General Tommy Franks Commander, U. S. Central Command

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The View from CENTCOM

As the head of CENTCOM, Franks assumed command of U.S. forces across a huge region, including 25 countries and stretching from Kenya and the Horn of Africa north through Sudan, Egypt, and Jordan, across the Red Sea and the Arabian Gulf, through Iraq, Iran, and Afghanistan, and into Pakistan and Central Asia to the Chinese border. To Franks, this was “the most diverse, strategically vital, and unstable region of the planet.”11 His diverse portfolio included: overseeing no-fly zones in Iraq and managing the U.S.-enforced U.N. embargo against that country; containing Iran and preventing the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, and defusing a potential India-Pakistan conflict. At the same time, Franks had to manage the ongoing crisis in Somalia and the Horn of Africa, as well as deal with the threat of terrorist attacks against U.S. interests in the region. Before 9/11, Afghanistan—remote, landlocked, and insular—was only one threat among many, and hardly the most important.12 (For reference, see attached map, “U.S. Central Command Area of Responsibility”)

Franks’ chain of command reported directly to the secretary of defense and the president, but CENTCOM was “resourced” with troops, materiel, ships, and planes from the various service commands. Consequently, Franks occupied a difficult position—reporting to Secretary Rumsfeld while simultaneously fighting bureaucratic turf wars with the Joint Chiefs over control of the service elements assigned to his area of responsibility.13

Franks did enjoy a close working relationship with Rumsfeld, who was also a proponent of transforming the Army into a lighter, more agile force. Although the secretary’s unorthodox leadership style unnerved some top brass, Franks admired him: he thought that Rumsfeld’s “mind worked on the oblique—cross-cutting the traditional.”14

Rumsfeld, however, demanded frequent briefings from Franks; after 9/11 these briefings became daily. In turn, Franks required daily briefs from his commanders overseeing operations in Afghanistan. Given the eight-hour time difference between CENTCOM headquarters in Tampa, Fla., and Afghanistan, these two sets of briefs were burdensome to all involved. For several hours a day, CENTCOM staffers were unavailable to field commanders because they were producing the daily briefing for Rumsfeld, while the time difference meant that field commanders and their staff started extremely early in the morning or worked late into the night to prepare the briefing.15 (See attached diagram, “Chain of Command,” for a review of command arrangements)

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