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U.S. Pacific Command

The U.S. Pacific Command was established as a unified command Jan. 1, 1947, and it is the oldest and largest of the United States’ unified commands.

The present USPACOM includes areas originally assigned to two other unified commanders. The Far East Command, established Jan. 1, 1947, was disestablished July 1, 1957, and all its responsibilities were assumed by the Pacific Command. That same day, the command assumed some of the responsibilities of the Alaskan Command and individual Army and Air Force component commands for the Pacific were established in Hawaii also.

In October 1957, the then-Commander in Chief, Pacific Command headquarters moved from Makalapa to Camp H.M. Smith, which is also the headquarters of the Commander, Marine Forces Pacific. CINCPAC also served concurrently as Commander in Chief, U.S. Pacific Fleet until January 1958, when the U.S. Pacific Fleet became a separate component with its own commander.

Added responsibilities were assigned to CINCPAC Jan. 1, 1972, for military forces and elements in the Indian Ocean, southern Asia and the Arctic. Alaskan Command, one of the original unified commands established Jan. 1, 1947, was disestablished in 1975, and its responsibilities were transferred to the Pacific Command. The Pacific Command’s area of responsibility was further expanded May 1, 1976, to the east coast of Africa. This enlarged the Pacific Command to more than 50 percent of the earth’s surface, an area of more than 100 million square miles.

Another enlargement of the USPACOM area took place in October 1983, when CINCPAC was assigned responsibility for the People’s Republic of China, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, Mongolia and the Republic of Madagascar. CINCPAC was also redesignated Commander in Chief, U.S. Pacific Command.

In 1986, the Goldwater-Nichols Reorganization Act expanded, as well as codified, the authority of the commanders of the unified commands to carry out their assigned missions and to employ combatant forces provided by the individual services.

A new Alaskan Command was established July 7, 1989, at Elmendorf Air Force Base as a subordinate unified command responsible to USCINCPAC. This placed the defense of Alaska and its surrounding waters under the leadership of one commander, providing a unity of command absent from the state since the early 1970s.

From 1989 through 2000, three Unified Command plans slightly reduced USPACOM’s area of responsibility. With the focus of attention shifting to the Middle East, the Aug. 16, 1989, plan assigned responsibility for the Gulf of Oman and Gulf of Aden to Commander, U.S. Central Command. The Jan. 1, 1996, plan transferred the Seychelles and adjacent waters to USCENTCOM. On Oct. 1, 2000, responsibility for Indian Ocean waters off Tanzania, Mozambique and South Africa was transferred from USPACOM to U.S. European Command.

The Unified Command Plan changed as a result of Sept. 11, 2001, and the ensuing war on terrorism, as well as the new defense strategy articulated in the 2001 Quadrennial Defense Review. For the first time the entire surface of the earth was divided among the various unified commands. A new Northern Command was created for homeland security, and other changes in the various commands’ responsibilities resulted in significant changes for USPACOM. The West Coast of North America was reassigned from USPACOM to USNORTHCOM. While Alaska was included in the reassignment to USNORTHCOM, Alaskan Command forces remained assigned to USPACOM in the “Forces for Unified Commands Memorandum.” Antarctica was also added to USPACOM’s area of responsibility. Approved in April 2002, the new Unified Command Plan became effective Oct. 1, 2002.

Effective Oct. 24, 2002, by direction of the secretary of defense, the title Commander in Chief, U.S. Pacific Command was changed to Commander, U.S. Pacific Command. As stated by Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, there is only one commander in chief and that is the president of the United States.

The 2008 Unified Command Plan, signed Dec. 17, 2008, documented the transfer of all areas of the Indian Ocean previously assigned to USPACOM west of 68 degrees east to the newly established U.S. Africa Command. As a result, four island countries off the east coast of Africa that were formerly assigned to PACOM were reassigned to AFRICOM: Comoros, Madagascar, Mauritius and Reunion. USPACOM has been the recipient of six Joint Meritorious Unit awards.

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