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Combatant command (command authority) (COCOM)

Definition Combatant Command (COCOM) is a military term referring to the authority granted to a unified or specified combatant commander to assign missions, prioritize resources, and direct the operations of assigned forces within their designated area. This authority allows the commander to plan and execute missions effectively, coordinating with other military organizations. COCOM is exclusive […]


Combatant Command (COCOM) is a military term referring to the authority granted to a unified or specified combatant commander to assign missions, prioritize resources, and direct the operations of assigned forces within their designated area. This authority allows the commander to plan and execute missions effectively, coordinating with other military organizations. COCOM is exclusive to commanders at the highest level of command structure, ensuring a unified and organized response to military threats and operations.

Key Takeaways

  1. COCOM, or Combatant Command (Command Authority), refers to the highest level of military command that’s responsible for planning and executing military operations for a specific area or mission.
  2. Combatant Commands are respectively led by a four-star officer, known as a Combatant Commander, who is accountable for the overall performance of their assigned forces and reports directly to the Secretary of Defense.
  3. There are currently 11 Combatant Commands, which are organized either under the geographical area of responsibility (such as U.S. Central Command) or under the functional domain (such as U.S. Cyber Command) that they cover.


The term Combatant Command (COCOM) is important within military operations as it denotes a high level of organizational authority and operational control, which is crucial for coordinating and executing military missions.

COCOM is led by a four-star general or admiral, who assumes responsibility for a specific geographical region or a specialized function, such as transportation or special operations.

This unified command structure ensures that all branches of the military, as well as regional and functional components, work together effectively and efficiently.

Ultimately, COCOMs play a vital role in maintaining national security and global stability by enabling the United States armed forces to seamlessly integrate and respond to diverse challenges in defense of national interests.


The purpose of Combatant Command (Command Authority) or COCOM is to provide effective coordination, management, and control of military forces across different domains to achieve strategic goals. COCOM acts as an authoritative node, ensuring that all military units fall under the direction of a single commander, thereby promoting unity of effort and efficient utilization of resources.

COCOM plays a vital role in organizing, planning, and employing military forces to achieve objectives in various theaters of operations in support of national and allied interests. This centralized command structure helps in rapid decision making and adaptability to emerging threats, enabling military forces to maintain an operational advantage and achieve mission success.

In fulfilling its purpose, COCOM is used for maintaining national security by planning and conducting various military operations such as deterrence, defense, and crisis response. It also helps streamline training, logistics support, and intelligence sharing among the various components of the Department of Defense (DoD) and partner nations.

Acting as the command and control (C2) hub, COCOM ensures that different military branches, governmental agencies, and multinational partners work together harmoniously towards a common goal. This integrated approach results in seamless interoperability, enhanced force readiness, and sustained military engagement, ultimately contributing to global peace and stability.

Examples of Combatant command (command authority) (COCOM)

United States Central Command (USCENTCOM): USCENTCOM is one of the eleven unified combatant commands in the U.S. military. Established in 1983, it has its headquarters at MacDill Air Force Base in Tampa, Florida. USCENTCOM is responsible for the planning, directing, and coordinating of military operations in the Central Region, which includes the Middle East, parts of South and Central Asia, as well as parts of Northern Africa. This combatant command has played a significant role in military operations such as Operation Desert Storm, Operation Enduring Freedom, and Operation Inherent Resolve.

NATO’s Allied Command Operations (ACO): The NATO ACO oversees military operations in the North Atlantic area, including Europe and North America. Headquartered in Mons, Belgium, ACO is responsible for the planning, conducting, and management of NATO military missions and is led by the Supreme Allied Commander Europe (SACEUR). It has been involved in numerous military operations, including the Balkans operations in 1990s, the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) mission in Afghanistan, and various enhanced Forward Presence exercises in Eastern Europe in response to Russia’s military activities.

United States Indo-Pacific Command (USINDOPACOM): The USINDOPACOM is one of the U.S. Department of Defense’s eleven unified combatant commands, established in

Headquartered in Camp H.M. Smith, Hawaii, this command is responsible for coordinating and directing military operations across the Indo-Pacific region, covering 36 nations, including China, India, Australia, and Japan. Throughout its history, USINDOPACOM has played critical roles in the Korean War, the Vietnam War, and various disaster-relief operations in the region, such as the response to the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami and the 2011 Tōhoku earthquake and tsunami.

FAQ – Combatant Command (Command Authority) (COCOM)

What is a Combatant Command (COCOM)?

A Combatant Command (COCOM) is a joint military command consisting of forces from two or more military services, tasked with carrying out missions in specific geographic areas or performing certain functions in support of strategic goals. There are currently 11 combatant commands under the United States Department of Defense.

How is COCOM different from other levels of command authority?

COCOM, or Combatant Command (Command Authority), is the highest level of authority that can be exercised by a commander over assigned military forces. This authority allows the commander to organize and employ their forces as they consider necessary to accomplish assigned missions. COCOM is non-transferable and cannot be delegated.

What are the main duties of a COCOM?

The main duties of a COCOM include planning, coordinating, and overseeing joint military operations, to provide strategic direction and guidance to its military forces, ensuring the readiness of its assigned forces, and maintaining unity of command. COCOMs also manage resources and establish priorities to accomplish strategic objectives within their assigned areas of responsibility.

How are the COCOMs organized?

COCOMs are organized based on geographic areas or specific functional missions. There are six geographic combatant commands, covering specific regions of the world, and four functional combatant commands that focus on specific missions such as cybersecurity, special operations, or strategic deterrence.

How do COCOMs support US national security objectives?

COCOMs play a critical role in advancing US national security objectives by providing a unified command structure that enables the different branches of the military to efficiently and effectively coordinate operations. Combining the capabilities of multiple military services allows COCOMs to respond quickly and adapt to changing security environments around the world, ensuring the United States is prepared to protect its national interests and fulfill its global commitments.

Related Military Operation Terms

  • Military chain of command
  • Unified combatant commands
  • Area of responsibility (AOR)
  • Operational control (OPCON)
  • Commander’s intent

Sources for More Information

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