Bringing back Second Fleet…and maybe some real training

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Bringing back Second Fleet...and maybe some real training

[cap­tion id=“attachment_106942” align=“aligncenter” width=“800”] Yes, I legit­i­mately worked there, and earned these coins.[/caption]

We’ll be so much more effi­cient doing this at Fleet Forces.”

I cringed when I heard these words. I was work­ing at Sec­ond Fleet, about ready to trans­fer, and I heard one of the smart-​ass bureau­crats from Fleet Forces tell me this. My reply was sharp “Really? You have no idea what we do here.” And I was right. At the time, Sec­ond Fleet han­dled all the train­ing, cer­ti­fi­ca­tion and day to day prob­lems for the entire East Coast of the Navy. Every CAS­REP, every SITREP, all of it flowed through the Sec­ond Fleet Bat­tle Watch. Our pur­pose was to use the 3 stars of our boss to fight for train­ing time, mate­ri­als and what­ever else the fleet needed to deploy successfully.

But the Navy wanted to “save money,” so we were told that Sec­ond Fleet would be dis­solved, and all func­tions taken by the behe­moth com­mand known as Fleet Forces. Almost instantly after­wards, TF-​80 stood up. We had lots of pow­er­point to jus­tify TF-​80, with “readi­ness kill chain” and other fun phras­ing, but in real­ity TF-​80 was the fill in for Sec­ond Fleet, because all those “effi­cien­cies” weren’t really hap­pen­ing. Then, after 7 years of watch­ing fleet train­ing go down the toi­let and us surge units to fill spaces for com­bat­ant com­man­ders, now we’re bring­ing Sec­ond Fleet back. Heck, we’re even think­ing about bring­ing back a NATO com­mand in Nor­folk to address things like inte­grat­ing allies into Car­rier Strike Groups (gee, didn’t we have that before?).

The prob­lem is not Rus­sia. Or China. Or any other spe­cific nation. It’s that the Navy will sac­ri­fice train­ing money in order to meet mis­sion. Train­ing for war is expen­sive. It’s tough. I used to work in the Tom­a­hawk shop at Sec­ond Fleet, where we and Tac­ti­cal Train­ing Group Atlantic would run weekly exer­cises to stress our ship’s abil­ity to shoot mis­siles. If you ever won­der why you can take for granted plac­ing mis­siles on tar­get from Navy plat­forms, its because of the ded­i­ca­tion of a core group of Tom­a­hawk experts that demand excel­lence every week from every ship on the East Coast.

Train­ing for war isn’t sexy. You don’t get to write press releases about doing the rou­tine things each and every week, but you do when you host an event cel­e­brat­ing some sort of diver­sity event. Fail­ing crews on cer­ti­fi­ca­tions isn’t fun, it requires a lot of paper­work and re-​training. But it’s nec­es­sary to ensure that when you have to fight, your forces are ready to go.

Apart from sac­ri­fic­ing train­ing, the Navy also has this burn­ing desire to make huge mega-​commands while destroy­ing small com­mands and detach­ments. My Tom­a­hawk work was at first at a detach­ment that was dis­es­tab­lished and swal­lowed up by Sec­ond Fleet, which was then swal­lowed up by Fleet Forces. In both cases, the peo­ple became tar­gets for lots of “extra” duties, from stand­ing watches to build­ing pow­er­point slides that had noth­ing to do with Tom­a­hawk. Mega-​commands of over 1,000 peo­ple are bureau­cratic night­mares that ruin Sailors and are mod­els of inef­fi­ciency. The Navy thrives only on small com­mands and small staffs, where author­ity is del­e­gated as far down as possible.

The move to bring back Sec­ond Fleet is a good one. If the Navy goes back to its roots of small, highly trained, lethal com­mands and staffs with the author­ity to exe­cute wartime duties, noth­ing will stop it. Let’s hope we move there quickly.


This post rep­re­sents the views of the author and not those of the Depart­ment of Defense, Depart­ment of the Navy, or any other gov­ern­ment agency. Although they are prob­a­bly pretty close, since I advo­cated for Sec­ond Fleet to stay around in the first place…

Yes, I legitimately worked there, and earned these coins.

“We’ll be so much more efficient doing this at Fleet Forces.”

I cringed when I heard these words. I was working at Second Fleet, about ready to transfer, and I heard one of the smart-ass bureaucrats from Fleet Forces tell me this. My reply was sharp “Really? You have no idea what we do here.” And I was right. At the time, Second Fleet handled all the training, certification and day to day problems for the entire East Coast of the Navy. Every CASREP, every SITREP, all of it flowed through the Second Fleet Battle Watch. Our purpose was to use the 3 stars of our boss to fight for training time, materials and whatever else the fleet needed to deploy successfully.

But the Navy wanted to “save money,” so we were told that Second Fleet would be dissolved, and all functions taken by the behemoth command known as Fleet Forces. Almost instantly afterwards, TF-80 stood up. We had lots of powerpoint to justify TF-80, with “readiness kill chain” and other fun phrasing, but in reality TF-80 was the fill in for Second Fleet, because all those “efficiencies” weren’t really happening. Then, after 7 years of watching fleet training go down the toilet and us surge units to fill spaces for combatant commanders, now we’re bringing Second Fleet back. Heck, we’re even thinking about bringing back a NATO command in Norfolk to address things like integrating allies into Carrier Strike Groups (gee, didn’t we have that before?).

The problem is not Russia. Or China. Or any other specific nation. It’s that the Navy will sacrifice training money in order to meet mission. Training for war is expensive. It’s tough. I used to work in the Tomahawk shop at Second Fleet, where we and Tactical Training Group Atlantic would run weekly exercises to stress our ship’s ability to shoot missiles. If you ever wonder why you can take for granted placing missiles on target from Navy platforms, its because of the dedication of a core group of Tomahawk experts that demand excellence every week from every ship on the East Coast.

Training for war isn’t sexy. You don’t get to write press releases about doing the routine things each and every week, but you do when you host an event celebrating some sort of diversity event. Failing crews on certifications isn’t fun, it requires a lot of paperwork and re-training. But it’s necessary to ensure that when you have to fight, your forces are ready to go.

Apart from sacrificing training, the Navy also has this burning desire to make huge mega-commands while destroying small commands and detachments. My Tomahawk work was at first at a detachment that was disestablished and swallowed up by Second Fleet, which was then swallowed up by Fleet Forces. In both cases, the people became targets for lots of “extra” duties, from standing watches to building powerpoint slides that had nothing to do with Tomahawk. Mega-commands of over 1,000 people are bureaucratic nightmares that ruin Sailors and are models of inefficiency. The Navy thrives only on small commands and small staffs, where authority is delegated as far down as possible.

The move to bring back Second Fleet is a good one. If the Navy goes back to its roots of small, highly trained, lethal commands and staffs with the authority to execute wartime duties, nothing will stop it. Let’s hope we move there quickly.


This post represents the views of the author and not those of the Department of Defense, Department of the Navy, or any other government agency. Although they are probably pretty close, since I advocated for Second Fleet to stay around in the first place…