United States Strategic Command

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United States Strategic Command




October 1, 2002 to present


United States


Functional Combatant Command

Part of

Modified J-code




October 1, 2002



Gen James E. Cartwright

United States Strategic Command (USSTRATCOM) is one of the nine Unified Combatant Commands of the United States Department of Defense. USSTRATCOM controls the nuclear weapons assets of the United States military. It is also a globally focused command and a global integrator charged with the missions of Space Operations; Information Operations; Integrated Missile Defense; Global Command and Control; Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance; Global Strike; Strategic Deterrence; and Combating Weapons of Mass Destruction. It is headquartered at Offutt Air Force Base, Nebraska.


The LeMay building

The LeMay building

Provide the nation with global deterrence capabilities and synchronized DoD effects to combat adversary weapons of mass destruction worldwide. Enable decisive global kinetic and non-kinetic combat effects through the application and advocacy of integrated intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (ISR); space and global strike operations; information operations; integrated missile defense and robust command and control.

Unique Command Responsibilities

USSTRATCOM combines the synergy of the U.S. legacy nuclear command and control mission with responsibility for space operations; global strike; Defense Department information operations; global missile defense; global command, control, communications, computers, intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance (C4ISR); and combating weapons of mass destruction. This dynamic package gives the President and the Secretary of Defense a unified resource for greater understanding of specific threats around the world and the means to respond to those threats rapidly. USSTRATCOM exercises command authority over four joint functional component commands, also known as JFCCs as well as Joint Task Forces and Service Components. This combination of authorities, oversight, leadership and management enables a more responsive, flattened organizational construct according to the commands leadership.


Currently, General James E. Cartwright is the commander of USSTRATCOM, and serves as the senior commander of the joint military forces from all four branches of the military assigned to the command. General Cartwright is the leader, steward and advocate of the nation’s strategic capabilities. His responsibilities include integrating and coordinating the necessary command and control capability to provide support with the most accurate and timely information for the President of the United States, the Secretary of Defense, and to regional combatant commanders.


Primary operational units

  • Joint Functional Component Commands These commands are responsible for the day-to-day planning and execution of primary mission areas: space and global strike; intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance; network warfare; integrated missile defense; and the recently added mission of combating weapons of mass destruction.
    • Joint Functional Component Command for Global Strike and Integration (JFCC-GSI) The Commander Eighth Air Force serves as the Joint Functional Component Commander for Global Strike and Integration. JFCC-GSI conducts planning, integration, execution and force management of assigned missions of deterring attacks against the U.S., its territories, possessions and bases, and should deterrence fail, by employing appropriate forces. Some of these tasks used to belong to a JFCC for Space and Global Strike before being split into two components.
    • Joint Functional Component Command for Space (JFCC-SPACE) The Commander 14th Air Force serves as the commander for JFCC-SPACE. This component conducts planning, execution, and force management, as directed by the commander of USSTRATCOM, of the assigned missions of coordinating, planning, and conducting space operations.
    • Joint Functional Component Command for Integrated Missile Defense (JFCC IMD) – The Commander, U.S. Army Space and Missile Defense Command/Army Forces Strategic Command, also serves as the commander for the JFCC IMD. This component is responsible for meeting USSTRATCOM’s Unified Command Plan responsibilities for planning, integrating, and coordinating global missile defense operations and support. JFCC IMD conducts the day-to-day operations of assigned forces and coordinates activities with associated combatant commands, other USSTRATCOM Joint Functional Components and the efforts of the Missile Defense Agency.
    • Joint Functional Component Command for Network Warfare (JFCC NW) — Initiated in January 2005, this component facilitates cooperative engagement with other national entities in computer network defense and offensive information warfare as part of the global information operations mission. This coordinated approach to information operations involves two other important supporting commands. The Director, Defense Information Systems Agency also heads the Joint Task Force for Global Network Operations. This organization is responsible for operating and defending U.S. worldwide information networks, a function closely aligned with the efforts of the Joint Functional Component Command for Network Warfare.
    • Joint Functional Component Command for Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance (JFCC-ISR) — The Commander, JFCC-ISR, also serves as the Director, Defense Intelligence Agency. This component is responsible for coordinating global intelligence collection to address DoD worldwide operations and national intelligence requirements. It will serve as the center for planning, execution and assessment of the military’s global Intelligence, Surveillance, and Reconnaissance operations; a key enabler to achieving global situational awareness.
    • Center for Combating Weapons of Mass Destruction (SCC WMD) – The Secretary of Defense recently assigned USSTRATCOM responsibility for integrating and synchronizing DoD’s efforts for combating weapons of mass destruction. SCC WMD works closely with the Defense Threat Reduction Agency (DTRA) and declared Initial Operating Capability on January 26, 2006 in a ceremony in Washington, D.C.

