United States Strategic Command

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A Unified Combatant Command of the U.S. Department of Defense, the United States Strategic Command (USSTRATCOM) differs from the regional combatant commands, in that it is defined by a worldwide mission and set of techniques rather than geography. It does not have combat forces routinely assigned to it, but draws on multiple branches of service to obtain the resources to carry out its missions. USSTRATCOM headquarters are at Offutt Air Force Base, Nebraska at Omaha.

It is the successor to the Strategic Air Command (SAC), the organization that took over the strategic bombers of the Second World War, and built a force that, through the Cold War, would have been the principal organization to deliver nuclear weapons to the Soviet Union. Until 1959, SAC essentially drew up its war plans without civilian policy guidance. As a major command of the United States Air Force, SAC did not coordinate nuclear attack plans with the United States Navy, which, first from aircraft and then with a submarine-launched ballistic missile force. President Dwight D. Eisenhower became increasingly concerned about SAC's making its own policy, and sent George Kistiakowsky to force a review of plans. It took Presidential authority to have SAC form the multiservice (but Air Force dominated) Joint Strategic Targeting Planning Staff, whichboth took policy guidance from the National Command Authority, and synchronized its actions with Naval forces. The product of this effort was the Single Integrated Operational Plan (SIOP).

Once the SIOP was in place, U.S. strategic nuclear forces remained split between the Air Force and Navy. The combined force was called the Triad, consisting of Navy ballistic missile submarines, and Air Force intercontinental ballistic missiles and bombers such as the B-52.

With the introduction of precision-guided munitions, and the increasingly critical role of command, intelligence, communications and information systems, to say nothing of the breakup of the Soviet Union, the Cold War model of massive nuclear force in the Triad began to change. The many reassessments involved led to a redefining of the SAC and Navy nuclear mission to a broader concept, to be executed by an organization like USSTRATCOM.

SAC, which had been formed on 21 March 1946 to develop a worldwide nuclear force, which became a key to the Mutual Assured Destruction model that deterred a global nuclear war, ended its existence on 1 June 1992. On that day, USSTRATCOM took over SAC's responsibility, as well as an assortment of other means "non-kinetic" warfare such as information operations, strategic surveillance and reconnaissance, and to minimize threats of weapons of mass destruction from other regions.

The bombers, tankers, and reconnaissance aircraft went under the new Air Combat Command, to be assigned, as needed, to USSTRATCOM missions. Submarines went under the appropriate geographic naval commands.


In May 2008, the new USSTRATCOM commander, Kevin P. Chilton, identified the three major types of operations as:

  1. Strategic Deterrence (e.g., the ICBMs, SLBMs, and bombers)
  2. Space
  3. Cyberspace

Chilton emphasized that nuclear operations were the traditional core, although the broader model of strategic strike is extending beyond that:

“These two domains in particular, we didn’t think about 15 years ago,. U.S. Strategic Command has the mission of defending, deterring, and dissuading. And, if called on -- to fight, dominate and win in these domains.

He replaced GEN James Cartwright, who is now Vice Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.


USSTRATCOM controls a number of Joint Functional Components, to which operational forces are attached.

JFCC-Global Strike and Integration (GSI)

The nuclear and worldwide precision strike function is built around:

JFCC - 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 Integrated Missile Defense Joint Functional Component Command, which includes the Missile Defense Agency.

JFCC - Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance (JFCC-ISR)

The Commander, JFCC-ISR, also serves as the Director, Defense Intelligence Agency.


The Commander Fourteenth Air Force serves as the commander for JFCC-SPACE, whose functions include launching and operating satellites of all types (e.g., communications, weather, intelligence, navigation); the intelligence satellite function works with the National Reconnaissance Office

JFCC - Network Warfare (JFCC-NW)

In a matrix management model, the Network Warfare component is built around capabilities of the *National Security Agency Fort Meade, Maryland

USSTRATCOM Center for Combating Weapons of Mass Destruction (SCC-WMD)

The USSTRATCOM Center for Combating WMD (SCC-WMD) is matrixed with the Defense Threat Reduction Agency at Fort Belvoir, Virginia.

Joint Task Force-Global Network Operations

Located in Arlington, Va., the Joint Task Force-Global Network Operations (JTF-GNO) operates the Global Information Grid of computers and communications, drawing from DISA, service communications-electronics organizations, and NSA.