Secretary Of Defense Announces Unified Plan Change

Patch Barracks, Stuttgart Germany - Secretary of Defense Rumsfeld and the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs General Myers today announced changes to the Unified Command Plan that establishes the missions, responsibilities, force structure and geographic responsibilities for combatant commanders and the specific responsibilities for functional commanders.

The plan, which will be implemented by October, shifts portions of United States Joint Forces Command's geographic area of responsibility (AOR) to the U.S. European Command and the newly created U.S. Northern Command.

The U.S. European Command, the most heavily impacted command under the revised plan, will gain responsibility for Iceland, Greenland, the Azores, more than half of the Atlantic ocean from the U. S. Joint Forces Command, the Caspian sea and the previously unassigned area of Russia. The U.S. Pacific Command will continue to support cooperation with the Russian Far East.

The transfer of resources to the U.S. European Command is a complex task involving more than 4,000 military and Defense Department civilians working at 14 installations as well as nearly 3,500 family members.

"This will be the first time a United States unified warfighting command has ever included Russia in its AOR," said Gen. Joseph W. Ralston, Commander, U.S. European Command and Supreme Allied Commander, Europe. "This new plan is a natural outgrowth from post cold war relationships and fosters enhanced relationships with former adversaries that are now among our strongest partners. This is strong testament to the encouraging evolution of the relationships we've developed over the years with Russia."

The new plan allows the U.S. European Command, which deals with Russian military issues most often, to more directly communicate with Russian military officials. Previously, the Joint Chiefs of Staff was the primary coordinator for military-to-military relations with Russia.

The U.S. European Command also has responsibilities in other areas of interest to Russia, including the Caucasus, Israel and most of Africa. The commander of the U.S. European Command is also commander of all NATO forces in Europe. While Russia is not a NATO member, it has an association with the alliance through the Partnership for Peace Program. Today Russian and United States troops are operating together as peacekeepers in Bosnia and Kosovo.

The current Unified Command Plan was approved in September 1999 and provides guidance to all unified combatant commands. The events of Sept. 11, 2001 and the ensuing global war on terrorism highlighted the obligation to further adjust the plan.

The U.S. European Command is a unified combatant command whose mission is to maintain ready forces to conduct the full spectrum of military operations unilaterally or in concert with NATO or coalition partners; to enhance transatlantic security through support to NATO; to promote regional stability; and advance United States interests in Europe, Africa, the Middle East and Russia. With the implementation of the new plan the U.S. European Command area of responsibility has gained almost 7.5 million square miles of land mass (about twice the land mass of all 50 united states)-plus a majority of the Atlantic ocean-and now includes 93 countries.

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