Faced with more challenges from the Russian Navy, the Pentagon has decided to re-establish the U.S. Navy's Second Fleet, which will be stationed in Norfolk, Virginia.The decision was made based on the recommendation from outgoing U.S. Fleet Forces Command commander Adm. Phil Davidson and will create a 250-person command in Norfolk. The command will "stand up" on July 1, 2018, starting with an initial manning of just 11 officers and four enlisted men. Over time, the Second Fleet's command staff will grow to 84 officers, 164 enlisted, and seven civilians. “Our national defense strategy makes clear that we’re back in an era of great power competition as the security environment continues to grow more challenging and complex,” Chief of Naval Operations Adm. John Richardson said this month during the Fleet Forces change of command ceremony in Norfolk. “That’s why today, we’re standing up Second Fleet to address these changes, particularly in the North Atlantic.” The Second Fleet was disestablished by former-Defense Secretary Robert Gates in 2011, citing cost concerns and promising to "use those savings and more to fund additional ships."
There are still many logistical issues that will need to be worked out before the Second Fleet becomes fully functioning. While the command will exist on paper as early as this summer, a robust command structure will need to be fleshed out to allow the Second Fleet to become self-running, as opposed to operating within U.S. Fleet Forces. While some may have questioned the role that the reestablished Second Fleet would have in Norfolk, the Department of Defense has followed up that announcement by offering to host the NATO Joint Force Command for the Atlantic in Norfolk. A final decision on that has not been made. When the announcement was made to disestablish the Second Fleet in 2011, many in the Norfolk-Hampton Roads region feared what impact the shuttering would have on local economies. At the time, the shuttering was expected to directly cost the region 160 jobs, not to mention the indirect impact it had on area businesses. Other plans during the Obama administration to disestablish the Joint Force Command in Norfolk and potentially move the region's aircraft carriers to a base in Florida would have cost the region more than 10,000 jobs. With the passage of last year's omnibus bill, including the additional $700 billion in military spending, many of the cost-cutting plans that would have hit the Norfolk-Hampton Roads area have been abandoned. On top of the funding to allow for Naval expansion in the region, military personnel have also seen a 2.4 percent pay increase this year (with more potential raises next year as well). Whereas the economic outlook of the region looked dire less than a decade ago, this new investment in the area is sure to have a ripple effect to the benefit of military and non-military residents alike.