Organizational and support units

  • Joint Task Force-Global Network Operations (JTF-GNO) – Located in Arlington, Va., the Joint Task Force-Global Network Operations (JTF-GNO) is U.S. Strategic Command’s operational component supporting USSTRATCOM in defense of the DoD’s Global Information Grid. This is done by integrating GNO capabilities into the operations of all DoD computers, networks, and systems used by DoD combatant commands, services and agencies.
  • Joint Information Operations Warfare Command (JIOWC) – The JIOWC integrates Information Operations (IO) into military plans and operations across the spectrum of conflict. Located at Lackland AFB, Texas, the JIOWC deploys information operations planning teams worldwide at a moment’s notice to support combatant commanders and joint task forces.

The correct mission statement for JIOWC is: “The JIOWC plans, integrates, and synchronizes Information Operations (IO) in direct support of Joint Force Commanders and serves as the USSTRATCOM lead for enhancing IO across DoD.”

Additionally, JIOWC is a functional command, per USSTRATCOM homepage, not an “Organizational and Support Units”.

Task Forces

USSTRATCOM relies on various task forces for the execution of its global missions. These include:

  • Aerial Refueling/Tankers – Air Force refueling aircraft greatly enhance the command’s capability to conduct global combat and reconnaissance operations. Tankers are assigned to Eighteenth Air Force, Scott AFB, Illinois, with headquarters at Air Mobility Command, Scott AFB, Illinois.
  • Airborne Communications – The Navy’s E-6B Mercury aircraft provide a survivable communications link between national decision-makers and the nation’s strategic forces. An airborne command post, the E-6B enables the President and the Secretary of Defense to directly contact crews on the nation’s ballistic missile submarines, land-based intercontinental ballistic missiles and long-range bombers. E-6B aircraft are assigned to Strategic Communications Wing One, Tinker AFB, Oklahoma.
  • Ballistic Missile Submarines – Considered the most survivable leg of the nation’s strategic forces, Navy ballistic missile submarines, or SSBNs, provide launch capability from around the globe using the Trident missile weapon system. Atlantic SSBNs are based at Kings Bay Submarine Base, Georgia, with headquarters at Commander, Submarine Forces U.S. Atlantic Fleet, Naval Base Norfolk, Virginia; Pacific SSBNs are based at Bangor, Washington, with headquarters at Commander Submarine Forces U.S. Pacific Fleet, Naval Base Pearl Harbor, Hawaii.
  • Strategic Bomber and Reconnaissance Aircraft – Aircraft assigned to Eighth Air Force, Barksdale AFB, Louisiana, are capable of deploying air power to any area of the world. B-1B Lancer heavy bombers are available at Dyess AFB, Texas and Ellsworth AFB, South Dakota, though the United States does not carry nuclear weapons in the B-1B in compliance with international treaty. B-52 Stratofortress heavy bombers are based at Barksdale AFB, Louisiana, and Minot AFB, North Dakota. B-2 Spirit stealth bombers are stationed at Whiteman AFB, Missouri. Worldwide reconnaissance aircraft assigned to Eighth Air Force that support the USSTRATCOM mission include the RC-135 Rivet Joint, Offutt AFB, Nebraska, and the U-2S Dragon Lady, Beale AFB, California.
  • Land-based Intercontinental Ballistic Missiles – Air Force ICBMs, dispersed in hardened silos across the nation’s central tier, provide a quick-reacting and highly reliable component to the nation’s strategic forces. Minuteman III missile launch control centers are based from F.E. Warren AFB, Wyoming; Malmstrom AFB, Montana; and Minot AFB, North Dakota, Peacekeeper missiles were based at F.E. Warren AFB. ICBM crews report to Twentieth Air Force, F.E. Warren AFB. The Peacekeeper missiles were officially deactivated on 19 September 2005.


