCOM geographical area of responsibility, he noted, includes the continental United States, Alaska, Canada, Mexico, portions of the Caribbean, and the contiguous waters of the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans out to 500 nautical miles from the East and West coasts of North America.
The general said the commander of Northern Command would also be the commander of North American Aerospace Defense Command. NORAD's mission to deter, detect and defend against air and space threats to the North American continent will not change, Myers said.
He noted the United States and Canada already have a close military relationship, that NORAD is a U.S.-Canadian venture.
As part of U.S. NORTHCOM's homeland defense mission, the command will also be assigned to support "the military's responsibility to civil authorities here in the United States," Myers said. Planning for the responsibility of Northern Command, he added, began in February.
"Those deliberations are not complete," Myers said, who anticipated completion sometime in the next two months.
A Mexican reporter queried Myers about the relationship between NORTHCOM and Mexico. The reporter implied that some Mexicans might think their country's military would somehow become subordinate to American authority.
Up to now, Mexico has never been in the area of responsibility of a U.S. combatant command, Myers said. Thinking of Mexico being under a U.S. command is the wrong way to look at what's happened with the UCP, Myers said. U.S. unified commanders are assigned specific geographic areas to delineate who's responsible for facilitating military-to-military and security relationships, he explained.
"And that's exactly what we hope to do in the case of Mexico," he said.
Myers said Canada's coming under NORTHCOM, for U.S. purposes, is a bit different. "With Canada, we already have a relationship for the air defense and the space warning piece of security, and that's well established under NORAD," he said.
Both Mexican and Canadian participation in other aspects of security, though, are matters for the respective governments to decide, not the United States, he said.
Myers noted some other 2002 UCP changes:
o U.S. Joint Forces Command, in Norfolk, Va., will transfer its geographic area of responsibility to the Northern and European commands.
o JFCOM will then change from being a unified command with geographical and functional areas of responsibility to a functional combatant command. It will be responsible for carrying out the critical missions of transformation, joint training and experimentation.
o Russia is being aligned with U.S. European Command's geographic area of responsibility. EUCOM also will pick up the remainder of the Atlantic from 500 miles off the U.S. East coast all the way to the shores of Europe.
"Previously, Russia was not assigned (to a unified command). Most efforts with Russia were all conducted here with the Pentagon," Myers said. "I should also note that Pacific Command will assist European Command and work issues with Russia that deal with their Far East Military District."
Myers said Central Command will not change its geographic area. Southern Command will remain intact except for the portion of the Caribbean that will shift to NORTHCOM.
Earlier in the conference, Myers expressed his condolences for the April 17 deaths of Canadian troops in Afghanistan due to a bombing accident involving a U.S. fighter jet. The accident is under investigation.
"The loss of any coalition service member is felt by all," the general said. "And even as we work to discover the facts necessary to completely understand the circumstances of this particular tragedy, we mourn the loss of our Canadian comrades."