U.S. 2nd Fleet and the Era of Great Power Competition

By Lt. Cmdr. Garrett S. Snow, U.S. 2nd Fleet 

In early 2018, a new National Defense Strategy was released highlighting a shift in focus from regional threats to great power competition. Seeing the need to adopt this new focus, CNO announced the reestablishment of U.S. 2nd Fleet, calling it a “dynamic response to a dynamic security environment” and adding, “That’s why today, we’re standing up 2nd Fleet to address these changes, particularly in the North Atlantic.”

On August 24, 2018, our newest numbered fleet was established in Norfolk, Va., with only 12 personnel assigned. It is rapidly working towards Initial Operating Capacity (IOC) and will reach Final Operating Capacity (FOC) with more than 200 personnel by the end of this fiscal year. Led by Vice Adm. Andrew Lewis, the mission of 2nd Fleet is to “Develop and dynamically employ maritime forces ready to fight across multiple domains in the Atlantic and the Arctic.”

The Fleet will accomplish this mission through three focus areas. First, it will operate as a maneuver arm for NAVNORTH in the Western Atlantic, completing missions such as disaster relief, exercises off the East coast, and homeland defense missions. Second, the Fleet will operate as a maneuver arm for NAVEUR in the eastern and northern Atlantic, executing operational missions or exercises as assigned, such as BALTOPS or TRIDENT JUNCTURE. This will be done in coordination with U.S. 6th Fleet in Naples. Third, the Fleet will focus on Force Generation – to ensure our Navy is ready for a high-end fight.

Vice Adm. Andrew Lewis, commander of U.S. 2nd Fleet, observes flight operations on the flight deck aboard the Nimitz-class aircraft carrier USS Harry S. Truman (CVN 75). Lewis’ visit marks the start of three days of bilateral maritime operations with the Royal Canadian Navy.

With this focus on Force Employment and high-end Force Generation, 2nd Fleet is reestablished as the solution to a problem. It is not simply the 2nd Fleet of 2011 nor is it another CONUS Fleet, but a dynamic response to a dynamic security environment. And the legal professionals working there are promised dynamic legal challenges as well. At FOC, the 2nd Fleet legal office team will include an O5 and O4 JAG billet as well as an E-7 legalman billet. This team will be an integral part of the planning cell to develop Fleet Battle Problems and multinational exercises such as BALTOPS.  They will also stand watch in the Maritime Operations Center and focus on operational and international law in addition to traditional headquarters functions such as ethics and administrative investigations. Indeed, each of the above practice areas is already in full swing at 2nd Fleet.

Another dimension of 2nd Fleet’s legal practice comes from the dual hats worn by the Commander. In addition to the Fleet, Vice Adm. Lewis commands NATO Joint Force Command-Norfolk (JFCNF), which is a distinct multinational command that reports to Supreme Allied Commander Europe and constitutes the operational arm for NATO in the western Atlantic. With a separate staff of more than 150 personnel from all NATO nations, JFCNF brings a unique mission set and fascinating exposure to NATO legal practice.

Our security environment continues to grow more challenging and complex, and the reestablishment of 2nd Fleet demonstrates our Navy’s dedication to stability in the Atlantic. As the Navy’s legal team, we must also rise to the challenge in this era of Great Power Competition.

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