Strategic Air Command

SAC Command Structure

     This page summarizes the command structure of the Strategic Air Command   It is accompanied by separate sections that explore in more detail the Numbered Air Forces, the Air Divisions, and the Wings.

President of the United States
     The United States Constitution established the government of the United States.  The founding fathers feared a concentration of power so they divided it between the three branches of the government - the Executive, the Legislative and the Judicial.
      The President of the United States is the nation's Chief Executive.  He has the responsibility of the
day-to-day running of the country.  The Constitution also appoints him Commander-in-Chief of all the nation's military forces. 
      The President is limited to what he can do in this regard.  Under the Constitution, only the Legislative Branch - the Congress - has the right to declare war.   It also authorizes funds, including that appropriated to the military and any actions it may have to take.  In recent years, Congress has declined to formally declare war, but has instead passed resolutions authorizing the President to take military action. Examples include the Korean, Viet Nam, and both Gulf Wars. 
      Timing was so critical during the Cold War that Congress passed the Emergency War Powers Act.  It gave the Present the authority to launch America's nuclear strike force in the event of an enemy attack.  The Strategic Air Command was under his direct operational control. In the event the President ever needed to use that power, he bypassed the Department of Defense, the Department of the Air Force, the United States Air Force and communicated his orders directly to Strategic Air Command Headquarters.
Dept of Defense    
     The United States has always kept its military forces under civilian control.  For over 150 years, the War (Army) Department and the Navy Department were separate cabinet level departments.  That meant that each was independent of the other and its respective secretary sat on the Presidential Cabinet. 
     World War II made it obvious that much closer coordination was needed between the two departments.  The War also saw tremendous expansion of the army air forces and often large units were placed under the command of army generals that knew little about how to properly use air power.  It was obvious that America's air forces needed to be a separate arm of the nation's military.
     These problems and many others were resolved by the National Defense Act of 1946.  It created the United States Department of Defense.  It is managed by the Secretary of Defense.  He is a member of the Presidential Cabinet and is responsible only to him.
      The National Defense Act also created the United States Air Force.  It, along with the Army and Navy departments are sub-departments under the Defense Department.  They are not cabinet level departments.  Each has its own Chief of Staff and as the Joint Chiefs of Staff they regularly meet to coordinate their efforts.  
U.S. Air Force
     The United States Air Force was created by the National Defense Act of 1946.  The Secretary of the Air Force is responsible for the management of the Air Force.  He reports to the Secretary of Defense.  The Air Force Chief of Staff (it's highest ranking officer) is subordinate to the Secretary of the Air Force.  The Air Force is divided into major commands, based on mission.  When the Air Force was first established they included the Air Defense Command (protecting the homeland), the Tactical Air Command (offensive fighter and attack aircraft operations), and the Military Air Transport Command (transported materials, supplies and people.)  The commands have since been reorganized.  For example, ADC, TAC and the remnants of SAC have been combined into the Air Combat Command.
Strategic Air Command
    The Strategic Air Command was established a year earlier than the United States Air Force.  It's roles were then strategic bombardment, long range reconnaissance, mapping and weather reporting.  It soon became America's primary deterrent force. 
    SAC was a unique military force, because it bypassed the normal chain of command. It was under the direct operational control of the President of the United States.  He was the only person authorized to launch its aircraft and missiles.  However it was under the administrative control of the Air Force.  SAC's headquarters were at Offutt AFB, Nebraska.
Numbered Air Forces
     SAC was divided into five numbered Air Forces.  This section identifies them and their mission.  Each had its own command post.
Air Divisions  
      The Numbered Air Forces were then divided into Air Divisions.  These were administrative organizations that usually commanded more than one wing.  There is a page dedicated to each air divisions, giving its assignments and component units.
     The wing was SAC's basic operational unit. Each of the wings is the subject of a separate history. 
See Wing Histories..