Unified Command Plan:

Atlantic and Southern Command Participation in 1995 Review

NSIAD-97-41BR: Published: Dec 5, 1996. Publicly Released: Dec 5, 1996.

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Pursuant to a legislative requirement, GAO reviewed changes in the U.S. Southern Command's and the U.S. Atlantic Command's geographic responsibilities resulting from the 1995 review of the Unified Command Plan (UCP), specifically relating to the realignment of responsibility for the Carribean Basin from the Atlantic to the Southern Command, focusing on the: (1) UCP review process and how the Atlantic and Southern Commands participated in the process; (2) views of the Southern and Atlantic Commands regarding the Carribean realignment; and (3) rationale for the Joint Chiefs of Staff's Chairman's recommendation of the realignment.

GAO found that: (1) the 1995 UCP review provided numerous opportunities for participants to express their views regarding potential UCP changes; (2) officials from the Southern and Atlantic Commands participated actively throughout the process; (3) for example, at the beginning of the UCP review, the Chairman, Joint Chiefs of Staff, solicited and obtained the views of the two commands regarding issues to be included in the review; (4) also, command officials participated in a working group that discussed UCP issues, including the Caribbean alignment, and identified related pros and cons; (5) a Joint Staff working group: (a) further refined the issues; (b) developed options and recommendations for the Chairman's consideration; and (c) after the Chairman's review, obtained the commands' comments on proposed UCP changes; (6) also, during the time of the UCP review, the commanders of the Southern and Atlantic Commands participated in three conferences at which potential UCP issues and changes were discussed; (7) throughout the 1995 UCP review, the Southern and Atlantic Commands maintained opposing views on realigning the responsibility for the Caribbean Basin; (8) the Southern Command supported the Caribbean realignment, viewing it as a positive move to enhance unity of command in Latin America and the Caribbean Basin and to improve the command's focus on joint operations; (9) the Atlantic Command opposed the realignment, viewing the reduction of its geographic area as diminishing its credibility as a joint force trainer; (10) the Atlantic Command also believed that this change would prevent it from fully developing its functional role of joint force trainer, integrator, and provider as envisioned in the 1993 UCP review; (11) the Chairman's stated rationale for transferring the responsibility for the waters adjoining Central and South America and for the Caribbean Basin to the Southern Command was that these changes would: (a) improve the Southern Command's interaction with navies of Central and South America; (b) make the UCP consistent with the way the rest of the U.S. government is organized to interact with Latin America and the Caribbean Basin; and (c) eliminate a seam in Department of Defense counterdrug operations and military-to-military relations in the region; and (12) the Secretary of Defense also noted that the UCP changes affecting the Atlantic and Southern Commands would place all U.S. military activities in the Caribbean Basin and Central and South America under one command.

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