The U.S. Navy announced Friday that it will revive the Second Fleet, a command structure that was disbanded in 2011 as a cost-cutting measure. The revived fleet will be headquartered in Norfolk, Virginia, and will be responsible for Naval operations in the northern Atlantic and the eastern coast of the U.S. Details of its size and leadership structure have not been announced, but its primary purpose is clear – to counter a growing threat from Russia.
Admiral John Richardson, Chief of Naval Operations, explained the decision as part of recent U.S. strategic shifts, saying that “we’re back in an era of great power competition.” In its 2018 strategy plan, the Department of Defense stated, fairly remarkably, that “inter-state strategic competition, not terrorism, is now the primary concern in U.S. national security.” The plan highlighted Russia’s increasing aggression, including a desire “to shatter the North Atlantic Treaty Organization,” as a primary concern.
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NATO, too, says Russia has been increasing naval patrols in the North Atlantic and Arctic. That is a dramatic reversal of the situation when the Second Fleet was disbanded. In 2011, the future of U.S.-Russia relations seemed bright, after the Obama administration declared a ‘reset’ in 2009.
The Second Fleet, formed in 1950, had played a major role in America’s persistent conflict with the Russia-led U.S.S.R. The fleet was involved in both the Cuban Missile Crisis in 1962 and the invasion of Grenada by the United States in 1983, proxy conflicts in the Cold War between the U.S. and the U.S.S.R.
According to Military.com, re-establishing the Second Fleet may also help the Navy execute management reforms after a pair of deadly collisions that appeared to expose weaknesses in Navy personnel, equipment, and training. That’s because the part of the Navy responsible for those functions, Fleet Forces, absorbed the functions of the Second Fleet after its disbanding, and should now be able to focus more fully on overall management.