Citing a changing geopolitical world, Navy Secretary Kenneth Braithwaite said Wednesday that U.S. Fleet Forces Command will be renamed as U.S. Atlantic Fleet, a nod toward the increasing concern Navy leaders have about Russian ships operating off the East Coast.
The Norfolk-based command will “refocus” naval forces on controlling maritime approaches to United States and its allies, Braithwaite told a Senate Armed Services readiness and management support subcommittee hearing.
The Atlantic Fleet moniker was dropped in 2006, but Braithwaite said that bringing back Atlantic Fleet will also involve a renewed Navy effort to confront the Russian navy, whose ships have inched closer and closer to U.S. shores.
The Atlantic Fleet’s return follows the reestablishment of U.S. 2nd Fleet in August 2018, a command tasked with countering similar Russian threats in the North Atlantic and high north.
The Navy secretary also told lawmakers of plans to reconstitute U.S. 1st Fleet, which will oversee naval operations around the nexus of the Indian and Pacific oceans in South Asia, essentially halving the massive swath of territory currently overseen by the Japan-based U.S. 7th Fleet.
Some question the feasibility of standing up a U.S. 1st Fleet at the nexus of the Indian and Pacific oceans.
First Fleet will likely begin its existence as an expeditionary command with no land-based headquarters, Braithwaite said.
Capt. Jereal Dorsey, a spokesman for Braithwaite, told Navy Times that the 1st Fleet timeline is still being worked out, but that the sea service is awaiting final paperwork from the White House regarding the Fleet Forces Command name change.
Braithwaite also told senators that the Navy will name its second Constellation-class frigate USS Congress.
The resurrected fleet reached its full operational status on New Year’s Eve.
“Thank you for what you do to enhance our readiness,” he told the subcommittee.
While the name could be seen as a bit of not-so-subtle flattery for a Congress that repeatedly fails to pass timely defense bills and ensure consistent funding to the services, it was also the name of one of the Navy’s first-ever frigates that was launched in 1799.