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Who Rules Logistics?
Service Versus COCOM Authority

There is a lot of ongoing dialog and email traffic these days on the subject of service versus combatant command (COCOM) authority over theater logistics. The issue stems from a desire to use theater-level support capabilities efficiently. Joint commanders also want the authority to penetrate the intheater stocks of one service to “borrow a cup of sugar” when another service needs something that the first service has. Who controls and directs the transfer of capabilities that otherwise would follow the normal service supply chain and fiscal and accountability requirements?

Command Authority Rooted in Law

The foremost factor influencing the dialog about service versus COCOM authority is the law, in particular Title 10 of the U.S. Code (10 USC), Chapter 6, and how it establishes COCOM authority. According to 10 USC 164(c)(1)—

The law also addresses the responsibilities of the military departments and services. Under 10 USC 3013(b), 5013(b), and 8013(b), the secretaries of the military departments are responsible for the internal organization, training, logistics, readiness, control of resources and equipment, mobilization, demobilization, administration, support, and discipline of all service commands and forces, including those assigned to COCOMs. These stipulations in law present a quandary to the Secretary of Defense, who has to reconcile these competing legal authorities.

Determining Scope of Authority

Two executive branch documents also are instrumental in helping the Secretary of Defense sort out the authorities given to the services and the COCOMs. The first is a memorandum that apportions service forces to COCOMs as determined by the President, the Secretary of Defense, and the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. The general rule is that a service component force can be assigned to only one combatant commander (CoCOM). [“CoCOM” refers to the position of a combatant commander. “CO-COM” refers to the combatant command authority described in 10 USC, chapter 6.] Nevertheless, the same force might be directed to serve in a supporting role to another CoCOM; for example, that force may be placed under the operational control (OPCON) of another CoCOM.

As indicated in 10 USC, Chapter 6, the Secretary of Defense can decide to transfer combatant command authority from one CoCOM to another, but he typically decides to give the receiving commander a more temporary authority—OPCON. Unlike COCOM authority, OPCON is not a legal term but a doctrinal one and, according to Joint Publication (JP) 1–02, Department of Defense Dictionary of Military and Associated Terms, includes—

The second important executive branch document is the Unified Command Plan, which establishes the missions and geographic boundaries of the COCOMs. These missions and boundaries are important in determining authorities because they delineate when a CoCOM would be designated a supporting CoCOM or a supported CoCOM to meet an operational requirement. Transfers of authority occur when a supported CoCOM does not have sufficient capability within his assigned forces to do the assigned job and requires support from another Department of Defense (DOD) command or agency. To deploy or redeploy supporting forces from one mission or region to another, the Secretary of Defense must approve an execution, deployment, or redeployment order. In those orders, the authorities (such as OPCON) that will be given to the supported commander are specified.

Directive Authority for Logistics

JP 0–2, Unified Action Armed Forces (UNAAF), provides doctrinal “how to” instructions for executing Title 10 authorities and implementing the executive branch documents. This publication describes the command relationship options available to the Secretary of Defense and supported CoCOMs as they plan how command relationships will work for the forces they are allocated (usually OPCON) or the forces reassigned to them (requiring a transfer of authority between COCOMs). JP 1–02 defines a doctrinal term (not a legal term), “directive authority for logistics” (DAFL), as—


Conspicuously absent in this definition is reference to authority over assigned forces, giving the inaccurate impression that CoCOMs automatically have this authority over all subordinate commanders.

JP 4–0, Doctrine for Logistic Support of Joint Operations, attempts to describe how the logistics authority vested in Title 10 (under COCOM authority) can be used specifically by the supported CoCOM over his assigned forces. This doctrine constrains statutory COCOM authority in that it specifies that the CoCOM “must formally delineate . . . delegated directive authority by function and scope to the subordinate joint force commander (JFC), service component commander, or DOD agency.” This statement adds some confusion to the discussion because it is hard to think of any DOD agency, or portion thereof, that would be assigned to the CoCOM, so COCOM authority would not apply.

There is no direct connection between the CoCOM’s planning and execution of common user support and the DAFL derived from 10 USC, Chapter 6. JP 4–0 seems to link these two concepts incorrectly. This doctrinal pursuance of DAFL seems to add to the confusion. Nevertheless, JP 4–07, Joint Tactics, Techniques, and Procedures for Common-User Logistics During Joint Operations, does a commendable job of describing practical ways of executing joint logistics efficiencies during operations (which is what we are really after).

