Defense Department officials today announced an expansion of
U.S. Southern Command's area of responsibility for U.S. military
activities effective June 1 to include portions of the Atlantic
Ocean, Caribbean Sea and its island nations, and the Gulf of
Mexico, formerly assigned to U.S. Atlantic Command. This is the
second phase of the most recent change to the Department of
Defense Unified Command Plan approved by President Clinton on
Dec. 28, 1995 and announced on Feb. 7, 1996. In the first phase,
responsibility for waters adjacent to Central and South America
was transferred from Atlantic Command to Southern Command on Jan.
The responsibilities added to Southern Command include U.S.
military activities in the 13 island nations in the Caribbean,
several European territories, the U.S. territories of Puerto Rico
and the U.S. Virgin Islands, a portion of the Atlantic Ocean
south of 28 degrees North and west of 58 degrees West, and the
Gulf of Mexico.
This transfer aligns the Caribbean and all of Latin America
south of Mexico under one unified command for the command and
control of U.S. military forces. It will enhance Southern
Command's interaction with the navies of Central and South
America, and facilitate improved integration of U.S. counterdrug
efforts by giving one commander responsibility for both the
source and transit zones of the drug trade.
The Unified Command Plan provides guidance to all unified
combatant commanders, establishes their missions,
responsibilities, and force structure, delineates the general
geographic area of responsibility for geographic combatant
commanders and specifies functional responsibilities for
functional commanders. It is reviewed periodically by the
Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. Such a review is
currently underway with results expected to be announced in early