Maintaining an Operational Reserve: A Case for Combatant Command Assignment

  • Lieutenant Colonel Brian P. Elliott

The Army Reserve has shifted from a strategic to an operational reserve since 9/11. An effective way for the Army to achieve national defense and national military end states is for Combatant Command (COCOM) to assign United States Army Reserve (USAR) forces to Combatant Commanders. While the concept of regionally aligned Army forces begins to address this pursuit, a formal relationship, such as assignment, has not been established. Legislation, such as Goldwater-Nichols, Total Force and Total Army policies, and both Army and Joint doctrine support COCOM assignment while granting Operational Control to the Army Service Component Command. Evidence of successfully executing a proper formal relationship is the assignment of the 351st Civil Affairs Command (CACOM) to US Pacific Command. Assignment of the remaining CACOMs should happen at the earliest opportunity. Foregoing the Army Reserve Engagement Team concept at the Geographic COCOM and focusing efforts on the Army Reserve Engagement Cells will better integrate assigned USAR forces into Joint, theater activities. Assignment of additional USAR commands gives Combatant Commanders the tools they need when they need them.