JP 4–0 also has a discussion of common-user logistics (CUL) that attempts to break DAFL down into manageable types of supply and services as defined by the CoCOM. Yet the discussion of CUL should not follow from the discussion of DAFL—they are not necessarily related. CUL is not a subset of DAFL, as JP 4–0 seems to imply. There are other, perhaps more appropriate, ways to achieve CUL efficiencies. JP 4–07 offers key tools for the CoCOM to use in deciding how he will execute CUL and achieve the efficiencies he seeks—

Using Executive Agents
The Secretary of Defense also can appoint executive agents to provide cross-service capabilities. “Executive agent” is defined in JP 1–02 as—

The Army, for example, typically establishes these wartime executive agent requirements in approved deliberate operation plans: inland logistics support, inland class I (subsistence), supply support of United Nations peacekeeping forces, operation of common-user ocean terminals, intermodal container management, transportation engineering for highway movement, common-user land transportation, logistics applications of automated marking and reading symbols, the Military Customs Inspection Program, disposal of waste explosives and munitions, military troop construction, airdrop equipment and systems, power generation equipment and systems, land-based water resources, overland petroleum, oils, and lubricants support, the Military Postal System, the DOD Enemy Prisoners of War and Detainee Program, and blood support.

The supported CoCOM can ask for additional authority to direct cross-service support. If the Secretary of Defense approves the authority requested (for instance, as an addition to authority vested in OPCON), the supported CoCOM will be provided the specific authorities needed to direct one service to logistically support another.

Research Findings

My research has led me to several findings. The most important finding is that the President and the Secretary of Defense have sufficient authority under Title 10 to delegate DAFL over forces provided to CoCOMs.

Second, the use of DAFL potentially can result in unintended consequences. For example, using DAFL may create fiscal accounting and readiness issues with service departments. Use of prenegotiated ISSAs may help offset these undesirable effects.

Third, using “direct liaison authorized” or appointing coordinating authority are more appropriate than giving the supported CoCOM DAFL over—
• Defense agencies, such as the Defense Logistics Agency (the executive agent for fuel and class I), the Army and Air Force and Navy and Marine Corps Exchange Services, and the Defense Contract Management Agency.
• Functional COCOMs, such as the U.S. Transportation Command, which provide, for example, in-theater port services and distribution capabilities.
• Supporting COCOM capabilities located in, or adjacent to, another COCOM’s area of responsibility.
• Capabilities assigned to carry out functions of the secretary of a military department, such as the Army Materiel Command’s program management of the Logistics Civil Augmentation Program and the associated contingency contract with Halliburton KBR.
• Executive agencies. Current doctrine is unclear on how DAFL might override existing Secretary of Defense designations of executive agents.

I have sought to help clarify the complex nature of authorities vested in the CoCOM by virtue of law and executive branch documents. I distinguish my discussion of COCOM authority from that found in doctrine because I conclude that doctrine (JP 0–2 and JP 4–0) tends to both “over-functionalize” and dilute the authority inherent to COCOMs. I also conclude that much of the confusion over how to execute COCOM authority over logistics stems from a misunderstanding about how forces are allocated (usually OPCON) where, by itself, no such directive authority exists.

I conclude that DAFL (an invention of doctrine writers) is largely a single solution looking for an assortment of problems and not the other way around. The joint logistics community, by focusing on DAFL as the “research question,” is committing a “Type III error” (that is, solving the wrong problem with precision.) I see no value in how JP 0–2 separates “directive authority for logistics” from the legal interpretation of COCOM authority. In fact, by attempting to “functionalize” COCOM authority into a “slice” called DAFL, the broad authority over his assigned forces vested in the CoCOM under 10 USC, Chapter 6, is confused and diluted. The authorities for logistics in 10 USC 3013, 5013, and 8013 are given to each service to administer, organize, train, arm, and equip its forces unless the Secretary of Defense approves other arrangements.

There are other, more effective ways to either coordinate or to be delegated specific authority over OPCON forces to achieve cross-servicing efficiencies (through plans, orders, and ISSAs). Creating “fusion cells” in the plans and operations functions of the joint force commander would help this collaborative effort to direct or coordinate cross-service logistics. Granted, these methods take a lot of negotiation and preplanning to achieve. Nevertheless, structuring joint logistics (service interdependencies) cannot be over-simplified. The joint logistics community should focus on these methods of coordination and collaboration rather than on “legal remedies” to determine who shall rule logistics.

There likely will never be a single uniformed authority over all logistics. It is the Secretary of Defense who rules over end-to-end logistics and who has the power to delegate this authority to others as required. This conclusion follows the basic constitutional principle of politically appointed civilian control of the military.

Colonel Christopher R. Paparone is the Deputy Director (J–3/4) for Logistics and Engineering at the U.S. Joint Forces Command. A Quartermaster officer, he has served with various commands and staffs in his 27 years of active duty. He has a Ph.D. from Pennsylvania State University. He can be contacted by email at christopher.paparone@us.army.mil.