U.S. Fleet Forces Command is moving forward with its redesignation to U.S. Atlantic Fleet, as Navy Secretary Kenneth Braithwaite announced last month. But while in some ways it’s just a name change, there are some implications for how homeland defense is carried out, Fleet Forces Commander Adm. Chris Grady said today.
Atlantic Fleet will keep the same missions and functions as Fleet Forces Command has: serving as the maritime component command for U.S. Northern Command, as U.S. Naval Forces Northern Command (NAVNORTH), and for U.S. Strategic Command, as U.S. Naval Forces Strategic Commander (NAVSTRAT) and the Joint Force Maritime Component Commander (JFMCC) for USSTRATCOM, Grady said.
But in those capacities, the Atlantic Fleet commander will only oversee forces on the Atlantic half of the coast, whereas today Grady can control forces 500 miles out in the Pacific and in and around Alaska if a homeland defense mission were to arise. Now, that homeland defense mission would fall to U.S. Pacific Fleet, which today does not have that same homeland defense responsibility.
Grady addressed the redesignation today while giving a keynote speech at the annual Surface Navy Association symposium.
He was asked during his speech if the redesignation was a good thing for the Navy, and he responded “you could argue that in either direction; there’s plenty of pros and cons to that. But our bosses have decided that this is the way we’re going to go, and we’re moving out. I think the pros are that it underscores the importance of the Atlantic and the challenges that come with the Russia fight. And it’s certainly related to tangible decisions to increase our presence in the Atlantic,” especially since U.S. 2nd Fleet and its Submarine Group 2 were reestablished in recent years.
“The downside might be that we would lose emphasis on what we do for the homeland here,” he continued, saying that homeland defense portfolio would have to be rebalanced now.
“In the end, it will mean that the name change, I think, is an important branding opportunity.”
Grady said several times in his remarks that the world today under great power competition is much like how it was when he joined the Navy, in the final years of the Cold War.
“Not unlike in 1984, when I joined the crew of the USS Moosbrugger (DD-980), chasing Soviet submarines and ships throughout the ‘yankee boxes’ in the Atlantic during the Cold War, our surface forces are in daily contact with our competitors around the globe,” he said.
“Where in the past we would have sporadic out-of-area deployers (from Russia or China) operating off our coasts, my prediction is soon it will be consistent and will continue back to the future, back to the Cold War and operating in the Yankee boxes.”
That puts “a premium on our current readiness,” Grady said.
Typically, the Navy has considered itself America’s away team, fighting adversaries overseas so that the fight didn’t come to the U.S. homeland. That has meant that the bulk of training and readiness efforts have come in the lead-up to a deployment, creating something of a tiered readiness system. Grady said that won’t work going forward, and that more units need to be ready around the clock, regardless of where they are in the deployment cycle.
“We used to think of the oceans as moats, and now they’re attack vectors,” he said.
“We have to be ready all the time, we have to have our seabag packed and ready to go within 24 or 48 hours. As a [junior officer], back in those days in the mid-80s, we got underway four times – and this was my first tour – we got underway four times with 48 hours heads up,” he continued.
“Didn’t matter where we were, what phase of the [deployment cycle]– didn’t matter, we were getting underway. Three times it was to go out and find unlocated submarines off the United States East Coast.”
“We’re kind of back to that now,” he concluded.
Source: USNI News