Combatant Command Background
The United States Central Command (CENTCOM) is one of nine combatant commands. (A tenth command will be added with the impending standup of the Africa Command.) Combatant commands (COCOMs) were created so that a single commander would exercise unified command and control across United States military service boundaries, thereby improving overall effectiveness and eliminating or diminishing inter-service rivalries. Each COCOM is headed by a four-star flag or general officer who is recommended by the Secretary of Defense, nominated by the President, and confirmed by the Senate. The current CENTCOM commander is Admiral William J. "Fox" Fallon.
Combatant commanders report directly to the Secretary of Defense and, at times, to the President. Although the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff may transmit communications between the COCOM commanders and the Secretary of Defense and the President, as well as advise all on potential courses of action, he does not exercise direct authority over any COCOM. The Goldwater-Nichols Defense Reorganization Act of 1986 charges the military service chiefs with the responsibility to "organize, train and equip" forces for use by the combatant commanders. Although the service chiefs typically retain administrative control over forces assigned to a COCOM, operational control of those forces rests with the combatant commander.
Area of Responsibility (AOR)
CENTCOM is a regional, or theater, COCOM. It is assigned an AOR that includes 27 countries from East Africa through the Arabian into southwest and central Asia. Geographically, economically, politically, and culturally, the CENTCOM AOR is as diverse a region as can be found anywhere. The area is recognized as the "cradle of civilization," with traditions going back thousands of years. It is the birthplace the world's major religions. Rich in natural resources, it has at least 60 percent of the planet's known oil reserves. And all too unfortunately, it is a breeding ground and leading exporter of terrorism, as the events September 11, 2001, and more recent ones attest.
CENTCOM has four permanent service components, one each from the Army (ARCENT), Navy (NAVCENT), Air Force (CENTAF), and Marine Corps (MARCENT), as well as a functional component, Special Operations Command Central (SOCCENT). CENTCOM's forward headquarters is located in Qatar; its main headquarters is at MacDill Air Force Base in Tampa, Florida.
Operations Enduring Freedom (OEF) and Iraqi Freedom (OIF) have resulted in substantial augmentation of the main headquarters, notably including representatives from 65 countries who work closely with the headquarters staff to coordinate the participation of coalition forces in combined operations within the AOR. There also have been a number of temporary subordinate organizations established to support OEF and OIF, including three combined joint task forces (CJTF). These are multinational and all-service commands: CJTF-82 in Afghanistan, MNF-I in Iraq, and CJTF-HOA in the Horn of Africa. In...