How to Abbreviate Combatant Command: COCOM vs. CCMD

A map of the Pentagon's regional combatant commands. (DoD image)

A map of the Pentagon’s regional combatant commands. (DoD image)

The possible reorganization or elimination of the some geographical combatant commands has been the focus of several Defense News articles over the past eight months.

In those articles, we used the abbreviation COCOM in reference to the term combatant command. After each article we received a small, but steady, stream of emails from a handful of passionate individuals who work within the military’s doctrine and planning community explaining that the term COCOM is not official acronym to describe a combatant command.

Per Joint Publication 1-02, the “Department of Defense Dictionary of Military and Associated Terms,” the proper acronym for a combatant command is CCMD.

combatant command — A unified or specified command with a broad continuing mission under a single commander established and so designated by the President, through the Secretary of Defense and with the advice and assistance of the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. Also called CCMD. See also specified combatant command; unified command. (JP 1)

The combatant commander, the head of the combatant command, has an acronym too: CCDR.

combatant commander — A commander of one of the unified or specified combatant commands established by the President. Also called CCDR. See also combatant command; specified combatant command; unified combatant command. (JP 3-0)

COCOM, in DoD’s military terms bible, actually means “command authority.” COCOM refers to the exercise command by a combatant commander, and is rarely seen outside of doctrinal discussions, one official pointed out in an email.

These officials are quick to point out the term is routinely misused in military publications and speak. A quick search of DoD’s official website yields 38,900 results for the term COCOM. CCMD only registers only 52 results.

The term COCOM likely emerged when the unified commands were renamed combatant commands, one DoD official points out. Since COCOM sounds like a compression of combatant command, it has become the de facto slang term for these military headquarters.

We’re not part of the military, so for our editorial style purposes, we will continue to use the term COCOM when referencing the combatant commands since it is so widely and commonly used throughout the defense enterprise.

Marcus Weisgerber
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Marcus Weisgerber

Senior Pentagon Correspondent at Defense News
I write about broad-ranging policy, acquisition and budget issues affecting the US military.
Marcus Weisgerber
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