General Cartwright is exploring ways to incorporate innovative collaborative tools into what has traditionally been considered a very centralized military organization. Speaking at a recent convention General Cartwright said, “Where I would like to be is well outside the comfort zone of my organization. But what we’ve started with is just some simple ‘blogging’ tools, to try to change the culture a little bit; to try to allow people to contribute.”


On June 1, 1992, President George H. W. Bush established the U.S. Strategic Command out of the Strategic Air Command and other Cold War military bodies, now obsolete due to the change in world politics. The Command unified planning, targeting and wartime employment of strategic forces under one commander. Day-to-day training, equipment and maintenance responsibilities for its forces remained with the Air Force and Navy.

As a result of the 2002 Nuclear Posture Review, the Cold War system of relying solely on offensive nuclear response was modified. Shortly after a meeting between President George W. Bush and Russian President Vladimir Putin in Moscow in May 2002, a summit was held during which both leaders signed a treaty promising bilateral reductions that would result in a total of 1,700 to 2,200 operationally deployed strategic nuclear weapons for each country by the year 2012.

Space Command

The United States Space Command (USSPACECOM) was a unified command of the United States military created in 1985 to help institutionalize the use of outer space by the United States. The Department of Defense merged U.S. Space Command with the United States Strategic Command on October 1, 2002.

Military space operations coordinated by USSC proved to be very valuable for the U.S.-led coalition in the 1991 Persian Gulf War. The U.S. military has relied on communications, intelligence, navigation, missile warning and weather satellite systems in areas of conflict since the early 1990s, including the Balkans, Southwest Asia and Afghanistan. Space systems are considered indispensable providers of tactical information to U.S. warfighters.

As part of the ongoing initiative to transform the U.S. military, the Department of Defense merged U.S. Space Command with the United States Strategic Command on October 1, 2002. The merger was intended to improve combat effectiveness and speeds up information collection and assessment needed for strategic decision-making.

On June 26, 2002, Secretary Donald Rumsfeld announced that U.S. Space Command would merge with USSTRATCOM as part of the ongoing initiative to update the Department of Defense. As part of a change to the Unified Command Plan, President Bush migrated space missions from the former USSPACECOM and subsequently nominated Admiral James Ellis to be commander of the new unified command, which would retain the U.S. Strategic Command name and would be headquartered at Offutt Air Force Base.

The activation of the new USSTRATCOM took place October 1, 2002. The merged command was responsible for both early warning of and defense against missile attack as well as long-range strategic attacks.

President Bush signed Change Two to the Unified Command Plan on January 10, 2003, and tasked USSTRATCOM with four previously unassigned responsibilities: global strike, missile defense integration, Department of Defense Information Operations, and C4ISR (command and control, communications, computers, intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance). This combination of roles, capabilities and authorities under a single unified command was unique in the history of unified commands.

Space and Global Strike Reorganization

After some consideration concerning the separation of the JFCC for Space and Global Strike missions, according to AirForceTimes.com and InsideDefense.com, General Cartwright is now in the process of separating the JFCC for Space and Global Strike into two individual JFCCs: a JFCC for Space (JFCC Space) and a JFCC for Global Strike and Integration (JFCC GSI). U.S. Strategic Command officials are expected to deliver a detailed plan on the separation to General Cartwright for approval by September 2006.

Some officials believe this will allow each to focus more effectively on its primary mission and allow the mission of space to have focused attention and be better integrated with other military capabilities. This comes after some concern by officials and lawmakers such as U.S. Senator Wayne Allard (R-Colo.), an outspoken advocate for national security space activities, complained in a March 2006 memo to Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld about what he sees as a declining emphasis on space within the U.S. Department of Defense and specifically the way space has been organized at U.S. Strategic Command.

However, to the contrary, there are officials who believe the reorganization into the current setup where the space mission was folded into U.S. Strategic Command and merged into a JFCC for Space and Global Strike creates better synergy and integration of space with other interrelated capabilities rather than have a single entity devoted to space.


  • Admiral James O. Ellis, Jr., USN (2002-2004)
  • General James E. Cartwright, USMC (2004-present)

See also

  • Unified Combatant Command
  • Strategic Air Command
  • Nuclear weapons and the United States
  • Cyber-terrorism

External links


Johnson, Spencer (September 2002). “The Unified Command Plan.” (pdf) Joint Forces Quarterly