New combat center will coordinate U.S. missions Atlantic Command to use all services

October 03, 1993|By Los Angeles Times

WASHINGTON -- In another move to reshape itself for the post-Cold War world, the U.S. military established a new high-level command Friday to train and deploy U.S. troops for duty overseas, including possible peacekeeping missions in Bosnia or other trouble spots.

The new U.S. Atlantic Command, based in Norfolk, Va., will be responsible for training and deploying units from all four services and for deciding which to send overseas for any particular mission.

It effectively will serve as a one-stop combat center, providing field commanders with the planes, ships, tanks and troops that they need to carry out their assignments overseas and using joint Army-Navy-Air Force-Marine Corps "force packages" that can work together as a team.

The move was recommended last spring by the former chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Gen. Colin L. Powell, partly as a streamlining measure. It is aimed ultimately at increasing the military's ability to use U.S.-based troops overseas, now that bases throughout the world are being closed.

It also marks a major step in solidifying the concept of joint operations by the four branches of the military, ending the rivalries among them that plagued task force commanders as recently as Operation Desert Storm in 1991.

Defense Secretary Les Aspin, who on Friday formally launched the new command in Norfolk, called its establishment "another sign of changing times" following the breakup of the Soviet Union and the shrinking of the U.S. military.

Mr. Aspin said the new command will have the power to decide which units to use in making up the right armed force for any one job. Field commanders will simply ask for the capabilities they need, and the Atlantic Command will decide how to provide them.

Creation of the new jurisdiction brings the number of such joint -- or "unified" -- commands to nine. Under current military organization, the admirals and generals heading these commands have operational control of specific kinds of forces.

The new USACOM, as it will be known in military jargon, is being headed by Navy Adm. Paul David Miller, who had been one of the leading candidates to succeed General Powell before the designation of Army Gen. John M. Shalikashvili as new chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

Officials said USACOM would absorb elements of the Army's old Forces Command, the Air Force's Air Combat Command, the Marine Corps' Forces Atlantic and the Navy's Atlantic fleet, which had operated independently to help contain Soviet military might.

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